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This a post about a workshop deliverd by Richard Marsh, a man of many literary talents. It was delivered through Theatre503 who've run many lovely masterclasses in the last year. Richard's talk was on structure and character. The techniques he wanted to tell us about, he called God Hat and Soul Shoes. Used wisely together, they can help keep your characters true to themselves and fit within the desired narrative.
When you put on your metaphysical cap, you become a god. You are external to the story and able to direct your characters like chess pieces. You control the weather. And time. Everything. You can imagine what would happen if something did something and then make it so.
One way to practice this is to consider affecting TV characters. These are well embodied, particularly from soaps, so the world is rigid. Make them do something else - how does this affect other characters. If Dirty Den hadn't divorced Angie, what would the square look like a year afterwards.
God Hat is particularly worth using when editing. During these moments, you can see what's changing and decide what needs to happen. Does other stuff need to happen? Would another character be better saying or doing something. Does a scene move the plot forward? Do they learn about themselves? Can you cut a line?
Free writing is a good way to unlock narrative shifts. Or consider what is the worst that could happen. Or the most mundane. Or how might the story be if its a different genre.
For this technique, you embody your characters. You feel what they feel and do what they do. You can improvise. You can mimic their situation. If they're in the dark, turn of the lights. If they're hungry, don't eat. You write the story from their POV. Richard sometimes writes poems. Or write a synopsis of the story from their perspective.
Soul shoes allows you to consider if the character would really do something specified by the narrative. Or would they do something different. I've found that sometimes when I'm in the flow, the character 'chooses' where to go next. Consider what the character would do if something changes.
You can get to know how they are when
- Circumstances change
- We learn more about them
- Another character makes them change
- A small change leads to big consequences
- Scenes are combined
- Could another character perform their acitions
If you switch back and forth between God Hat and Soul Shoes, you can assure you stay true to your story and your characters.