Image source: Flickr / DukeUnivLibraries
When talking about a particular writer’s past books, people often use the term ‘body of work’. I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot lately. The shape of it. What’s my body eventually going to look like? It’s time to flesh it out. I’ve just started working on a TV script. It’s a new genre for me. While writing a novel still feels fresh — my debut just_a_girl was published last year — working in a script format means inhabiting a whole new language and format.
A first novel can seem like a purge. Mine was. The process of writing was passionate, energetic, fuelled by the spleen and gallbladder. Venting. The pages came out fast. That’s what happens when you’re dealing with all the things that confronted you in childhood and along the way. All those moments when you never got to talk back. Those secrets stay in the body, locked up. The act of release can be a revelation.
My first TV script is starting out as dark comedy. I always thought that comedy just came naturally and couldn’t really be analysed, right? Nope. Comedy, like dramatic technique, comes down to rules and investigations. Tim Ferguson’s book Cheeky Monkey breaks it all down. The basics. Get them sorted first and you can play with them all you like. Any comedy writer needs to take writing seriously. And drama can be given greater impact by funny moments; there’s not such a difference between laughing and crying.
Writing comedy seems to come from my belly. That’s where the laughter starts, working through the barriers of the chest, lungs and throat. Have you noticed that many people cover their mouths when they laugh, as if afraid of what might come out? The best comedy makes you feel anxious about what you recognise in yourself. The laugh can become a kind of pushing away.
When you write, try tuning into your emotions and where they are felt in the body. Your body can be a terrific guide. You’ve heard of method acting? Try method writing. Use sense memory to inhabit your characters. Often fears can stop us from even sitting at the computer. Play a song your character would like. Get into their rhythm. Begin with the head or the heart or the feet. Relax and see where your character takes you …
Kirsten Krauth’s first novel just_a_girl was published last year. She blogs at Wild Colonial Girl, edits the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine Newswrite, is a literary critic for The Australian and regional arts reporter for ABC Arts Online. She was a judge for the 2013 Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist Award. She also assesses and edits manuscripts at all stages of development and helps writers with book marketing, social media and author branding. She will be appearing at the upcoming Stories on Stage with Annabel Smith in WA on 15 October. You can meet her on Twitter (@KirstenKrauth), Goodreads or Facebook.
Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.