Last Friday morning found me in the back seat of a Kangoo, my feet straddling the hump, on my way to the south of France. I was about to participate in a weekend workshop on character development and lacked the one essential ingredient -- a character. My mind was not a blank, but rather an indiscernable mix of expectations, responsibilities and laryngitis. I tried to tell myself that it wouldn't matter if I came home empty handed. The food would be good and the company, outstanding. What more could I ask for? A novel?
We arrived in Argeles by late afternoon, checked into our hotel, then set out to explore the village and maybe even steal a glimpse of the sea. We trawled the narrow streets of the old town, pointing out our favourite buildings, the old men congregated on park benches, and the places we'd shopped the year before. We tried to find the sea, but failed. At seven o'clock, we headed to the studio--our creative space for the next two days-- and shared an aperitif on the rooftop terrace before heading out for dinner. Our workshop was officially underway.
At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, the group, now six, headed back to the studio where a beautiful spread of breads, pastries, ham, cheese, and fruit awaited us. My mind had begun to clear despite not having found the sea. Perhaps it was the gambas? In any case, when we set down to work, a character sat down with me and dared me to write him down.
So I did.
Over the next two days, D-L Nelson guided us through ten different exercises to better understand our characters. We role played, wrote dialogue, staged artificial scenes, and even killed our characters off, all in the name of good fiction. It was a weekend that exceeded all expectations: the food was amazing, the company, fantastic. And the sea? A bit cool but who's complaining. As for a second novel? It's too soon to tell.