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24 January 2019

Posted by Charlotte Fodor

Anonymous Confessions and Superheroes

It was uplifting to get back to So: Write Women business after the Christmas break. A keen bustle of new and regular - very welcome - attendees crowded around the table, pens at the ready, for our Saturday workshop in the Central Library. Some were spurred by New Year resolutions to write regularly, or trying out a writing group for the first time. Others, myself included, were eager to return to our neglected notebooks.  

We started the morning off exploring characterisation and narratives in a rather unconventional way: reading anonymous confessions from the website Reddit.

Reddit brands itself as ‘the front page’ of the internet. It is defined by community discussions, which range from super, super random, to comical, to occasionally (very) dark. Anyone can post on Reddit and, as a writer, it can be an interestingly rich place for research material.

The ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) section of Reddit allows people to post anonymously (if they choose) about situations in their life, using a ‘confession-style’ format where they respond to questions from other users.

Using a few printed, anecdotal examples, we asked the group to choose an AMA post that they were drawn to and would like to write about. The AMAs were varied: we had posts about the running of an abortion clinic, the person who contracted rabies, first dates, and the robotic engineer with a mohawk.

Our writers then listed a couple of questions that they would ask their future character. The questions did not have to be about the character’s situation – they could be simple. The everyday types that you would ask anyone: what is your favourite colour? What do you enjoy eating? What music do you listen to?

The purpose of this short exercise was to help our writers get into the mindset of their character and situation. It is often the intricate details about a character which make them the most humanising and relatable. It can be especially helpful when we are writing about difficult subject matter and are not sure how to approach it.

Using the AMAs as context, we all then attempted a free write. For inspiration and prompts, we suggested our writers consider how their characters would respond to the questions they had listed, as a way of building personality.

As always, it was wonderful to see how different stories came into fruition in a short space of time. For those who were comfortable reading their work (no pressure to do so), we encountered narratives about solemn, caring doctors undertaking difficult work. The sleepless nights of those excited about their first dates, who cannot decide what to wear. A character who escaped a religious cult, who still lives with the remnants of sinisterly controlling habits...

Next, we continued with the very fun superhero activity from our Thursday session at the Art House. If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be and how would you use it? It would seem telekinesis transcends beyond lifting objects - it can also be used to alter the molecular structure of our world! And who wouldn’t find it useful to be able to heat up a tin of beans with our bare hands?

Interested in attending one of our writing groups?

The So:Write Women meet on the first Thursday of every month at the Art House Cafe in Southampton, from 11.15am-1.15pm*. (*Our February meeting at the Art House ONLY, will start earlier, at 10.30-12.30pm - this is a one-off!).  We also meet on the third Saturday at the Central Library, from 10.15am-12.15pm.

We would love to meet you and hope to see you there!

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