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  • Writer's pictureJohn Dempster

Write like a Rebel, with Mandy Haggith

We had a great workshop last might, led by Assynt-based writer and poet, Mandy Haggith. There’s lots more information about Mandy here.

Mandy bookmarked the workshop with readings from a couple of her novels – Bear Witness, described as ‘a thought experiment about bringing bears back to Scotland, and The Walrus Mutterer, the first volume of a historical novel trilogy, set in the Iron Age.

In line with the Book Week Scotland ‘Rebel’ theme, the subject of the workshop was ‘Write like a rebel’: Mandy led us through the process of identifying a theme, and creating a character.

‘What are you passionate about?’ she asked us, giving us five minutes to write down our individual passionate interests and concerns.

The next task was to read through our personal list of passions, and identify one for which you’d be prepared to be a rebel about.

So much for the theme. We were then asked to imagine a character who would be prepared to die for the cause we had identified. ‘Give your character a name! What are their characteristics?’ Mandy asked us to think ourselves into the character. How tall are they? What’s their age? Describe their features. What did they have for breakfast? How do they dance? What do they read? If they were to join a protest for their cause, what would they write on the banner? How do they want the world to change, to be different?

(At this point, Mandy challenged us to ‘put forward your rebel’, and some of us were brave enough to describe the characters we had created. We met a series of newly-minted personas, each as unique as their creator. Perhaps most memorable was Drew Hillier’s Dung Beetle.)

This was followed by a discussion of how best to discover more about our rebel and their cause. Research involves on-line investigations, reading text and listening to videos on subjects which your character would find interesting, feeding the creative part of your mind with this information. Ask where your character might go – an abattoir, a cave system, a camping equipment shop, a rock festival, another type of event? Go there, and soak up the atmosphere as your character would. See what they would see. Learn more about them by talking to the people there. Find a go-to expert in a field close to your character’s heart, and persuade them to let you interview them.

Finally, Mandy advised that it’s ideal if the rebel character comes up against someone who opposes them, and tries to thwart their rebellion. Do they meet this adversary and talk? Or exchange letters, emails, tweets.

I think everyone benefitted from this exercise. It was a great evening; we enjoyed our time together, and were hugely grateful to Mandy for her input

(The photo shows Mandy with HighlandLIT Chair Paul Shanks)


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