Tuesday, 9 December 2008


After watching one of my things on telly, I turned to a friend and said, 'Well, what did you think?'

'You could tell you wrote it,' he said.

'What do you mean?'

'Well, it had your fingerprints all over it,' he replied.

I was intrigued. I tended to assume that the production process would remove all fingerprints from the script. So I pressed him for an example.

What kind of fingerprints did I leave? How could he tell that it was a script that I, as opposed to anyone else, had written?

'All your character have memories,' he said.

Was that all?

It got me thinking. My friend was a fairly sedentary creature. He knew what a television set looked like - he spent enough time in front of them. So, presumably, he was familiar with TV drama ... familiar enough to spot an anomaly, something that one particular writer might do that others might not.

And no one, at the time, was probably more familiar with my work than he was.

So - one of the things that made my writing individual, apparently, was that my characters tended to have memories.

I'm always fascinated by the little things we do that we're not necessarily conscious of doing. Not least of all because I suspect that 'art' is something that is only partially under conscious control. Writers, like poker players, have tics or 'tells'.

But memories? Don't all characters have memories? Surely they do.

Well, no, apparently not. Otherwise my friend wouldn't have pointed out that my characters tend to have memories.

How weird. I mean, if you think about it, memories are what we are. As individuals, we are the sum of our memories.

But, seemingly, the world of drama is filled with characters who don't have memories (or, at least, are unlikely ever to refer to them). Which must mean that they enter, all nice and clean, without pasts or backgrounds, and then they do their thing, and then they disappear once more into the ether. They are transient. They have no real existence.

To be honest, I never thought about my characters having memories (that is, I never did those naff character questionaires and noted down such quirks as 'This character's worst memory is ...') Their memories must have sprung spontaneously to the surface, sparked by something they had seen or heard, something that had happened in the plot.

It's just a thought, but do your characters have memories?

Maybe they should. Because memories make us human.

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