Finding the Angle

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Sydney Opera House is full of interesting angles…

When you write freelance, you’re often required to write about subjects that may not hold much interest for you. For me, the key to keeping it interesting is finding the angle, that point of interest where you and the subject matter meet. Once you find that common point the work becomes much easier, keeping the writing fresh.

For example, I had a client once who needed brochure copy for her new beauty salon, which offered Botox and enemas and other treatments which all sounded dubious to me. However, it was paying work and, as a professional, I had to deliver. So I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who would seek out these treatments, finding phrases that would appeal to and comfort them, making them confident in the services being offered. Once I found that angle, I was able to write the copy and the client was happy.

I actually found it easiest to write interview pieces, because the angle was created as soon as I spoke to that person and gained an impression of who they were. Often my interview subjects would be pleasantly surprised by my finished article, saying they hadn’t realised the impression they’d conveyed in just a few words. I would spend time doing research before each interview because it was important I chose the right questions to ask, especially when I often had only ten minutes in which to ask them.

When it came to writing my own fiction, I found the angle was the place where my own experiences and that of my character met. In A Thousand Rooms, the entire book is told from the point of view of my main character, who happens to be dead. Even though I don’t know what it’s like to be dead there’s still quite a bit of me in her, including a recount of a disastrous date that I only embellished slightly, the remembered reality of it quite awful enough. I suppose it’s an extension of the idea to ‘write what you know’ – when you add in something you’ve experienced personally, it’s a lot easier to convey the emotion and surroundings of the scene.

My Ambeth books are told from multiple points of view, each character’s story eventually merging together. This time, the angle came in finding which character was best suited to tell each scene, the meeting point being my gut feeling and the characters themselves. I know Ambeth inside and out, and I also know what motivates each of my main characters, so it became an instance of matching my own knowledge with what the characters were telling me would happen next, while balancing this enough to ensure that one character didn’t dominate the narrative. In some ways this goes back to my interview technique, where I used my prior knowledge to tailor my questions for the best results – this time, I base my decision on who the characters are and how the scene will affect each one of them going forward.

So there you go. Do you have any little techniques or tricks of the trade you use when writing? I’d be very interested to hear 🙂

18 thoughts on “Finding the Angle

  1. I like to write as if I was sitting around a campfire telling the story to someone face to face. The way I write sometimes ignores some grammatical conventions, but it reads more informally and easier.

    1. That sounds a lovely way to write! And I’m all for ignoring grammatical conventions as well, sometimes you have to in order to get the story across. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. I use the same technique–my characters have very different experiences from mine, but the stories work and resonate when I can find the places of intersection.

    1. Ha ha, very true Barbara! I was actually offered one by the business owner so I could write about it, but I declined 🙂 However, there are lots of people who swear by them, apparently.

  3. eeeewww! Passing swiftly over the last comments (!) I only really know motivations when I edit; things change as I write the first draft and it takes time to strip back to the fundamentals. Certainly not when I’m writing a first draft!

    1. I must admit things are much more organic when I’m writing the first draft, and often I’ll move scenes around or add in new ones when I go back to read. I think with Ambeth as it’s a series of books it becomes easier, as I already know why the characters are doing what they’re doing and, for the most part, where they will end up. And LOL about the comments!

  4. You are a true professional—I don’t think I could write about botox or enemas either! But yes, good writing needs energy, and the writer must feel something for the topic or it will read like a list of instructions! My fiction writing often starts with a memory, even a fragment of a memory. In my novel, one of the characters is jealous of her sister who has something she wants, which is a family. I was lucky in that my children came easily and I’ve never experienced the loss of a child, but I have experienced yearning and jealousy and having to accept things that I wished weren’t so, and I had that treasure chest of feelings to tap into when writing.

    1. I like that idea of a fragment of memory – I think my stories start in a similar way, but from a fragment of something I see. For example, I was walking my daughter to a local park the other day and I saw something that has sparked a complete new book idea! I think Muse lurks everywhere, once we start looking for it 🙂 And yes, writing about botox and enemas stands out as my most difficult writing assignment – and being offered a free treatment as experience was where I drew the line. Sometimes it’s ok to not know LOL

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