Author Archives: suehealy

About suehealy

Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre and associate lecturer in playwriting at the universities of Lincoln and Portsmouth, Irish playwright Sue Healy’s Imaginationship has just finished a sell-out, extended run at the Finborough Theatre. Cow (2017) was staged at the Etcetera Theatre and Brazen (2016) ran at the King’s Head, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has been performed at the Criterion, Hackney Attic, Claremorris Festival (New Writing Award winner), Brighton Festival (the Sussex Playwrights’ Award Winner) and Sterts Theatre and has been developed by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Her nine radio-plays have broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. She has won prizes for her prose including the Molly Keane and HISSAC Awards and the Escalator Prize. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, Sue spent eleven years in Budapest editing Hungary A.M. She is completing a Ph.D. in Theatre history. Sue also tutors Creative Writing at CityLit.

And your point is…?

If you fly into the sun…

Theme is the main idea behind a story/poem/song. It is often a universal idea or philosophy. Think of Aesop’s Fables (The Tortoise and the Hare, The Boy Who Cried Wolf). On one level the stories are simple tales that amuse children but they also carry a second, deeper message – a universal truth. This moral is the theme. Such themes are often relevant to everyone, everywhere, in every language, in every culture.

For your writing to be considered ‘art’ you ought to have a theme. Therefore, as well as writing a story whereby Joe wants Natalie, Joe gets Natalie, Joe loses Natalie – you include an underlying message like: “jealousy kills love’.

As you write your story, don’t lose sight of your theme. Some writers use the theme as their title (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). Though this is not common, nor encouraged, using your theme as a provisional title on your Work In Progress might keep you focused on your message as you are writing. It is also possible that your theme  may become a tagline or catchphrase associated with your story, like “Greed is good” for Wallstreet (albeit in contrary form).

Examples: your theme could be a comment on the role that luck plays in a person’s life, or your belief that all beings are interconnected. Moralistic writers might warn against the seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony. Alternatively, a writer may want to say such indulgences make the world go around. Whatever your theme is, it is your “message” or “philosophy” and ought to be consistently evident in your story.

Once you have found your theme, a way of reminding the reader of its centrality to your story is to place symbolic “motifs” throughout your work. That is to say, if your theme is jealousy, and a widely known symbol of jealousy is “green eyes” – you could give your character green eyes and/or have him own a green eyed statue that unnerves him. You might also have a lot of “green” in your story. Thus, green becomes your story’s “motif” and will help to create a sense of unity in the piece.

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My Grandma Always Says…

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The graveyard is full of indispensable men. 

Writers worth their ink need to be making some point with their story. By that, I mean your tale ought not be solely just a boy-meets-loses-regains-girl trip.

Beneath your storyline, there should be something else going on, a deeper message, your comment on how humanity works, or doesn’t. It is a writer’s (or artist’s) job to present the human condition as they interpret it. It isn’t meant to be heavy and scary, I’m simply suggesting that once you’ve written your story, or even just have an idea for one, you should sit back and consider what it could be saying on a larger, universal scale.

A good way to understand this concept is to consider Aesop’s Fables. Each one is a tale that could be enjoyed on a superficial level by a child, yet there is a deeper meaning, or moral, which endeavors to teach the child some universal truth about life, ie being slow yet determined is often better than being hasty and fickle (Tortoise and the Hare).

A good place to seek inspiration is a list of proverbs. A proverb is usually a metaphor and encapsulates in simple terms, a lesson from the common experience of humanity. Here’s an exercise that might get you going: sit down and have a think about the specific meaning of the following and then go freewrite a story illustrating this philosophy.

You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

The belly has no ears.

Trees don’t grow to the sky.

A dumb priest never got a parish.

The only free cheese is in the mousetrap.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten.

The squeaky door gets the oil.

 

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What a Character!

 

Imaginationship Atilla Akinci, John Sackville

Atilla Akinci as Gediminas and John Sackville as Bazzy in my play Imaginationship

If you want to hook your readers, you’ll need a character that leaps off the page. A good character is believable and interesting. Firstly, be careful your character is not of music-hall-cliche stock (dumb blonde, greedy banker, uber-organized German, upper class twit etc…) – the problem here is that the reader will have met your character far too many times before to find them interesting now. As usual, turning the cliche on its head can be a good place to start getting ideas (chess-master page three girl, a banker who secretly gives away money etc…)

Also, don’t focus on describing what they look like from head to toe. In fact, their general physical appearance is not so revealing – the key is often in the interesting quirks and blemishes. Moreover, you ought to climb inside your character’s skin, get to know them intimately and let the reader see how they tick. It  is  good if there is something unusual about them. Here’s a sample list of questions you could mull in order to give your character depth:

Rather than describe the colour of their hair and eyes, write instead about their height.

What about their gait, posture and walk? Does he flutter, jerk, flap or glide?

If you first met this character, what would strike you most?

Does s/he resemble an animal?

What is their natural scent?

What sort of diet do they have and what has been the physical impact of this regime?

What does their best friend think of them?

What happens when your character gets drunk?

What does your character have in his/her pockets/handbag/beside table?

What is your character’s favourite joke?

Also, to make your character particularly memorable, give him/her/it a singular physical attribute your reader will long associate with them. Think of it this way, if you were going to a costume party dressed as Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Havisham or Liesbeth Salander – what would you need? My guesses are, respectively: a lightening bolt scar, a deerhunter hat and pipe, an old wedding dress, and a dragon tattoo. Try to imagine what you’d need to be recognizable as your character.


Imaginationship: EXTRA SHOW added!

The entire run Imaginationship at the Finborough Theatre has SOLD OUT! So, we’ve added an EXTRA PERFORMANCE, a 2pm matinee on Monday 22nd, due to the extraordinary demand for tickets. If you wish to come, tickets for this extra date go on sale on Friday 19th at 12pm, but please book asap as they’ll sell quickly: Finborough Theatre.

Imaginationship Patience Tomlinson. Bart Suavek


IMAGINATIONSHIP run near SOLD OUT (tickets remaining for Jan. 16th matinee only!)

imaginationship eflyer 4

All bar one of the remaining performances of IMAGINATIONSHIP at the Finborough Theatre have now sold out. Very limited tickets remaining for the Tuesday MATINEE on Jan 16 only. If you plan on coming, please Book soon!


IMAGINATIONSHIP at the FINBOROUGH Now Showing

IMAGINATIONSHIP has sold out four of the remaining six performances already! Please book your tickets asap if you’re planning on coming to see my new play at the Finborough Theatre , London.

Directed by Tricia Thorns, the play is set in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. 59-year-old Ginnie attempts to seduce her unrequited love, the nymphomaniac Brenda. Attila is from Hungary but has ended up scraping an existence in Yarmouth – and pursues Melody who is obsessed with her commitment phobic evening-class tutor, Tony. Power-plays and relationships clash until a seduction too far leads to mass murder.

Set in this marginalised Brexit town, Imaginationship explores obsession, sex addiction, and the devastating effect of imbalanced relationships, not least between immigrants and locals, London and the regions.

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BOOK HERE

Featuring:

Joanna Bending – Melody

Jilly Bond – Ginnie

Atilla Akinci – Gediminas

John Sackville – Baz

Bart Suavek – Attila

Patience Tomlinson – Brenda

Rupert Wickham – Tony


IMAGINATIONSHIP

imaginationship eflyer 4

Hugely excited to announce that my darkly funny play IMAGINATIONSHIP will run at the Finborough Theatre , London, for three weeks in January 2018.

Directed by Tricia Thorns, the play is set in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. 59-year-old Ginnie attempts to seduce her unrequited love, the nymphomaniac Brenda. Attila is from Hungary but has ended up scraping an existence in Yarmouth – and pursues Melody who is obsessed with her cold and distant evening-class tutor, Tony. Power-plays and relationships clash until a seduction too far leads to mass murder.

Set in this marginalised Brexit town, Imaginationship explores obsession, sex addiction, and the devastating effect of imbalanced relationships, not least between immigrants and locals, London and the regions.

BOOK HERE

Featuring:

Joanna Bending – Melody

Jilly Bond – Ginnie

Atilla Akinci – Gediminas

John Sackville – Baz

Bart Suavek – Attila

Patience Tomlinson – Brenda

Rupert Wickham – Tony


It’s All About Me

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When writing prose, once you’ve found your character, the next decision you’ll make regards narrative point-of-view.

Think of your favourite novels. Do you favour 1st person (“I”) or 3rd person (“he/she/it”) books? Chances are, you’ll write more comfortably using the type of narrative point-of-view you prefer to read.

If you chose the “I” narrative, or first person, your tale will be viewed through the eyes of one of your characters and events will be expressed in that character’s language and should reflect this character’s perceptions and opinions.

The first person can be very intimate and often allows access to the protagonist’s innermost thoughts, which is a helpful method of hooking the reader. On the negative side, all that “I, me, my” can be akin to listening to a monologue – and may bore the reader, if you’re not careful. Additionally, you are limited as to what you can tell the reader, as you can only “know” what your narrating character “knows”. Finally, littering the page with “I”s – neither looks nor “sounds” appealing. For the above reasons, the first person is often more suited to short stories rather than novels.

Having said that, there are wonderful first person novels out there and if you are determined to use a first person narrator, you really ought to read great examples of this narrative point-of-view to get a good handle on it: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway.

Also, a first person narrator could be a minor character observing a major character, which may remedy some of the pitfalls outlined above. Examples of this type of narrative include Sherlock Holmes and Wuthering Heights.

The Unreliable First Person Narrator My personal favourite first person narrator is the unreliable variety. It has great comic/tragic potential. With an unreliable narrator, the story is told by a character that doesn’t really “get” what is going on. The reader guesses the true state of affairs, however, and the narrator becomes the butt of the joke. An unreliable narrator is often a child or a naïve or foolish person who does fully comprehend how the world works (think Forrest Gump). The resulting book/play/short story can be quite funny and/or very moving. See the following examples: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon or Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding.


Theatre Weekend

If you happen to be in London, I have two separate theatre events on here this weekend.

SHORT PLAY: Sun., Oct. 15th – ‘Burning’ (15 mins., dir. Tommo Fowler) at the Arcola (5pm and 8pm) in The MINIATURISTS

STAGED READING: Mon., Oct. 16th ‘Imaginationship’ (75 mins., dir. Tricia Thorns) at the Finborough, 7.30pm in the VIBRANT Festival of new writing.

 

Do come along to either one.

 

 


Burning

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If you’re in the Hackney/Dalston neighbourhood next Sun. Oct. 15th, do come along to The Miniaturists. It’s a showcase of 15minute off-book plays by five invited emerging playwrights, at 5pm and repeating at 8pm. My piece, ‘Burning’ (dir. Tommo Fowler) is orientated around Brexit.

It’s a fun evening too. Do come along!