Some of the best conversations I’ve had with friends and family have been whilst walking. The rhythm of our breath, our steps falling into sync, fresh air opening our minds, our bodies busy and our minds stilled – all this allows for our conversation to flow. A conversation that shakes off the trivial and goes to what matters.
From their conception, my characters become friends – some of them, like Milo, become family. As with flesh and blood friends and family, being cooped up inside together doesn’t do our relationship much good. So, I put on my trainers, nudge my characters out of my notebooks – and set off.
I remember talking to my MA supervisor, Nicholas Royle, about walking and writing. He told me about a writing exercise he set his writing students one day – they had to ask a question of their stories, go for a walk and then come back and write. All of them returned enlightened and their writing was stronger as a result.
It’s important to choose one character and to set out with some specific questions that relate to the bit of the story you are writing. I’ve found that the more precisely you can formulate your questions and the firmer you are in your intention to uncover important truths, the richer the revelations.
Challenge: Whether you take an hour’s leisurely stroll, grab five minutes in your lunch break or use your walk home from the bus stop – take one of your characters for a walk. Ask them some searching and specific questions – and listen for the echo.