Okay, she’s a pretty wrinkly nude, but I did her in the one minute warm-up at the Arthouse Hotel in Pitt Street Sydney where they have Life Drawing sessions every Monday. (Fantastic value if you like to draw!) I go as often as I can. One night there was a guy sitting next to me who was basically just drawing the breasts of the model – very intently.I asked him if he was practicing breasts and he said “No”. Breasts were just what he liked to draw. He was a lovely guy, a little embarrassed about his breast fixation, but open about it too. We chatted a while and I said I think everyone is interested in breasts – men, women and children. He said he was rather more interested than most people..
I guess you’d call that a fetish. It got me thinking that often we regard fetishes as disgusting, violent, or somehow not normal. They are the most normal thing in the world, but sometimes they can interfere with others things. I used the character and the idea in the Laughing Club.
Every writer has a style, but it needs to be adjusted so it catches the characters in the story. This is nowhere more important than in a short story where often one or two characters carry the narrative throughout.
I always take time over this – imagining the character, feeling their age, their clothes, their speech, social status, relationships – basically everything I can think of.
Recently I’ve started using visual cues – objects, clothes, landscapes, houses that might be an important part of their life. Looking for the image is important because I find all sorts of things that aren’t right. Those things give me insight. But when I find the thing that is right, it gives me an actual sense of the character. I spend time gazing at, imagining. It really enriches my ideas. Here’s my leadlight I recently used for a story set in an elaborate Victorian house.
I write my stories. That feels natural to me, but in the history of story telling – which covers all of human history, people have mostly just told their own story directly to others. The cavemen sat round the fire and told stories. Now people sit round the dinner table. Or they go to the pub. Or tell them at work. We all love to hear stories.
My friend Kathryn Bendell who has run a comedy room for the last few years as well as performing comedy herself, has fallen in love with story telling. She runs a wonderful afternoon of storytelling first Sunday of the month at the Roxbury Hotel in St John’s Road Glebe (Sydney). The stories range from hilarious to tragic, from ridiculous to inspiring and are always entertaining. This Sunday, 10th March, it’s on at 5p.m. with 6 story tellers who will tell wonderful stories on the theme of Taming the Monster. Each story is about ten minutes and each storyteller will have their own unique take on the topic. It’s a great way to spend a few hours, with stories, food and drink. I love it. If you love short stories, try them live. Find out more on Facebook – Tell me a story. Or www.tellmeastory.net.au Be there!
I love the writer James Thurber. He was a great short story writer, a brilliant cartoonist and a dog lover. I started reading him when I was just a kid in the 1950s and 60s. He’s a laugh out loud writer, but there’s always a poignant strand in his stories. He worked for the New Yorker as a writer and cartoonist for most of his career, but produced many books and anthologies. Reading his work now, I’m sometimes aware of racism, sexism and snobbery, but it was very much of that time – he died in 1962. However he was always an astute and hilarious observer of human nature. Also a wonderful observer of the animal world, especially dogs.
In my story, “The Laughing Club” I named the dog Thurber – a tiny tribute to a fantastic writer.
Have a look at his quotations and some of his cartoons
I like the idea of Indian laughing clubs, but I go to actual comedy events to get my laughs. Both laughing clubs and comedy gigs come into this story. The germ of the story came from me going to the Roxbury Hotel comedy nights. The Roxbury is in Glebe, in Sydney, in Australia, where there’s usually a showcase for new comics.
The story took off from there. Lots of comedy is about unsuccessful relationships, unsuccessful sex. People identify – we’ve all been there, or at least most of us have. That means the audience identifies with the comic and we laugh. (You do wonder about people who haven’t been there, don’t you? Perhaps they’re insensitive or worse, they are extraordinarily beautiful and sensitive people)
But sometimes, I sense that for the comic, and maybe for the audience, it’s more than a laugh, it is actually tragic and very painful. So this story looks at all of that.
But the story isn’t tragic. It has an almost happy ending.