I recently had a great time being guest lecturer at the University of East London, giving second year students an Introduction to Copywriting. My presentation took them through the basics of what a typical job entails, explained what I understand as the science of storytelling in advertising, and gave what career development and general advice I could. The second half of the lecture involved textual analysis and theoretical discussion, after which I got the students to workshop their own ‘adverts’. We analysed them as a class, discussing what was effective and what could be improved upon. A great bunch of students, I wish the class of 2018 all the best. Thanks especially to Ravinder Basra for giving me this wonderful opportunity to teach and give back a bit of the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year, and to Simon Miles for ensuring everything went smoothly on the day! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the annual Birkbeck Man Booker lecture, this time featuring the highly acclaimed novelist Colm Toibin. In conversation with Professor Russell Celyn Jones, Mr Toibin spoke mainly about the processes of writing his latest novel, The Testament of Mary. My appetite is thoroughly whetted to read it now, and there were many moments of beautiful anecdotes, reflection and wisdom – both on writing and the creative life in general – that I will try to distill now, and add to if relevant. Mr Tobin is a wonderful raconteur and philosopher, with a great deal of Catholic learning; full of warmth and wit. I highly recommend hearing him speak where possible.
- There is no such thing as a truly historical novel. There will always be some anachronisms, and contemporary concerns will always end up creeping in. That is not to say you should not strive to be convincing, but to forgive yourself if you find out retrospectively that you ‘got it wrong’.
- Don’t worry (too much) about offending people with what you write. Someone is always going to be offended, potentially, and you can’t let that put you off.
- When writing violence or scenes intended to evoke horror, simplicity and precision are often much more effective than simile and metaphor. Toibin gave the example of his depiction of the crucifixion – do you really need to compare the driving of nails through a man’s wrists to something else?
- The same goes for sex. Make the reader feel/see/experience what is happening. Let them know what is happening, not tell them how it feels [for the character] – they should be able to work that out for themselves.
- ‘Every sentence is a way of solving the problem the previous sentence has given you.’
Right, I’m off to buy my copy of The Testament of Mary. Over and out.
I had a great time in August playing a barista in the wonderful Lana MacIver’s video ‘They Say It’s Your Birthday’ for PolarCreate. The video showcases some amazing new technology from iBe, and is beautifully shot to boot:
See how flawlessly I operate the coffee machine? Thank you to Lana and the team for patiently talking me through what I needed to do…
Another bit of #copy-writing for @NuccoBrain. It was fun to work on a product with such an international appeal.
More about Aversion and White City Productions here.
It was fun being part of the team that made this video happen, as copywriter: