Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A news producer who doesn’t play by the rules

I have a job that is unlike the profession of many of the people who contribute to Strictly Writing – can you guess what it is? Here are some clues . . .

I’m paid to invent characters and conjure up interesting settings and then write about them. I have to dream up plausible and lifelike situations into which to put the characters. It’s important that there should be tension and conflict in what I write and that the people who read it should not be able to guess what happens to the characters or what their true motivations are from the start. Often the characters are eventually played by professional actors and the whole drama is filmed.

Yes, you guessed it, I’m a business psychologist.

At the moment I’m designing a collection of role-plays for use on leadership development programmes. The work is fun and it demands a certain amount of creativity and insight into the business models and operational practices of large organisations. The exercises have to replicate tight corners faced by senior managers and stretch their leadership abilities to the full. I enjoy seeing the final product acted out on the programmes – seeing my creations come to life. And when you consider that my fictional organisations and characters have been used for the assessment and development of thousands of managers all over the world, it’s not a bad publication record, and certainly well rewarded.

All of this makes it exactly the type of work that John Braine advised against in his book on how to write a novel. I’m sure I’ve seen that advice from other authors – if you have to work then it should be something that doesn’t involve using words or being imaginative. Wait on tables, clear bins, hose fires: anything that is manually rather than intellectually stimulating.

I have to agree. After a day like today working on a management simulation role-play, I’m all written out. I know it’s no real excuse but I’m putting aside the novel for a while until I’ve finished this spate of exercises. For the meantime I’m engrossed in Marlon Dieter, a Senior Producer in my fictional news broadcasting organisation, who has his own ideas about how to run the business. Gripping stuff, sigh.

6 comments:

Caroline Green said...

What an interesting post...I genuinely didn't know what was coming then when I started reading. It's essentially making up stories, isn't it, whatever the format. All has to be grist to the creative mill, I reckon.

Derek said...

Hi Rod, it must be very satisfying to see some of your creations come on life on screen - and a lot quicker than the 18 months to print, I imagine! Do you ever find you want to push the boundaries a little and try to add artistic flourishes?

Roderic Vincent said...

Hi Derek,

Yes, very speedy route to print. The one I finished yesterday will be used on a course next week and filmed too.

And yes, I push it as far as I can. The main opportunity is in the voices/POV. The exercises are usually written in the form of a series of emails/memos/letters from various parties giving their take on the situation, and that's where you can have some fun. I like giving each of them a different writing style. It's an epistolic form, if you like.

The one I should be working on now is a role-play, played by an actor, where the character is difficult to manage partly because they have personal problems. Plenty of scope there, don't you think?

Roderic Vincent said...

And Caroline, I'm trying to see it as grist, rather than wish I were writing pure CW stuff.

To be honest I don't find it helps with writing stories, but it does help to have deadlines. I've often thought that's one of the main advantages of having a journo background, as many writers do, to be able to write to a deadline.

Fionnuala Kearney said...

I think you ARE writing stories surely?!

Sheila Cornelius said...

I agree with the point about jobs that don't overlap with one's creative writing - to a degree. I (fairly) happily taught English and Film for thirty years, though it did get in the way of writing. It often overlapped. Not sure if I could have stood thirty years of something entirely unrelated while waiting to hit the big time.