Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Writing monologues

American Barber Institute
The Barber Institute
At the suggestion of my fellow blogger Helen at Blog About Writing (click here), on Saturday I went to a workshop on writing monologues. It was held at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which is part of the University of Birmingham, and run by its writer in residence Jacqui Rowe. I'd never been to the Barber before, but I was very impressed. It's a lovely little gallery, and the building is worth a look in itself (see right and click here).

We took our inspiration from the pictures in the gallery. Our first task was to have a good look at the faces and, without being swayed by clothing, setting or knowledge of the subjects, to choose someone we would like to have a drink with, someone we were suspicious of, someone for a mentor, and so on: you get the idea.

After discussion on the psychology of the face and making judgements based on appearance, we then had three minutes to write a response to the question: how would you react if you opened the door and saw THIS face - at which point Jacqui revealed the image of our mystery caller. We did this three times, and it was interesting how quickly I could decided whether he/she was a goody or a baddy.

'Paternal Love' by Etienne Aubrey - Pic from
After a bit of tuition, we then had to put ourselves in the place of two of our chosen 'faces' and pose questions: What is your favourite place? What food do you never eat? Do you believe people are born either good or bad? There were 10 different questions for each subject. This material formed the material of our eventual monologue.

Jacqui guided our discussion of what makes a good monologue and what makes it different from a simple first-person narration, the important points being that SOMETHING MUST HAPPEN and the words must reveal something of the speaker that he or she doesn't know is being revealed.

I was rather alarmed to find that I wrote something very miserable, in which my subject's husband went out looking for work and didn't come back. However, we have a few weeks to finish and rework a piece for submission to Jacqui and her team, should we wish to, so I'm going to cheer it up a bit before I send it in. I took my inspiration from the young mother at the centre of the picture above.

All this for just £6! There are other workshops to come before the year's end and I would definitely recommend them.


  1. That sounds great, Julia - thanks for reporting back and yes, brilliant value for just £6! Some places would charge you about £50 for a session like that - and you've got the chance to submit work too!
    The Barber Institute is, by the way, considered "one of the finest small art galleries in the world" And it's in BIRMINGHAM! And it's FREE to go in...! (and they offer great writing workshops!) What are you all waiting for..!?

  2. There are so many free treasures if you know where to look. The initiative to get rid of entrance fees to museums was a stroke of genius.