Good Reading : November 2015
polished, word-perfect product in one go. And Jenny is no exception. Unbecoming, in fact, took her four years to write. She admits that she is slow, and, unlike many writers, she doesn’t do drafts. She revises instead as she goes along. And unlike J K Rowling, who knew exactly how the ‘Harry Potter’ series would end, Jenny usually has no idea how her books will turn out, letting her story unfurl without any overarching plan. ‘It’s quite scary to wr ite this way,’ she said, in a recent interview with The Guardian, ‘because I never know how a book will end and I often go down wrong paths and have to throw thousands of words away. I guess this explains why I take so long.’ She might have given away her career as an actress, but Jenny found that the skills she acquired in drama school have not gone to waste. The story in Unbecoming is written from the perspectives of two different characters, and in order to get inside their minds, Jenny started to keep notebooks on them. She would record their most cherished hopes and deepest fears, what they like to eat and many other idiosyncrasies. This information doesn’t all end up in the book she is writing, but it’s a bit like the backstories created by writers and screenwriters for movies and television, which help their creators to fully inhabit the minds of their characters. Jenny also reads aloud the dialogue between her characters, to help her figure out if it sounds real. She’s not alone in practising this technique: Charles Dickens would also read aloud the words of his characters in order to get their tone and their vocabulary sounding authentic. Dickens would also declaim his newly created words to a mirror and watch his own facial expressions as the character inhabited him. When no-one is home, Jenny will engage in a similar practice, wander ing about the house and pretending to be her characters. This technique helps her to imagine how they might move, or figure out what would go through their minds as they go about their daily tasks. GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2015 19 BOOK OF THE MONTH Jenny usually has no idea how her books will turn out, letting her story unfurl without any overarching plan. ... in order to get inside the minds of the characters, Jenny started to keep notebooks on them. Jenny also reads aloud the dialogue between her characters, to help her figure out if it sounds real. Unbecoming by Jenny Downham is published by David Fickling, rrp $19.99.
December January 2016