Thursday 1 January 2009

Charles Dickens – a Role Model of a Writer

You tend to hear a lot about him this time of the year, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without at lease one version of A Christmas Carol. There’s usually one or two take-offs as well – this year included Holby City. I suppose also the people in the televised / filmed version of his stories remind us of Christmas cards.

We’ve been blessed recently with an excellent BBC production of Little Dorrit and a film of Nicholas Nickelby was broadcast this holiday. They also recently did Oliver Twist, which was repeated this year.

But set aside the slightly old-fashioned prose, the unfashionable omniscient and intrusive author, you are left with a fine story teller. Oh, sometimes the coincidences stretch the imagination, but we ought to remember that many a telling of a true-life story has been rejected because it seemed improbable.

You must forgive him too for his larger than life characters – Bumble, Mr Dorrit, Micawber, Betsy Trotwood and the donkeys, because they are actually such glorious caricatures and bring a much needed humour to the sometimes disturbing content. The important characters are natural and straight. They are fully rounded. Even the sweet-natured, new age Nick Nick has a vile temper and his wicked miserly uncle is reduced to remorse and suicide when he learns the truth about his son.

I have the ambition now that when I retire I shall reread all of his novels.

And wouldn’t he have been a good blogger if the technology had been available then? Aren’t his American Notes and Pictures from Italy glorious? It is good to note that he too, full time writer or not, had to do the talking tour, along there with Jackie Wilson, Philip Pullman, Alan Gibbons and lesser mortals like myself.

I love looking at the writing routines of other writers and I aspire to something like that of Dickens. He would write from eight until two, then take himself off for a walk along the shore, retiring to a pub for an hour or so, people watching I guess, and then dining out or at home usually in the company of friends. That would suit me absolutely. When I can have that routine or one pretty similar, I know I’ve made it as a writer.

And another thing. He would often talk to himself in the mirror, acting out the parts of his characters. Do you know, I’ve caught myself doing that now and then.

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