The Eyes of a Magpie


Anna Murphy has the eyes of a magpie, is a word and line thief, listens and takes moments from the scenes she encounters and transforms them into tales, stories and scripts. Anna is a long term member of Kneehigh Theatre and has worked for C-scape Dance, Theatre Alibi, Rogue, and BBC Radio 4. She is Artistic Director of The Story Republic and The Writers’ Block.

Anna’s Autumnal Writing Prompt.

Creating Character:

I always take my notebook out with me. I have different sizes for different occasions. Ones that will fit in my coat pockets to ones I can open up and use at my writing desk.

As for the one that fits in my pockets, it goes on many a journey. Here is perhaps where you can take yours and what you might just have to do.

Sit in a cafe, on a bus, park up on a bench in a town street and record verbatim the snatches of conversations you can hear. Listen to the rhythm, tone and pace of the dialogue. Later, extend the conversations, take the dialogue as far as you can go, imagine the possibly mundane dialogue you wrote down building to an argument, a declaration of love, the revealing of a secret. Make whatever it is truthful though. The secret doesn’t have to be extreme, for example, they’ve hidden three bodies in the shed. Think instead of the everyday human secrets and fears we all carry and use them.

Build characters around these people you’ve listened to. What’s on their mantlepieces? Who are the most important people in their photograph album (or on their phones!)? What are their dreams? Their disappointments?

…Your character has begun.


Photo by Steve Tanner

2 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Emily Dobson

    This is such a wonderful idea, I’m hooked already…

    Nov 07, 2018 @ 11:22 pm

  2. Maria McEwen

    Great idea. Anna’s suggestions are very inspiring and I’m looking forward to the next installment. 🙂

    May 07, 2020 @ 11:08 am