Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Games People Play

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All people play games. It’s in our nature. We do it at the grocery store, in our minds, with our spouses, with people we don’t like and those we love—it’s a fundamental part of how we make it through.

I've come to the take that in any interpersonal exchange (even if one of the people isn't present) that a game is in play. The ball is in the air—or not.

But, writers often leave the game-playing out.

One of the most effective and efficient, not to mention resonant, ways of allowing readers to have their own experiences amongst our words, is to allow our characters to play the games they know so well. We all do it.

If a camera were watching us, we’d know it’s a game to hide, poke, avoid, distract, comfort, loosen up, etc. That intention in the context of a game allows writers to bypass intellect and go straight into the bodies of readers.

For instance, we can tell in a nano-second what people know about each other and how long they’ve known it by how well they play the game. Right?

The good news is that games are often already embedded in a text, if only the writer would peel off some of the words and let the characters have at it.

Try it. How’d it go?

I've got two screen-writing classes starting at UT School of Continuing Studies in January, 2013. We'll take on games, story, treatments, dialogue—you'll come out with the techniques and skills to write a script and the inspiration to see it through. Privately, I'm leading Writers' Circle TO sessions where creative writers of all stripes and genres can come and workout their pens, their keyboards and their imaginations.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Thom Vernon

Thom Vernon has worked in film, television and theatre since 1989. He has been the Actors’ Gang Youth Education Program director and has worked as an arts educator at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. The Drifts (Coach House Books) is his first novel.

Go to Thom Vernon’s Author Page