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Getting To Know Your Characters Better

February 8th, 2019

First, thanks to Kunda for last week’s blog – it’s always interesting to hear how our overseas students get a foot on the writing ladder. It just goes to show that the ideas taught in the course are universal. Wherever you live, they still apply!

Some writers find bringing their characters to life easy – they spring from the imagination fully formed and ready to go. Others don’t find it quite so easy. So, here are a few tips for making your characters more real.

Obviously, you’ve got to give them a name – one that is appropriate to the era and country in which your work is set. The name should also be appropriate to their age, social circumstances and disposition – unless incongruity in this area forms part of your plot. And, don’t forget that names that were once considered old fashioned are now all the rage. My mum, who would now be 103 were she still alive, was called Edith and as a child I remember many of her older relatives referring to her as Edie. So I was surprised recently to hear that one of my son’s friends has named her baby daughter Edie! Read the rest of this entry »




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What’s In A Name?

November 16th, 2018

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to names over the last couple of weeks. My son and his wife are expecting a little boy in December and they’ve been trying to decide what to call him. At the moment Theo and Archie seem to be the front runners, though I’m not completely sure about either of them. But looking at a list of the 20 most popular boys’ names in 2018, they’re both in there and seem to be moving up the popularity rankings.

Of course, that got me thinking about the names of characters in books, short stories and plays. Choosing the right names for your characters is crucial if the reader is to empathise with them. You can suggest a great deal about a person’s age and background by the name you give (and this is particularly important in a short story where words are at a premium). All names have popular connotations and associations which the reader subconsciously tunes into – they create instant mental pictures of people. Read the rest of this entry »




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Being Sociable Can Make Your Characters More Realistic

September 8th, 2018

Many people think of writing as a lonely business. You work from home, shut away in the spare bedroom or slaving over the kitchen table when the rest of the family are at work or school. But I was interested to read a letter in a well-known writers’ magazine recently where the lady was saying how sociable she found the writing world these days. You can interact with other writers on Facebook and Twitter, in forums and via online courses without leaving your own home. There are writing retreats, writers conferences and literary festivals galore where you can meet other like-minded people, and share experiences.

I do think getting away from this idea of the ‘solitary writer’ is essential. And you shouldn’t just cultivate other writers – you need to be mixing with people from all walks of life (especially if you are writing fiction) so that you understand enough about how disparate groups of people think and behave that you create characters that come across as ‘real’. Read the rest of this entry »




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Picking The Right Name For Your Character

December 8th, 2017

Last week I mentioned the Debut Dagger Competition. I’ve just been on the Crime Writers’ Association website again and discovered that they have a page of excellent crime writing advice by well-known authors plus tips for entrants to the competition. So if you are considering having a go, it’s definitely worth taking a look.

This week I’ve had another great contribution from Writers Bureau tutor, David Kinchin – about naming your characters. So, rather than looking at bits and pieces, I’m going to provide some general advice, followed by what he has to say on the subject.

Choosing the right names for your characters is crucial. You can suggest a great deal about a person’s age and background by the name you give. All names have popular connotations and associations which the reader subconsciously tunes into – they create instant mental pictures. For example, Nikki is a young art student with a way-out dress sense, while Cynthia is a rather staid housewife in her mid-60s with an immaculately clean house in the leafy suburbs. Read the rest of this entry »




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Characterisation Continued…

October 27th, 2017

First, thanks to Colin for last week’s post. I think he provided plenty to think about when you’re getting to know the characters you create. And it really is a case of knowing them thoroughly if you are to make your readers care about what happens to them.

So, I’m going to add six points of my own that I think are important if you are to persuade your readers to get involved in the lives of your characters:

  1. It should be your aim to create individuals who leap off the page, exuding energy and creating dramatic impact. They must be more exciting and more attention grabbing than the ordinary people we meet in our normal workaday existence.

Read the rest of this entry »




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