Tuesday, 25 February 2014

How to Build a Believable Character

In my humble opinion, flat, insipid characters = flat, insipid story.

It doesn't matter how zingy your plot, if your characters are two dimensional they will weigh the whole thing down.

So, what to do?

How do you build an interesting, believable character - the kind who leaps from the page?

One simple yet effective tool is the Character Questionnaire.

This is a series of random, probing questions that you ask of your character as you are developing them.

On Saturday, I ran a Dare to Write Workshop called Create and Motivate and when we were looking at characterisation, we created a Character Questionnaire together.

The results are below.

Please feel free to copy and paste the questionnaire and use it for your own characters.

Another bonus of using a Character Questionnaire is that, in finding out the answers, you often come up with plot ideas too.

Win. Win.

The Dare to Write Character Questionnaire:

How do they get on with their parents?

What is their worst nightmare?

What is their greatest dream?

What is their least / most favourite trait?

What are they most afraid of losing?

What animal would they be?

What turns them on?

What is their earliest memory?

What is their biggest fear?

What are they hiding from themselves and others?

How would they like to be perceived?

What is their biggest struggle?

What would they consider unforgivable?

What experience would they want to relive?

What is their social / religious background?

How is their relationship with their siblings?

What are their favourite TV shows?

Who are their friends?

Do they sleepwalk?

What's the most shocking thing they've done?

What do they think of children?

What are their views on marriage?

Do they have any secrets?

Are they handy around the house?

Package holiday or back-packer?

What are their desert island discs?

Acts of kindness?

What would they cook for a dinner party?

BBC1 or Channel 5?

Top 3 albums and books?

Childhood hobbies and why did they stop?

Shy or outgoing?

Red or brown sauce on a bacon sandwich (says SO much!)

What would they do if they weren't afraid?

Favourite swear word?

Most and least favourite profession?

What do they think they're good at - and are they?

What are their eating habits?

Which celebs would they like to meet?

What would they eat if no-one was looking?

Who was their first love?

Where do they buy their clothes?

What's their favourite weather?

Which book do they keep in the loo?

What is their physical and mental health like?

Do they have any phobias?

Have they had any traumas?

Are they in love?

Do they believe in life after death?

Most embarrassing experience?

Organised or chaotic?

Do they love or hate their job?

What is their attitude to the opposite sex?

What is their attitude to petty crime?

I'm running another Create and Motivate Workshop on Saturday 22nd March, in this beautiful location (which believe it or not, is in London!)

For more information click here, and to book a place please email:


Praise for the Create and Motivate Workshop:

"An amazing, interesting and inspiring creative writing workshop in a lovely Manor Farm House . . . I must get working on my manuscript!"

"Great workshop. Inspiring."

"Great session and really valuable in getting focus and inspiration."

"Thanks for an excellent day."

"An amazing day daring to dream."

"I loved it! Am definitely coming back!"

"I finally feel like writing again."

Friday, 14 February 2014

It's Okay to Write CRAP!

If I had to pick one sentence that made my writing instantly and infinitely better, it would be this: 
It's okay to write crap!

This one simple sentence has made such a positive difference to my writing that it's one of the first things I teach students at my workshops.

It's okay to write crap.

When I started out as a writer, I thought that everything I wrote needed to be perfect.

I would spend hours labouring over each paragraph, each sentence, each word.

I would get so bogged down in all of the polishing, preening, and editing that I wrote at a snail's pace - an arthritic snail's pace. 

But what I wrote never ended up being perfect.

More often than not, it felt laboured and clunky.

And then one day, when I became so sick of the pressure to be perfect, I decided to try an experiment.

I asked myself, what would writing feel like if it was okay to write crap?

The answer, I soon discovered, was that it felt frickin' great!

No more picking over every perfectly placed adjective.

No more polishing every last full stop.

I wrote wildly and freely.

I let the words pour on to the page.

And if the 'perfect' words didn't come, I wrote down substitutes instead - knowing that I'd have plenty of time later to replace them.

And the best thing I discovered about allowing myself to write crap, was that what I wrote turned out to not be crap at all.

My words had a raw energy to them.

My ideas were quirky and off the wall.

My true voice rang through.

Try it for yourself and see.

Next time you sit down to write, say to yourself first, it's okay to write crap, and just see what happens.

I dare you!

The Dare to Write Workshop tour is now in full swing, with monthly workshops, Create and Motivate days and One Day Retreats all lined up. To find out more, step this wayHope to see you at one of them soon . . .