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Developing a character

Imagine that there is a young character in your mind, waiting to step forward and tell you their story. You might have an idea of their age, whether they are male or female, perhaps some sense of what they look like. The following series of questions will help you discover more about your character and their situation. All you need to do is make notes, jot down any answers that come to you. The interesting thing is that although you don’t know them yet, you will still find yourself being able to answer the questions…

Imagine your character is in a house, looking out of a window. What can they see in the distance?

What time of day is it? What time of year is it? What’s the weather like?

Something happens (could be something simple, starts to rain, someone walks past etc), how do they react?

What was the last food your character ate? Who was it with?

Your character has a bag of some sort. What’s it like? What’s in it?

Your character has a picture of some sort. What or who is it a picture of?

What is your character’s main worry – something is on their mind – what is it?

Somewhere there is a secret – either a secret that your character knows or that someone else knows. What is the secret?

Your character has an early memory of something when they were very young. What is their memory?

There is an object that is very special to your character – it’s either something that they own, or they used to have but have now lost, or that they have never had but they really want. What is it?

And last question: What is your character’s name?

Try and picture your character, how they speak, move, sit in a chair. See if you can think of some more questions for your character to answer. Make a start without having to worry about how the story is going to end. Sometimes it’s good to plan, but this is another way that authors often discover their stories, by putting their characters in a situation and seeing what happens.

So give yourself ten minutes to write an opening. You might start with them at the window, or you might decide there is another point in the story that would be a better place to begin.

If you find you’re having difficulty, put them in a situation where something is happening e.g. summoned to the Head’s office, something happens on the way to school, there is a phone call, a letter, someone calls to them…

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Developing and explaining new ideas

1. You don’t have to be entirely original. There are plenty of very good, best-selling stories out there…

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Don’t let them talk you out of it

Spend a little time identifying who the people are who might tell you not to write your memoir….

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Controlling your fear

Thomas Keneally says that, ‘Writing is an exercise in controlling your fear. Above all the fear that you…

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Find your story in a setting

This is a research exercise really – one that will help you find a story out of setting….

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Drawing your childhood memories

We all have child’s eye views – many in fact. Some might say we’re already a step ahead…

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Creating ‘Child Eye’s View’ when writing for young people

Young people don’t just come under the heading of one audience. There are so many different ages and…

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Mark’s top 3 tips – Critical, forensic and persistent

Watch exclusive this exclusive video from author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark…

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Planning a film script

‘To make a great movie, you need just three things: a great script, a great script, and a…

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Finding and Keeping the Language of Nature

Your exercise is to take a natural history field-guide and locate a poem within it. Write it out…

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Restricted diction

You can learn a great deal about how language works, and about the sort of poetry you want…

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Research and screen outline exercises

PART ONE: Documentary or Research Exercise for Screenwriters Using a still camera and or a tape recorder (or…

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