Characters show themselves.

Do you often find yourself well into your plot before realising you haven’t written any character description for your own record? Planners may well have copious notes about each character’s life history, their personal habits, colouring, hair style and fashion sense. They may have a separate section detailing where each character lives. They may write dialogue including character reactions. They will have detailed his/her personality, the driving force, the key goal and fatal flaw.

Pantsters, like me, will find their characters evolve through having to respond to the action. I don’t know whether I am typical, but I don’t know how a character will react until I am writing that scene. It is like a lived experience. I am with the character facing whatever challenge, embarrassment or dilemma he or she is suffering. They have the experience, they react, I learn what sort of person they are…just as in real life. It is through the scene just written that I learn their flaws. There’s no way I could write the other way around.

Blank until I put them into the situation.

Yes, I have tried to plan. The planning guides look so organized, so professional, but for me it’s like being told what to do before I know what tools I will have, or how to talk to someone before I have met them…or perhaps, just being told what to do (by myself, pre-planning) rather than being left free to find out.

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You want me to react!

And when I’ve written a chapter where the character responds to the situation, I know what kind of personality s/he has, what background experience may have caused the reaction, and I recognize what I need to learn about how the other characters will respond to him or her. It is like an inner source of information that comes (apparently) spontaneously – but in fact will be based on older knowledge of people. This is a different part of the brain from the management, planning one.

This is why I write non-fiction in a totally planned, organized way. Headings, sections, content, sequence. I may add detail later, but it will be clear, that is, pre-ordained, where it will fit.

By contrast, my fiction is character-based. The character dictates the action. Therefore, I know what is going to happen in a later chapter only when I have completed the chapter I’m writing and the character has shown his or her colours.

I do usually have the ending in mind at a very early stage, so in writing the scenes I am a lot of my writing s deliberate creating towards that end. That doesn’t mean I know how the characters are going to get there, or even, sometimes, which characters will do so. One thing I’m determined upon…no weak endings!

Writer blogs and their lifetime


Some few years ago I began my first writer blog: But I didn’t want to show myself– I let my characters do the talking. Sadly, the characters didn’t live up to the image of Moliére’s group above.  It was more like this on the left. womensclub

I had just published my collection of satirical short stories and I wanted a writer blog that would speak about them, but one that would stop short of marketing. In that respect I fully succeeded; I talked about all the characters, it was humorous, and it didn’t market. I doubt if I sold one copy of the book as result of that site.

But I did have fun and, it seems, this writer blog appealed to the Ukrainians who followed every post(!) The characters became real, including one with a fish phobia, another who could only operate from a chaise longue, and one who was worried about her husband lurking near, ready to snatch her back from her recent liaison. The characters took over the blog completely, writing the dialogue including blistering criticism of me, their author. They started a literary criticism group, discussing each others’ tales. That was extremely unedifying and more than a tad bitchy. Altogether, this wasn’t an author blog, it was a characters’ blog. There was even an intruder, Russell, a character from one of my as-yet incomplete novels.  It’s always good to have an outside perspective on things, isn’t it?

I have just written the final post on this blog. It’s had nearly 23,000 visitors but it’s run its course. The book, Me-Time Tales,  is in its second and expanded edition with new stories, additional characters. Kindle_Cover_opt I need to spend time writing on this blog, and on the author website ( that, very belatedly, I am preparing.

I have said Goodbye today to my quirky blog giving this representation of one of mymattress characters. She was moaning that I hadn’t included the new characters from the 2nd edition so, as a swan song, I mentioned her and two others (rather miserable characters).

Now to the serious business of writing. The site you are on is straightforward if far less creative than fictionalcharacterswriting. I learned a lot while blogging on there. But I am not recommending such a time-consuming exercise to new writers or any writers, unless as an alternative to doing Codewords or Adult Colouring.

How far should we write for our own pleasure? One successful marketer, MaAnna Stephenson, has recently stated that before even writing a book she would carry out her marketing exercise: appetite for such a book, pitch, response, audience and so on.

Oh dear. We writers know what we should do but we just carry on writing the stuff in our heads. Our silly heads?