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When you begin thinking about the people who might inhabit your writing, it can take a little while to find them. If you’re writing from life the people who inhabit your writing might be from memory, or they might be from history, from research. In fiction, you are usually inventing characters, albeit perhaps characters who are drawn from research or history or memory. All characters have some element of observation in them, elements drawn from remembered or observed people. However fantastical, good fiction will always have an element of observation.

Today, begin to think about a character. You might be writing poetry. Or history. Or perhaps you don’t know what you’re writing yet. In any case, finding character will give you a touchstone.

The other thing about creating character is that it nurtures your ability to create, to follow your own curiosity. Making character is built on curiosity.

Today I have an exercise for you.

I want you to return to the person you observed early this week, and begin to breathe life into them, as though they were a character on your page.

Get your notebook and begin to make some notes.

If this person is someone you don’t know, give them a name. Give them a date of birth. If they are known, give them the names they have (or make up new ones – it’s entirely up to you!)

Now, leap into a little bit of guesswork, or imaginative engagement. Where did your character – for now this person is becoming a character for you, born of their real selves and a hybrid of your curiosity and imagination – where did they go to primary school? Who was their first teacher? What do they eat for breakfast? Have they ever kissed a stranger? What was the first story they heard or book they read? What is their favourite item of clothing? Favourite piece of music?

Write the story of this person’s name – do they have a nickname? Do they like their name? Hate it? Did they change it from something else? Have they simply never thought about it? Is it their mother’s name? Write until you run out of steam – but try to fill at least half a page or so. Try, if you can, to go further though – when you start to run dry, look at the last thought – where might that lead you?

Here’s another suggestion. When you’re done, write the story of your own name. You carry your name with you, in front of you. It’s often the first thing others know about you. Yet, often, we don’t think about our own names, about how we feel about these gifts or curses from our parents – try now to take a moment to think about what it means to you and how you feel about it. Step into your own name.

Today’s prompt…


All he wanted…