This is a copy of a post first published on www.thegreatbritishbookshop.co.uk...
250g memorable characters
2 eggs-tra fun weeks/months/years?? cooking up the perfect plot
Bake with love until golden and yummy (or at least until it looks done!)
Enjoy at bedtime with a glass of warm milk. Delicious!
Work out who your characters are. Really get to know them before you start to write. Love them and care for them, and then others will too. Endeavour to find out what makes them tick and what they don’t like at all. In short, get to know them inside and out.
When you know what sets them at ease, throw the opposite at them! If your characters always get things easy, how will that make others want to root for them? You’ll only see your characters’ true colours when they are really tested. If they have to strive to get through challenging situations, they will be admired so much more when they finally come out the other end!
Think creatively. Your mind will often lead you to the obvious, so don’t always accept your original idea. Or maybe the next … or the next! Have the confidence not to start your story until you’ve really worked hard mentally. Let ideas sit and “level out” for a bit. If they’re good ones, you’ll still think they are in a few days/weeks’ time. But if you revisit and the concept has sunk (like the worst kind of soufflé!), remember that nothing is ever wasted. It’s a vital part of continually learning the craft. Remember too, coincidences are ok to get your characters into trouble but never to get them out of it; sadly far too easy!
Write with energy and personality. Your characters have a voice and you, (the narrator) have one too. Steer the narrative confidently and don’t go off on irrelevant tangents, for these will slow down the action. Have a general overview of where you are going but don’t have it set in stone. Whilst writing, also be open to the “but what if” moments, because these are not pointless diversions but the gems that will help make your story and characters refreshingly original.
Get your story written, share it with others and listen to constructive feedback. Like with baking, (or any craft actually) practice and behind-the-scenes hard work are two vital - but often unlisted – ingredients in any good story. So write and write, and learn and keep learning, and never lose sight of why you wrote in the first place.
Finally, remember what is perfect to you may not be everyone else’s cup of tea. So do what you do, as best as you can, and just like a scone with jam (and cream), enjoy it!