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Love Your Characters

And smile when you reach The End.

When it's time to come up with a new character - whatever size their role - I almost always begin by thinking about who I'd like to spend some time with. That doesn't mean each character is a dog-obsessed, laugh-a-minute, vegan patisserie chef with books piled on their stairs - although she sounds like someone I definitely should write about soon - but characters who make me smile, who hold my interest and surprise me (every writer loves that feeling when a character seems to take on a life of their own).

One of the characters I'm currently writing plays a key but minor role in my novel. His name is Tarim and when it came to creating him, I opted for pure best friend material, asking myself: Who would I really love to have in my life right now? And so, Tarim is direct, funny, kind and intriguing. He's the kind of man that if he were real, would be on speed dial and invited over constantly for dinner, for drinks, for walks and long chats. When it's time to write him, I'm already smiling just at the thought of having him say or do something funny. I'm not sure if everyone who reads him will feel like that about him but it's a great place to be as a writer. Writing characters you love means you write more often and for longer, and a novel, with all its many strands, comes together much more quickly and effortlessly when writing is fun. In short, writing Tarim is a joy. I always want to get back on my laptop and see what he could do next.

When creating characters you love, careful development still needs to take place. Their actions and motivations need to make sense. They need to have a backstory that sets them on the path you're writing about. They need to have (or have had) a job and interests, things that move and frustrate them. What do they read, eat, listen to and think about? Who are their friends and what are their most important relationships? How do they behave at parties? How do they spend their alone time? What keeps them awake at night? They need to be fully-rounded, three dimensional beings.

However wonderful and engaging a new character is, they also need to serve the novel, moving the story forward. As writers we've all sadly had to delete an entire character who was wonderful company but didn't do anything for the plot, no matter how many times we tweaked them or shoehorned them into situations they weren't really suited for. If that's someone you're currently writing, cut them out and give them a different story - your next story - where they are the main protagonist. Or consider a short story just about them, or write a series of monologues where they really shine. Creating a character you can't use in your current novel is never a wasted effort.

When writing a novel, there are so many characters and so many plot points that all need to come together. Having characters I love and can't wait to get back to - and especially with Tarim, one who still makes me laugh even when I'm doing a third draft - makes it so

much easier to arrive at The End with a huge beam on my face.


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