Tag Archives: character development



Another character development exercise, this time exploring the relationship my female protagonist had with her mother during her teenage years. She is fifteen when this scene takes place, sometime in the autumn after another long, heady summer staying with her grandparents by the sea. 


“I just don’t know how I’m supposed to be thankful for this!”

As soon as the words left my mouth I was ashamed, but at the same time a thrill bubbled up deep inside of me. I couldn’t help myself.

“I mean, it’s no kind of life is it? You and Dad – you barely see each other. And you couldn’t give a stuff about me.”

I willed her to speak but she just stood there, quiet now. She’d goaded me to this, nagging and nagging. And now she wouldn’t even answer me. My heart raced in my chest as my mind churned through all of the most hurtful things it could think of that might provoke a response. Something stopped me though – I still wasn’t brave enough to say them out loud.

When she did finally speak her tone was low and measured.

“Your father and I have done everything for you. Everything.”

I’d heard this so many times.

“But did I ask you to? Did I?”

“We only want the best for you, Catherine. We’ve tried and tried to do what’s best for you.”

There was a new note in her voice, and with something close to disgust I realised she was almost pleading with me.

“Well maybe you should just try harder. Maybe you could even try listening to me. I don’t want this, any of it. The world is changing, mum. It’s going to leave you behind. And you might be happy with that but I’m not – I’ll never be.”

I wanted to shake her, to force her to understand what I was trying to say. And then, just for a second, I wanted her to hold me, to hear her say that everything was going to be ok.

The next time she spoke though it was with the special air of venom she reserved for my aunt.

“You sound just like her, do you know that? I knew it was a mistake letting you and Joseph spend so much time together. They’ll poison your mind, the lot of them.”

“It’s got nothing to do with him!”

The heat rose in my cheeks as I thought of Joe. Sweet, angry, confused Joe. It was true he’d opened my eyes to what was out there, but I refused to believe for a second that was a bad thing.

“You’ve got no idea what she’s like, not really. She’ll have completely brainwashed him. No son of hers could grow up to just be happy. There always has to be drama, she never could just be grateful for what she’s got.”

She stood up and smoothed down her apron, forcing me to take a step backwards as she moved into my space.

“In fact you’re more like her than I’d ever realised.”

She swept out of the room then, her head held high, leaving me trembling with rage even as the tears began to prick behind my eyes.

I never had understood why she hated her sister so much, but in that moment something clicked. Mum was afraid of her. Everything she’d done, all of the decisions she’d made: they were the polar opposite of my parents’ safe, boring existence, the very things that could bring it crashing down.

And now my mother was afraid of me, and I had absolutely no idea how that was supposed to make me feel.


Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt: ‘thankful’.

Nikki Young Writes



I’ve just made myself feel really sad writing this. The girl in the fort is all grown up, reflecting on what that means in a letter to the man she loves. 


Dear L,

I look at myself now and wonder what you would think of me. It’s my birthday again. I’m thirty years old.

Back then, when we were young, this really was old. You promised me that if I turned thirty and I was still alone then you’d come to my rescue. And now it’s happened, and I am. But you’re not here.

All the people around me say that I shouldn’t feel old. That thirty is so young, that I still have so much of my life ahead of me. They don’t understand that I stopped living a long time ago.

Not that I don’t have a life. There’s a lot I’ve done that I’m proud of. I have a job – a career even. And a house. And a cat. Don’t laugh – I think you’d like her. She probably wouldn’t like you much, but then she doesn’t really like anyone except me.

So in many ways I’m ticking all the boxes, doing all the things that we used to say people do when they get old. I thought I’d be happier, though. I thought I’d have it all figured out by now.

My friends are all getting married of course. Having kids.

Our son would be fourteen this year. The same age as I was when we first kissed, do you remember?

I hope you’re both happy, wherever you are.

Love J,

Forever and always.


Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt: age. And to my characters for continuing to speak to me





Nikki Young Writes

The plan



It was still seared into his memory, the moment when he’d told her. Fear had flashed across her face at first, but that had quickly turned to contempt.

“I can’t actually believe you thought you’d get away with it.”

She’d spat the words at him, not caring how hurtful they were.

“I trusted you, and this is how you repay me?”

He’d tried to explain to her that this, in fact, was the deepest kind of trust. He’d let her be a part of something special, something new. But she was having none of it.

She had almost destroyed him, but this time would be different.

He had it all worked out: how he’d reel her in, draw her closer and closer so that by the time he revealed the truth she would be in too deep to see things any other way. And if she let him down – well, he was ready for that too. He knew exactly how he was going to cover his tracks this time.

She wouldn’t let him down though, not this one.

He scrolled through the information he had about her so far – the photographs, the friends, the good times and the bad. He already felt he knew her intimately, and the next stage would fill the gaps that were remaining.

She had no idea what was about to begin. He wished he could tell her, let her in on his plan and watch the admiration spread across her pretty face, but there was no doubt in his mind that this was how it had to be.

He looked at the bank of screens staring coldly at him for the last time and picked up the black holdall at his feet. If he could just get this bit right then everything else would fall into place.

The leather of his gloves hugged his hands assertively. He could do this. He would prove them all wrong. And he would not make the same mistakes again.


Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt: ‘The mistakes we make…’.

This piece is another exercise in character development, this time jumping inside the head of my antagonist at the point the novel begins. The story we actually hear unfolds from the protagonist’s point of view and it is a long way into the novel before the truth begins to come out.

Nikki Young Writes

What if my normal isn’t normal after all?


I have encountered this week a particularly pernicious breed of self-doubt.

On the surface, everything’s going pretty well with the edit – fantastically well in fact. I’m a few pages from hitting the halfway point, and well on my way to getting this round of redrafts completed by the end of the month. My characters are being extremely helpful as I try to tweak the various elements of their story, and the conceit I’ve adopted to deal with some of the bigger problems with the way it’s told seems to be working – at least to my mind.

But this is where the doubt is seeping in.

When I shared my thoughts about the challenge of writing dreams last week I got some really useful feedback, but it did make me realise how completely subjective peoples’ experiences of the world are: that something I think is entirely normal might be entirely alien to someone else. This might be particularly pronounced when it comes to dreams – they are after all not bound by any of the normal rules of reality. But it’s not only this that worries me.

Way back before the summer, as I got ready to release the first draft to my initial readers, I had a niggling sense that maybe my main character wasn’t very nice. I knew why – she’s on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster but doesn’t really know it, and that’s manifesting itself in a combination of abrasiveness and shyness, shutting herself away. I’d been there, and I felt sorry for her. I knew she didn’t mean to come across the way she did, and so did her friends. And anyway, she really wasn’t that bad.

But the feedback I got – not from everyone, but from people whose opinions I really trust – was that she was really quite unpleasant. Completely unlikeable in fact, to the point where important elements of the plot just cease to make sense.

I’m working on that – I can see where they’re coming from after all. But as I change the things Grace says and how she says them, as I try to get her to open up a bit and to demonstrate that she really is a friend worth having, I start to doubt myself. Maybe the reason she comes across so badly is because I’ve modelled her on myself, and maybe I’m just not all that likeable. Maybe my ideas about what makes someone worth caring about are just so far removed from what normal people think that I’m never going to be able to create a character who people will like enough to invest in her story.

And then this makes me wonder about everything else. Things I take for granted as thoughts or ideas or experiences that people will share, that I’m counting on to be able to create the common ground that will form the foundations of the world of my novel: maybe they’re just me, just my warped way of seeing things which will do nothing other than switch people off and make them look away.

I think maybe I’ve been spending too much time in my head.

And actually, even stepping back enough to write this makes me realise that things are probably ok. That this is just another one of those self-doubt demons, adopting an increasingly sophisticated guise as I become wise to his usual ways.

I know that I’m more than a little bit bonkers. And it is this that, hopefully, is going to lend my words the original edge they will need to be heard. If people don’t instinctively identify with the characters and ideas in my story then I will just need to make damned sure that my writing is strong enough to convince them to go beyond their comfort zone.

Who needs normal anyway?


Writing Bubble


The storm



It was the thunder we heard first. The morning had been glorious – just perfect for lazing on the grass with iced coffees from the market, perusing the papers and generally just enjoying life and each other. But sure enough, as I looked up behind Grace’s mess of red hair, I could see the clouds rolling in.

They were angry, and switched her mood in an instant.

“What’re you doing?”

I ignored the scorn in her voice and continued to fold away the pages of newsprint that were strewn around us.

“It’s going to rain.”


“So we need to go.”

She stood up then and turned away from me to look across the park. Everyone else was on my side with this one – picnics were being packed into hampers, babies bundled back into their prams. There was another crash of thunder and she lifted her face towards the sky as the first drops of water began to fall.

They were slow and heavy. If we didn’t move now, we’d be drenched.

“Come on, Gracie, this is silly.”

“You go.”

Grace had let her bag drop to the floor and was shrugging off her shirt, unselfconscious in the bikini top beneath. I felt the familiar tug of longing as I saw her bare skin, curving in at the waist where it was met by the denim of her shorts.

“What’re you doing?”

“Just go, will you?”

I wanted to force her to look at me, to grab her arm and spin her round. I wanted to kiss her, but instead I ran. As the raindrops increased their urgency I found shelter beneath an oak tree, squeezing in beside a couple leaning on their bicycles and a man who had squatted down to read his book.

The thunder echoed off the tower blocks again as Grace raised her arms, her hair trailing down her back now as water dripped from its ends onto the grass below. There was a flash of lightening then too, and in that moment I had a vision of her going up in smoke before my eyes, her footprints scorched into the earth. Still clutching the papers under one arm I sprinted out into the wet. I had to save her.

But when I got there she was laughing, an expression of pure glee on her face.

“Isn’t it wonderful? It’s our chance to be free, Charlie. To be alive.”

She reached out for the buttons of my shirt, trying to undo them so I could join her even though I think she knew I never would. I wriggled free and she spun away, shouting something that was lost amidst the storm.

The anger of the clouds had infected me now, and I strode alone towards the home we shared. She’d come back when she was done. She always did.


Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this story with her prompt of ‘Thunder’, and also to Nicola at Nikki Young Writes who inspired me to explore my characters further through her post for last week’s What I’m Writing.

This story captures a moment in my protagonist’s past, seen through the eyes of her ex. I’m not sure they lasted long after this incident – and I’m pretty sure Grace would have seen things very differently.


Nikki Young Writes