Charlie Laidlaw is an author and tutor at Creating Writers

Most of us live fairly humdrum lives, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t make good novels.

We fall in love, we grow older, we fall out of love.  We make friends, we lose friends.  Our lives are all about change, and that can be a good starting point.

After all, most romantic novels are about ordinary people and the conflict between them that eventually brings them together.

Remember that every good novel involves conflict and how it is eventually sorted out.  Otherwise, what’s the point of reading them?

But that conflict can be about the everyday.  It doesn’t have to be about guns or explosions.

Let’s take an example.  You’ve decided that your central character is a lawyer who lives in the suburbs.

Each evening he goes home to watch TV, then goes to bed immediately after the news.  So far, so dull.


Your task is to make something happen that turns everything on its head.  Maybe he witnesses a murder.  Maybe he finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

Your very dull protagonist has to quickly find new levels of character, otherwise we won’t read his story.  But in making the dull interesting, also make it true to character.

As a lawyer, he won’t probably know how to fire an AK-47 or climb the outside of a skyscraper.

But we do want this character to find new levels of personality.  We want him to grow into a new version of himself – that is one of the conflicts that he has to resolve.

By the end of the book, conflicts resolved, how has he changed?  What elements of personality are now more dominant?  Will he want to go back to being a lawyer?

We all like different genres, but my books have mostly been about ordinary people having to confront something out of their control.

A lot of new writers see the writing process as a chore.  They know that thousands of words lie ahead of them.  They also may only have a sketchy idea of their characters.

My advice is not to worry but, simply, to start writing.  You can always go back and edit, edit, edit.

Books evolve

In dreaming up characters, have fun with them!  But don’t be afraid of changing their personalities half way through.

Books evolve, characters evolve.  And don’t think that your book needs to be about the extraordinary.

As I said, we mostly live very ordinary lives.  In my view, the very best books can be about the ordinary.  We can relate to them.

It’s how you make the mundane interesting that can be the spark that really ignites your writing.

Very few of us are born storytellers.  In my case it took years of going down dead ends. It’s a skill, or set of skills, that have to be learned.

If that also sounds like you, and you need help getting started, Creating Writers has two creative writing courses, an introductory course and our flagship Diploma course – with a real qualification at the end of it.

They’re intended to give you the confidence and skills to understand what makes great writing – and, on the Diploma course, to actually get you started on your novel.

For more information, you can contact us here.

Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash