Charlie Laidlaw is an author and tutor at Creating Writers

Your only task as an author is to write stories that people will want to read.

To keep them turning pages to find out what happens next.

But we mostly engage with books because we engage with their characters.  That means creating characters that feel real.

A goody-two-shoes central character is neither interesting nor believable, unless they’re thrust into some kind of conflict.  Remember that all novels are about conflict and how that conflict is resolved.

It could be conflict within a marriage, or within a family, or between friends.  It could be conflict involving zombies or aliens.


But your book must always be about how those conflicts are resolved.

However, having a two-dimensional character kick the cat from time to time doesn’t add up to characterisation.  Think your characters through in every detail.

So, right from the start, write out your characters on a piece of paper.  Ask questions about them.  What would make them more real?  Does your detective drink too much?  Does that make him a better detective and/or a worse person?

But what you mustn’t do is fall back on clichés.  It’s too easy to give your character a peculiar quirk as a way of making him or her more interesting.

That may well work if the quirk has any relevance to your story, and helps to make them a three-dimensional character.  But if it doesn’t, your readers will still see your character as two-dimensional, and you will lose their interest.


To do that, you must be absolutely true to your character(s).  Make them human, likeable or loathsome.  Give them strong opinions or make them introspective.  But make them real.

At Creating Writers we recognise how hard it can be to get started.  Harder still to finish a book.

If 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.  As part of our Diploma course we’ll also get you started on your novel.

For more information, you can contact us here.

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