Monday Writing Motivation: The quirkful character

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

Attend, class! Today we’re going to build a character from the ground up. Our Monday Writing Motivation: The quirkful character will help you build a character fit for your fiction.

Let’s start by taking someone we know. I’ll begin with a neighbour, here on Pontoon F at Priory Marina. Using someone you know gives you a head start. So, class, I’m going to begin with someone I’ve mentioned before.

She’s a woman of a certain age. She loves dancing, despite problems with her hip. She adores a prosecco (or two) at the end of a day and sometimes reminisces about her two husbands, both sadly now departed, but living on in her memories and her anecdotes. “Lovely men, both of them,” she recalls fondly.

She is a gardener devoting endless hours to the pots filled with plants around her houseboat and decorating the exterior walls of her house with knick-knacks. She also tends to the plants at the entrance to the pontoon – and has created, for our mutual pleasure, a rock garden at the end of the parking area.

She is, in short, a community-spirited individual who is an asset to the pontoon and all who live on it.

Monday Writing Motivation: The quirkful character

But for the purposes of our fiction, we want to edit her a little, exaggerate some features, and eliminate others. Characters, as I’ve frequently said, are not humans, and we’re at liberty to use procrustean means to fit our dramatic needs.

Begin with a name for our character. Any suggestions? Humans often have unremarkable names: Mary and Janet and Sophie. We can afford to be more reckless with our characters. So how about Alexandra? Or Jemima? Or Bluebell?

Good idea – let’s settle on Bluebell.

A prosecco or two doesn’t really cut it. So let’s have Bluebell discreetly down a bottle, and sometimes two.

And let’s give her three dead husbands. She talks fondly of all three of them. What we don’t know, at the start of our story, is that the third was a cad, and her anecdotes about him are confections designed to put a gloss on her past.

And let’s say that her gardening takes a different, perhaps a darker turn. She plants not daisies and agapanthus – but a select collection of Venus fly traps.

And her dog’s not a Yorkshire terrier but a cat, one of those naked beasts, a hairless Sphynx.

And so, our familiar perfectly friendly and agreeable neighbour is slowly transformed into an eccentric and slightly weird character. The sort of character who might play an interesting, even a central role in a cosy mystery story.

So – start with a familiar figure you know well. Then, feature by feature transform them into a larger-than-life character fit for your fiction.

Best of all, it’s huge fun.

Happy writing,



How about joining us in in Venice in 2024? We’ll be back at Ca’ della Corte from 2 to 16 October. Email Trish to reserve a place.

Join me in Stow-on-the-Wold for a weekend writing retreat from 24 to 26 November.

Or why not wrap up the writing year with our Thirty-day Writing Bootcamp.

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