Tom Palmer's writing blog - How I write: How you write. Part Two
Posted by Susie Musgrove
9 May 2011
“The thing I found hardest was creating characters”
I’m trying to work out all the characters for my Squad football spying series at the moment. I need five main characters and another five other less important characters. So, what is the best way to do it?
When I started writing books the thing I found hardest was creating characters. I was okay with how to start a story and how to bring it to an exciting end, but characters were tougher.
I remember when Puffin asked me to do the Football Academy series of books. I had to make up 14 boys to be the players at a Premier League Football Academy. I started thinking “I’ll have one whose brave and one who’s mean and one whose a bit soft…”, but it just didn’t work. They were not like real people at all. And, therefore, completely uninteresting.
So I asked some other authors how they make up their characters. And quite a few of them answered: “Base them on people you know”. So I tried it. Fourteen football academy footballers – all based on people I know.
I’ve got a friend called James who is really nice and kind, but if he thinks that you’re doing something wrong, he’ll tell you.
I have another friend called Jake. He is always very enthusiastic and excited, but deep down he has never really felt very happy.
I used to know someone called Ryan. He was a bit of a bully. But the main reason he was a bully is that his mum was really mean to him and he felt he had to take it out on other people. (Not that that’s any excuse.)
Suddenly I had three characters. James. Jake. And Ryan. Types of people that I could use who seemed real to me.
So I tried to think up some more. I thought of Yunis and Ben and Craig. Then all of a sudden I had half a football team.
When I was writing the Football Academy series and there was an argument between two boys in the story, I knew exactly how they’d react without having to worry about it. I knew James would try to stop an argument. But that Ryan would fly in and go mad. Because that was how the real people I had based them on would react.
It had worked: I had made up some believable characters. They weren’t the finished article, but it was a decent start.
Now that I am writing the Squad, I have used the same technique. Using a real person, but imagining what they would be like if they were spies. It has really helped. For instance, the boss of the spies is called Jim. He is based on someone I know. Someone who is strong, who always wants to do the right thing and who cares about everyone around him. But there is something about Jim that you can’t quite understand, some mystery. That’s Jim.
And he’s been great in the story. Especially the mystery bit. Because I used real-Jim to make up fictional-Jim, the character is really working well.
Next week’s blog is about how I found out about the settings for the Squad books.
Schools Network members can also download a classroom activity related to this blog entry. View.
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