I often tell my creative writing students to listen to the characters they create, to be alive to what they are saying.

To illustrate the point, I refer to the story of a crime writer who I taught a few years ago and who created a brilliantly-drawn character. When she had finished reading out the chapter in which this new character featured, she revealed that it was only a minor character and that the girl would never appear again.

I argued that the character had so grabbed her attention as a writer that what she had done was create a major figure, one who was demanding to be in the story. Result? A significant role for the character, a rewritten novel and a much better story.

Now I have a case much closer to home., I am writing the latest DCI Jack Harris novel and there’s a crowd scene. I have created a minor character who was just there to throw a brick. That’s all he had to do. Hashtag onejob

But then he pushed himself to the front of the crowd, demanding to be seen and heard. Result? A significant role for the character, a rewritten novel and (hopefully, I’m only 14,000 words in!) a much better story.

Funny how characters assume lives of their own, isn’t it?

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