Everybody knows that one guy. The guy who views the world in the negative, that anything and everything existing outside of his self-imposed bubble is bad. The guy who swears at least once in every sentence. He knows what he’s good at, and he doesn’t care about all the other shit that doesn’t interest him. He’s grumpy, moody, opinionated, and a little bit lonely. Take him outside of his comfort zone and you’ll know about it, because he will verbalise all that negativity (probably in the form of a string of expletives).

I know that guy. I know him very well, because I am that guy (all right, I’m a girl, let’s not get fussy over genderisms here, okay?). I swear far too much, have strong opinions, and don’t mind expressing them. I often view the unknown in the negative. I am a thirty-three-year-old, female, grumpy old man.

In ‘The Machine’ and the series of books that will follow, that guy is Cid Mendle. He has spent his adult life cooped up in a laboratory, working. He’s a highly logical engineer with no time or need for adventures or romance or anything of that sort. Why then, would you want to have such a negative force along on an adventure? Because he is so much more than that. Where, on the one hand, he is “stuck in his ways”, he is also dependable. He is secretive and selective in whom he trusts, but loyal to a fault; once he’s on your side, you have a friend for life. He is the perfect counter-balance to Larissa, who is a dreamer and seeks out the positives in every situation. Cid wastes no time in giving her a verbal smack back to reality.

Cid is one of my favourite characters to write, probably because I know him so well. His dialogue comes so naturally. I can’t say I look anything like him, because I’m short and chubby, whereas he’s tall and spindly. I’m also not a super intelligent engineer (unless you sit me in front of an excel spreadsheet and then I can make magic). Cid is funny and charming in his own way, and without him, the book would be missing something special.

Plus he hates cats…

You can meet Cid, Larissa, and their other companions when The Machine is released on November 1st.



Dear writer

So you’ve been doing this writing thing for a while, maybe years. Yet you frequently find yourself stuck in the same place. You get halfway through your novel/novelette and you lose steam. Perhaps you can manage to finish a short story, but you struggle with anything longer. You tend to get lost in the plot or worse still you’re bored of your own work. Don’t fret if this sounds like you. It happens to us all.

You have a stack of unfinished projects. You’ve tried different methods, obsessive outlining v.s. go-with-the-flow. Your ideas are good, some of them are brilliant. So why then, are you so prone to apathy?

I can’t claim to have a cure for all your ills. I can’t offer a lifetime guarantee that the following suggestions will turn you into a prolific and successful writer. At least I’m not asking you for any money for my advice right? So here are my thoughts to help you through things:

#1 – Forget your plot – shift your attention

Characters should be the focus of your story

I could wrap this blog post up right here, but I guess that would be a little lazy.

Think about your favourite book(s) and then try to pinpoint what made that story stand out to you. I’d be willing to wager that the answer will be a certain character.That is what makes good stories memorable, above all else.

You can have a vibrant setting, intricate world building, and/or an elaborate plot, but none of those things will carry a story if you don’t put equal or greater effort into building your characters. The people in your story are what your readers relate to; we’ve all built interesting mental attachments to imaginary people. If you want to write a book that people love, or even just a story that you love yourself, then you need to focus on the people within your story.

#2 – Do the groundwork

Know your characters

Each character needs to be as unique as each person in real life.

Build a character biography for each person in your story. Start with the basics, hair colour, eye colour, name, age and so on. With minor characters you can stick to these points. For your bigger players try to include things such as; their biggest fear, their happiest memory, what they do when they’re nervous, their secret passion e.t.c.

Some of these things may never make it into your book, but what is important is that you know these people inside and out. Only then can you have a hope of writing them in a convincing manner.

I’m not saying you can forget about all the other elements. After all, Sherlock Holmes would be a very dull man if he didn’t have any interesting cases to highlight his brilliance as a character. You have to write interesting people with interesting skills and fascinating flaws, even ‘ordinary’ characters with no skills can react to an exciting adventure in an interesting way.

The minute you shift your focus, you’ll find yourself wanting to find out what happens to them, how they get out of tricky situations, who they fall in love with or anything else that you chose to throw at them through the journey. If you are interested, then your readers will be interested too.

#3 – Remain consistent

Character for sale – I forgot his name because he’s not important (may not actually be a ‘he’)

You’d be surprised at how easily you note one person having blue eyes in chapter three and by the time you get to chapter twenty they’ve ended up with brown eyes (unless of course you’re writing fantasy and a change in eye colour is part of the plot somehow – this would be allowed!) Or a similar mistake such as having a character mention that he can’t swim at the start of the story, then at the end you have him skilfully doing strokes up a raging river. You may miss it in the edits, but I promise your readers won’t and if you lose them on the details, then you’ll lose their interest.

This goes back to the idea of having a character bio for each person, but if you really can’t do that then you must be prepared to edit rigorously.

A fellow author told me he made the mistake of writing identical twins into his story with the names Terry and Kerry. It’s a wonderful idea, but awfully tricky in practice. He described his woes of reading through the first draft and finding that he got completely muddled up with the names and the traits of each brother and spent a lot of time and effort trying to unmuddle it in the editing.

So be straight on who each character is and what they can or can’t do and if something changes be sure to explain how or why that is.

#4 – Nobody’s perfect

Hero for hire – Can do anything and everything and never puts a foot wrong

There is no such thing as a perfect person.

If you’re going to tell me that your story involves a race of aliens who have evolved into a perfect set of people then good luck to you. I am going to tell you that they are boring.

Readers relate to character flaws more strongly than they do character skills. One of my favourite heroines has an amusing need to clean everything, bordering on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Did I just say a disorder was amusing? I meant no offense to anyone who suffers in real life. In literary form it is funny as the character leads a band of miscreants working outside of the law who invariably wind up living in dirty and unsanitary digs, meaning our leading lady spends an inordinate amount of time trying to clean up.

Your characters cannot be perfect. There must be a balance to make them interesting. Think of your own flaws. Perhaps you’re great in bed but terrible with romance (or vice versa). Maybe you can shoot the centre of a target whilst blindfolded, but you’re deathly afraid of spiders. What if you’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve accidentally clipped the corner of your car on that awkwardly placed wall at the end of your drive (who put that stupid wall there anyway?) Readers crave these little moments where characters show them their vulnerabilities. So don’t deprive them of that.


Synopsis: Put more effort into your characters than you currently do.

I hope some of these points will help you in your quest to finish writing a novel.



Characters are the heart and soul of any story. I’ve said it before that greater effort should be put into characters than the consideration given to plot, setting and theme. What makes a story memorable and turns a writer from a daydreaming amateur into a skilled author is the ability to create people that readers relate to and care about. When a writer sits down to begin the process, the character(s) should come first.


I usually start with a character biography. I give the basics such as name, age, physical description and a list of skills. I keep a list of them for every character, even the minor ones so I can refer back to it whenever I need to. It helps for consistency and also it helps to ensure that each character is unique in some way.


Looks are not nearly as important as personality traits. There are only so many times you can mention that your character has blond hair and blue eyes and a distinguishing scar through her left nostril before the reader loses interest. I put effort into figuring out what my characters are good at and conversely, what they suck at. Also I like to think up quirks for each of them – the guy who talks to himself – the girl who blushes at everything – the one who can’t keep a secret, etc.


A character’s voice is important too, especially if you have lots of different characters. You need to be able to distinguish each of them during dialog. I suppose it takes a degree of imagination to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the people inside your head, so I’m either lucky or completely crazy to have that level of connection to people in my story.


I often read other books and try to analyse what captures my interest or not and take that knowledge into my own writing. We all hope to create characters who are as memorable and loved (or loathed) as the great writers among us have managed to do. By studying and analysing those stories, I’ve learned just how much thought and effort goes into the best characters and I try to match that level of determination in my own work.

The Arc

I find that the story and character development are a shared process. The character’s choices lead the story, and the story direction forces the character to make choices. Much like in real life, the two are mutually inclusive. Remember the old ‘chose your adventure’ books where you decide which path the character takes? That’s the approach I tend to take when I write, the outcome may or may not be set in my mind, but the characters chose the path that leads them there.