Get Writing! Characters…

Luna, Dudley, Fred, George, Cho, James, Lilly, Viktor…

You know them instantly. Even though it wasn’t their name on the cover. And we’re willing to bet you can name at least a dozen more of the characters that shaped Harry’s world. (Go on, do it! At least 12. Go!) Another roll of the dice says you know each of those characters’ histories, their arcs, their quirks, and the roles they each played in Harry’s life.


A good story has a leading character (or more than one) that you can root for, and supporting characters that you can relate to. But how many books or movies have a whole cast that you feel are part of your family? That you’d really want to be part of your family?

Dobby spark

Moment of silence

Of those few that come to mind, how many are some of your favorite books of all time?

Characters play a pivotal role in every good story. Or, at least, they should. This is why you have to go through your work and make sure that every character is memorable; for those characters who are there just to advance the plot or provide exposition, give them something real to do, something to feel, something that makes us feel, or laugh, or recognize something of ourselves in them.


Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready. Because our exercise this time is more like an exorcise…

Remove the least significant character in your work.

SPN Adam

Maybe one day Adam will come back to Supernatural.

If they are truly insignificant, removing them will quicken the pace, give another more meaningful character something more to do, and avoid any confusion the reader or viewer may have in keeping your cast straight in their mind.

This should be challenging. If it’s not—and you George RR Martin-ed one of your cast with zero hesitation—then jump right back in there and do it again with the next least significant character.

Be ruthless.

Keep going until all you are left with is your very own Weasley family. (Except Percy)


Harsh but real. Sorry, Molly.

Escaping the winter blues

Winter, huh? Ugh. If you’re suffering with the dark, the cold, and maybe the coming apocalypse, you might need a little escapism. Nothing wrong with a little me-time. Even Harry and Hermione found time to dance while Voldemort and the Death Eaters took over the Ministry, tore up the rules to society and civilization, and terrorized the world. Just a completely random example.



So what better way to escape than with some awesome 80s—and 80s-inspired—novels? Here’s your guide to escaping those winter blues.




We’re all familiar with world-building in sci-fi and fantasy. The religions, politics, powers, and ancient mythology (and, yes, even the trade laws) that exist in Star Wars, Star Trek, the MCU, and the Potter-verse. But world-building isn’t just for magical characters wielding all-powerful technology.


Magical character? Check. Wielding all-powerful technology? Check. 

No matter the genre, the world in which your story takes place is more than just a backdrop to invoke a location (like a white sheet behind a stage to show an empty sky). Your setting is literally and figuratively your characters’ world. It has/will shape them, and possibly crush or inspire them.

The first step to building your world (and ensuring it’s presented in just the right way when you’re editing) is to decide how much influence you want the setting to have. Will it enrich each scene in subtle, nuanced ways (like the music subculture in Begin Again), or will your world be so vivid that it’s almost a character unto itself (like The Matrix)? Either way, just like your characters, you need to know the ins and outs of where your story unfolds. What’s its history? Its defining features? How does the air smell (if it even has air)? How does the water taste (if there’s even any water)? What does it sound like at night? Is it any different at dawn from how it is at dusk?

This also extends to culture and society: you need to know the mechanics of how your invented society functions, and how your characters work those mechanics. Mad Max: Fury Road has a fully complete society and eco-system: it’s grounded in details. Utterly insane details, to  be sure, but it’s 100% consistent and feels real.

Doof Warrior

World-building, son. This photo never gets old. Ever. 

If you’re so inclined, draw your world, as much as you can. If not, look for pictures, photos, paintings, etc. that both look like your world, and conjure the feelings you want your world to provoke in your characters, and in your readers. Having a visual reference can be a huge help in creating your atmosphere. If there’s a part of the world that has similar geography, go visit it and soak it in. Basically, do what you need to in order to live there in your head. Then attack your draft and make sure that feeling you have when you’re living in your world is conveyed between the action and dialogue lines, and in and between each line of your prose. Make sure every action follows the law of your world: readers and viewers have an unerring instinct for inconsistency, even if it’s felt more than thought, it will turn them away from your work. For example: if there is no air, there is no rust.

Grab your nearest copy of Harry Potter (everyone has a set of Harry Potter books in each room, right? That just us?), open it up, and see how long it takes you to figure out where Harry, Hermione and Ron are. We’re betting that in a few lines you can tell what room in Hogwarts they’re in, or which shop in Diagon Alley. (Just for the record, J.K. Rowling is a master world-builder, on every possible level — if you want to see how it’s done, read the Harry Potter books, and for a more gritty, contemporary kind of world, her Cormoran Strike crime novels, written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith).

HP books

Can never have too many of these, Harry

It’s all in the details, the feelings that bring you… well… home.

When you’re editing your story, be it script or prose, it’s important to shape your world to feel like a home. It’s your home as the creator, your characters’ home because they exist in it, and your readers’ as they escape to it.


FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is the story of Leonard Peacock’s eighteenth birthday, on which he intends to shoot his high school nemesis, and then shoot himself.

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock

Heartbreaking and life-affirming in unexpected ways, this is an unflinching portrait of how a person can feel like their humanity has been steadily stripped away from them; in this case, a teen who hopes this will be the last day of his life. It holds nothing back, and tells the truth, weaving in a vivid cast of characters in Leonard’s life as it does so, in a beautifully authentic story. It also has some fresh, completely unexpected narrative tricks up its sleeve that rock you out of your expectations, and ultimately make you feel… all the feels, as they say.

In the manner of a more snarky, introspective Jack Bauer, we follow Leonard, 24-style, as the day unfolds, class by class, hour by hour, flashback by flashback, and the pressure and tension mount. His voice is acerbic, angry, hurt, lonely, yet also witty, humane, and understanding. He’s an amazing creation. The writing, the craft on display here, is fantastic. Quick is a brilliant writer, able to take his own humanity and understanding and turn it, incredibly skillfully, into a page-turner that is completely grounded in the narrator’s inner world, as well as the perfectly evoked Philly/NJ setting.

Quick has said that Leonard’s depressed, rage-filled voice came to him when he was relaxing in Paris on his first trip to the city with his wife; it was a voice that he could not ignore, despite the beautiful surroundings, and thank goodness, because this is one of the greatest YA contemporary novels ever written.

It also proves something essential about writers: we should never, ever ignore the voices in our heads. That’s what it feels like sometimes (all the time); our stories come to us unbidden, begging for our attention. If we don’t give it to them, they can just fade away again, like lonely ghosts. Having ideas is one thing; actually grabbing them and following through on them is a whole other thing. As Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour replied when he was asked if he thought he was getting better at playing as time went by: “I’m not getting better, but I think I’m better at capturing the good moments and hanging onto them.” Listening to the muse and doing what she says is critical, in life as well as in writing. Like J.K. Rowling, for whom Harry Potter and the seven-volume plotlines marched into her head during a train journey — if you don’t capture and explore it, you’ll never know where it could take you.

Quick certainly captured this story, and with Leonard’s unique and transformative perspective on his life, it makes you see everything differently in yours. In that sense, it’s a book that can change the world; a book that everyone should be shouting from the rooftops about. It’s also a massively compelling, terrifying, wild, emotion-shaking ride, which is what YA needs to be (and ideally, what all literature would be). It’s amazing when all those things are true of one book. So, please, do yourselves a favor: read this now, and then go tell everyone how brilliant it is.