Get Hooked On Writing!

Issue # 2 Tuesday, May 12, 1998

This Week's Author:
Jaqui Bennett

Jacqui Bennett is the pen name of Jenny Hewitt, Course Leader of the Home Study Division at Writers News, the well-known and most prestigious UK magazine for writers worldwide.

Jenny started writing in 1971, fortunately succeeding very quickly. She has had a great many short stories published, as well as serials, features and articles, in both North America and the UK. As well as these shorter pieces, 7 of her novels have been published - the first three by Macmillans in their Topliner series for teenagers, the other four by Hamlyns and IPC's Images of Love as romantic novels. She is currently working as co-author on a paranormal thriller.

Next Week's Author:
Sandra L. Toney

Sandra Toney discusses the value of writing sequels to classic novels, long after the original authors' death.

Last Week:

Issue # 1 - Hooked on Opening Sentences


Extracts from Jacqui Bennett's Writers' Secrets


Characterisation is a 'got him immediately' sort of thing. It's knowing your fictional characters through and through. An ability to 'see' them and their setting as you write about them. Be there with them, feeling what they feel, as if each character were a real person.

Never make your characters too anything - i.e. too nice, too nasty, too understanding, too polite - if you do, they will become boring and unbelievable and, if characters are unbelievable, your story will fail. Avoid stereotypes - the weird old woman in the isolated cottage, bimbo barmaids, fussy spinsters, vague vicars and so on. Such stereotypes simply become cardboard cut-outs devoid of interest, and unlikely to come over as flesh and blood people. Their fate will therefore become a matter of complete indifference to your reader.

Let your characters have some faults. It makes them more human and therefore easier for your reader to identify and sympathise with them. But for your readers to care about your characters, so must you. This is why it is so vital to understand, exactly, each character as you invent him or her. It's a bit like having your P.C. plugged directly into someone else's mind. Not only must you know the details of your characters lives, such as their job, age and where they live, but also know and understand their hang-ups and foibles, their good points and their bad ones. It's easy to assume that because you've described characters who are active and talkative that they will be riveting. If you create someone who throws a few spanners into the dialogue, it results in a train of reactions.

Don't overdo subsidiary characters. Let them do their thing and get off, like in a stage play. Unless they are important to the plot of a story, traffic wardens, bus drivers or shop assistants are merely pieces of the scenery. We don't need to know these extra characters have ginger hair, a black moustache, a wife and six kids at home or loved to go hang-gliding in his time off. These facts are not important, and have no relevance to your storyline.

Aim for characters that jump off the page - something all editors long for.

Part of the original Sideroad.
Text © 1998, Jacqui Bennett.
Editor: Shara Smock.
Production: Erin Grainger.
The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at

Shara Rendell-Smock, authorContributing Editor Shara Rendell-Smock brings a wealth of writing experience to the Sideroad; She has written more than twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper articles (including a monthly health column for The Sarasota Herald-Tribune) and published two books (see below.) An original member of the Sideroad team, she wrote 27 issues of - "Go to Health! Because Life's Too Short - before taking on the Writing section.

Shara's books can be ordered from her web site at

"Getting Hooked"

"Living With Big Cats"