EVENTS Character is Destiny

Many of us wonder whether we are really getting across the story that we want to tell, writes Catherine Whitmore. So we asked Craig (CM) Taylor, novelist, book editor with Writers' Workshop, and lecturer, to help drill down the nuts and bolts of telling an effective tale.

A few years ago, I walked into a York Writers’ Festival Workshop about character. I happily expected to hear ye olde favourites about ‘inhabiting character’, ‘finding their voice’, and getting to know them so well that you know what they ate for breakfast on their fourth birthday. All important stuff and always useful to review with every new work.

Craig will talk about making character work with theme and plot.

But that’s not what I got. Instead, Craig talked to us about how to make your character work with your theme and plot. Huh? That was most people’s reaction. Five minutes in, and there was many a confused face in the little workshop room. But by the end, little lightbulbs were pinging over the heads of the attendees.

By the end, little lightbulbs were pinging over the heads of the attendees

When I sat down, I thought I’d like to write a story about a girl who wanted to save her home. I’d a vague idea that she might like chocolate and hair dye (not together) … But I walked out of Craig’s lecture knowing that, because of my plot, my theme must be ‘change’, and therefore my protagonist must be ‘against /fearful of change’ and my antagonist must be ‘enforcing change’.

Did I write a bestseller within the year? Clearly not! But I did not spend a year rambling aimlessly. I knew what my character’s story arc needed to be. And that ain’t nothing!

One of CM Taylor's novels about celebrity footballers.

And so, Marion Brown and I asked Craig to come up North on March 17th 2018 and share his know-how with SCBWI members.

'Narrative art is how events in time (PLOT) change or do not change a human being (CHARACTER), according to the writer’s sensibility (THEME),’ says Craig.

'I teach a very practical method – adapted from screenwriting to cater for the strengths of written fiction – which links plot to character and theme, treating them as part of the same moving concern and the same evolving structure.

Narrative art is how events in time (PLOT) change or do not change a human being (CHARACTER), according to the writer’s sensibility (THEME)

'I offer a simple, repeatable method whereby you can test the usefulness of your inspiration against a system for unifying the three main aspects of writing.'

The workshop is special on two fronts. Firstly, because of all the crafty knowledge we’re going to acquire. Secondly, because SCBWI is delivering it in partnership with the Manchester Children's Book Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). We’ve enjoyed strengthening the links between the Creative Writing School and SCBWI over the last two years and we can only see benefits for our members and MMU students, who we like to refer to as ‘future members’.

Time Travellers at a previous Manchester Children's Book Festival.

MMU is centrally located in Manchester and easily accessible from most major cities throughout the country. We do hope all members will consider joining us.

'Character is Destiny: linking plot with character and theme' is being held on 17th March at Manchester Metropolitan University, 11am-4pm. Book here.

*Featured image: Fran Price using

Catherine Whitmore is a mum and rarely evil stepmother from Greater Manchester. She writes YA fiction. One half of the SCBWI-BI NW Network Organiser team, she enjoys family time on Gwynedd’s beaches, gin-in-a-tin, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and freshly threaded eyebrows. @purewhitty

1 comment:

  1. Sounds fantastic! I wish I could go ... but I'll be jetlagged that day!


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