Malorie Blackman: Creating Plot and Character – Finding a New Approach

Alex English
It’s not every Saturday afternoon you find yourself fondling an arm bone and passing it to your neighbour.

But that’s exactly what a room full of keen SCBWI members found themselves doing at one of the Saturday break-out sessions. It was run by Malorie Blackman.

Use Your Senses

Sensory Inspiration was the theme of the session, starting with touch.
After passing round some tactile props, we set about describing the characters who might own them. My frizzy-haired voodoo queen kept the arm bone in question on her window sill and held it to forecast the weather. Another writer’s lonely old man kept his late wife’s evening glove by his bedside.

'I am watching you'

Next we used our hearing. Malorie played us a piece of very creepy music and gave us the opening line ‘I am watching you.’ Then we listened and wrote. It was incredibly effective and I will be doing as Malorie does and putting together my own playlists to reflect my characters and help set the writing mood in future.

Taking a word for a walk

The next part was very thought provoking. For example: What animal would the word ‘imagination’ be?

Planner or pantser?

Malorie talked about her planning process, and she’s definitely a planner (must be that computing background). She always plots first by writing a mini-synopsis, then a chapter breakdown that consists of a paragraph for each chapter (more, and she loses enthusiasm for writing it!)

Know your character

Next, Malorie works on her characters and gets to know them before starting to write the first draft. She writes short biographies of her main characters before starting writing. From the simple stuff like height, weight, teeth, scars and how their parents get on, to the bigger questions of beliefs. What are their hopes and fears at both the beginning and the end of the book?

Just do it

Malorie rounded up by giving use her best piece of writing advice. And that was? Just do it!
Here’s to that…!

Alex English is a freelance journalist and copywriter from London. By day she writes for national papers, magazines and commercial clients, mostly on food. By night she wrestles with kids' fiction. Her first picture book, THE YAK THAT SAID YUK, will be published by Maverick in 2014. We're delighted that she'll be sub editing for Words & Pictures in the New Year.


  1. Thanks very much Alex - great reminder of a great workshop!

  2. Sounds like it was great! Thanks Alex.


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