One of the most valuable networks for writers I know of is Lapidus. It’s here at www.lapidus.org.uk if you don’t already know about it. I’ll declare an interest; I’m a member of its board and I go to meetings of the London regional group whenever I can. London Lapidus meets in the basement of the Poetry Cafe in Betterton Street, Covent Garden. The next meeting is on Saturday 23 March, so come along if you’re in the area. Through Lapidus I’ve met some wonderful people. One of them is Miriam Halahmy, a poet and writer of fiction for teens and young adults. A few months ago Miriam posted a question on Facebook which invited people to give examples of something they would never, ever, in a million years, do. In my case it was hold and spider and eat a banana (and definitely not at the same time). That’s a story for another day… but Miriam’s question gave me an idea for a writing workshop around character development. I tried it out this morning and it worked a treat. Thank you Miriam! I gave some suggestions of occupations: accountant, chef, politician, teacher, doctor and artist. I invited everyone to choose one, then make a list of this character’s likes and preferences. For instance, their favourite food and who they would like to eat with, favourite music, clothes in which they feel most at ease, favourite holiday, and the activity that makes them feel in their element. You could add more to this list; the aim is to build a picture of what the character likes, enjoys and feels most at ease and comfortable with. Then I invited everyone to think of the opposites; so all the things this characters dislikes – their worst food, nightmare holiday, something they would never choose to wear or do. Then I suggested they choose a combination of three things from the ‘dislikes’ and use them to started writing a story about this character. For example, there might be an accountant who finds himself camping (his least favourite type of holiday) in the wrong shoes with noisy neighbours playing music he hates. What would that do to him? What would happen next? We spent an hour making up scenarios. Next week they will bring back the results of their writing about these characters who find themselves out of their element. Who was it who said ‘plot + character = conflict’? Apologies for not naming my source – but it seems that we’ve hit on a useful way to generate character-based narratives with lots of scope for challenging situations. So, what would you never do?