Thursday, March 10, 2011

Character sketching through shopping lists, now with part 2

When I started writing novels I read a book called The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray. I found it useful as a guide to plotting, and also for tips on how to build characters, through various different exercises.

I came up with one of my own exercises, when I went shopping for a couple of people who were snowed in during the winter.

First list:

2 small tins vegetable soup

2 small jars of fish paste

1 packet sugar

1 tub of Flora lite

1 bottle of High Juice – apple

1 packet of catfood - salmon “temptations”

A list made up for someone I know:

conference pears

“Nice” soup

Cup a Soup in a jar (better value than in packets)

Stilton cheese

Wensleydale cheese

Loo rolls

Bacon – sliced thin

Small wholemeal loaf

Washing powder


4 packets of butter

Yorkshire teabags

So now, what do these people have in common?

And if you can’t guess, here is a clue – on a different occasion, they might both have had Horlicks and Muller fruit corners on their list – which is what I bought for another person who has things in common with both of these two people.


I have been lying in bed (I am under par today) worrying about this post, because i didn’t explain myself well in it (probably because I am under par.)

What I meant to say was there are all kinds of ways of fleshing out your characters before you start to write a novel, and one of the ways could be by making a shopping list for them. And obviously, this doesn’t have to be just a grocery list. OK, I’m putting my head back on the pillow now.


Coline et les Soliloques said...

they are single ?

Coline et les Soliloques said...

No no no ! Not single... they live alone ? (but then I don't know why the 2nd list got 4 packs of butter)

Sue Hepworth said...

All three are elderly women. Sorry, Coline. The 4 packs of butter *is* misleading. I should have edited that. The list with the butter and the gin was a typical one of my mother's and she liked to stock up on butter if someone else was doing the shopping.She is the oinly one of the three who lived alone.