Truth No. 9 – Roots that bind

To fully develop your main characters (your protagonist and antagonist), consider where they have come from in both a physical and psychological sense. What does their ‘home’ (or ‘non-home’) mean to them? Place the psychologies of your characters in relationship with the world that formed them. Understanding the spirit of the places your characters call ‘home’ will add to their emotional depth, helping ensure your characters are real, full and rounded.

Think about what makes a reader care about a character. When a reader sees themselves or someone familiar to them in a character’s concept (in their world), the connection is instantaneous and they want to read on.

Every person comes from somewhere, has a ‘home’ or ‘roots’ and a past. Fail to consider the concept of ‘home’ and  a character’s past and you miss an opportunity to grow and develop your characters and thereby engage your readers.







I was born in Essex. I left when I was eighteen. I never returned there to live and will never return there to live. I visited (occasionally) and still do visit (occasionally).

Many people gravitate back to their roots, the place they were brought up because of a sense of deep connection or family ties. It may be where they feel most ‘at home’ or where they feel safe. ‘Home’ is the place where a person feels in control and properly oriented in space and time; it is a predictable and secure place. Sadly this was never the case for me.

My childhood years were marked by trauma and emotional abuse and as a consequence, the usual developmental stages into healthy maturity did not happen. In my twenties. thirties and into my forties, I really didn’t know who I was or what I truly thought or felt. Virtually everything I said or did seemed to be fabricated for that particular situation as I had real problems trying to identify what I was thinking or feeling. I didn’t know who I was.

Fortunately, all this is now in the past as I have discovered (and am still discovering) who I really am.

However, despite how far I progress along the road less travelled in search of my true self, the real me, there will always be a part of me that remains tied to my roots. It doesn’t matter how much I blossom, a piece of me will always belong in Essex. As the saying goes: you can take the girl out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the girl.

The roots of a tree stretch deeper than you think but to know your past is to know your future.






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Truth No. 8 – I was Betrayed but I did not Betray


Being betrayed by someone you love is crippling.

I believe silence is betrayal and because of this, I know I was betrayed by my mother.

What about being the betrayer of someone you love? Could you?

I couldn’t.

Despite my suffering, I couldn’t betray my mother. I sacrificed my own self esteem, emotional wellbeing and happiness in upholding her choices and in so doing, denying my own integrity and authenticity.


  • Because I loved my mother more than I loved myself.
  • Because I was a child; my mother knew better than me
  • No-one would believe me if I spoke out
  • I was ashamed of my mother
  • It wasn’t my secret to tell
  • I didn’t want to hurt her
  • I didn’t want to lose her love
  • I was afraid
  • I didn’t want to make her angry
  • Betraying someone you love is something you never, ever do




Now to the writing:

Betrayal is a particularly effective emotion-filled type of conflict that can be used in fiction to create long-lasting problems for characters.

Betrayal can be slow and the betrayed may not notice or feel the effects until much later. Or betrayal may be a shock, the betrayed brought to a standstill while they recover from the betrayal. This may take time.

Betrayal in any guise by trusted friends and loved ones is confusing and disconcerting. It can cause physical, emotional, and mental stress. The betrayal can lead to irrational behaviour or send a character back into behaviour they thought they’d overcome.

Betrayal can be an instigator to all sorts of irrational acts, rage, accidents, revenge, self harm, unsafe behaviour.

A betrayed character may resort to drinking, drug use or any other addiction or the betrayal could send them back into behaviour they thought they’d overcome. Betrayal might lead to unsafe sexual behaviour or to rage or irrational acts.

It might lead to rage toward innocents or it could simply lead to inattention and accidents.

Betrayal could lead to revenge either accomplished in the next chapter or in the next book of a series.

The possibilities are endless.

Consider adding betrayal to your storyline and watch as a greater emotional depth to your writing ensues.



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Truth No. 7 – I vanished

Does your book have a theme? If not, consider including one because the theme (or themes) is an essential component of the story. It connects the protagonist’s internal journey, their concerns and passions to the external plot and gives readers something to care about.

Theme helps a good story become a compelling one.

I have just finishing reading for the second time The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by one of my favourite authors, Maggie O’Farrell. It’s a fabulous read for many reasons, not least if you are interested in the human spirit and how it can endure suffering of the most horrific kind.

One of the themes in the book is disassociation and in my opinion is the primary driver for the choice of the book’s unusual title (only Maggie O’Farrell can confirm or deny).

Disassociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. It’s technically a defense mechanism where we separate out of our memory things that we don’t want to or can’t deal with. If we experience trauma, this can obviously be a very useful coping strategy in the short term. In the long term however, disassociation keeps us disconnected from ourselves and limits our capacity for self love and self actualisation (maximisation of potential and fulfilment of needs and desires).

I grew up in a dysfunctional and unconventional home and as a child disassociation became my way of coping. In my adult life many of my relationships and choices were influenced by dissociation and it wasn’t until I understood this mental process that I could begin to do something about it.

Many people never discover they disassociate and live their whole lives in a fragmented state. In the worst cases, like Esme, they vanish completely.

The truth is I vanished.

Fortunately I found myself and disassociation is a thing of the past. I now live my life fully present and aware moment by moment. I monitor myself, I am my own observer, always totally congruent and emotionally intelligent.



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Truth No. 6 – I lied

Do your characters lie? If not, make them, they will be more authentic. We all lie, don’t we? I know I do. Sweet little lies (there’s a great song there, check it out!), not the big stonking ones I used to tell.

I learnt to lie from my mother. Not that she sat me down and gave me a lesson or anything. My mother kept secrets and lived with shame. If this intrigues you, then you will be able to read more about this, about the lies I told in future posts of this blog. Or you can read my book when it’s published (or do both!). My mother passed me a silent message; I must lie to keep the secret. She didn’t instruct me how I was to do this. I had to make it up (literally) as I went along. It started when I was five and ended eleven years ago when my mother died in 2007. I was then able to begin to move from beneath her shadow. It was a very big shadow as it took me another four years (in 2011) before I told her truth (and mine). Since then I haven’t looked back. Who was the first person I told? My husband and it was the best thing I have ever done. Since then, all (or nearly all) the significant people in my life know my truth. Others know it too, acquaintances, strangers. I am no longer shamed by my mother and it feels good.

Back to writing. Make sure your characters lie. Not just for their own personal gain, but for a deeper reason. You will be amazed where your story goes and how your characters grow.



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Truth No. 5 – We all have one

February 6th – my Mother’s birthday. Were she still alive, today would have been my mother’s eightieth birthday. My Mother died when she was sixty-nine. Enough years on the planet one might suppose to ‘get things right.’ What things, you may ask. Well to find that out, you’ll have to wait for the publication of my book. And of course, ‘getting things right’ means different things to different people. Now, you may think I’m talking in riddles but one thing is true, we all have a mother and we all have an attachment style that is indicative of how we were ‘mothered’ as infants by our mother or our significant caregiver.

To learn more about attachment, read the work of John Bowlby, the founder of Attachment Theory.

(The main theme of Attachment Theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their child’s needs establish a sense of security in them. The child knows the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for them to explore their surroundings.)

I am fortunate my mother died when she did because sadly, I was never properly attached and would have remained in this state (with a poor attachment style) had she not passed away. My mother was never ‘available’ for attachment (for whatever reason) nor was she able to ‘get things right.’ I would still be in a state of ‘Dismissing Avoidant’ or ‘Fearful Avoidant’ (recognised attachment patterns) were it not for her death. Because of the work I have done on my own ‘self development’, today I can happily say I have a ‘Secure Attachment’ pattern; I am positive to others and to myself and most days I can say I am secure in my relationships, feel loved, accepted and competent.


Understanding Attachment Theory helps me as a writer. I am able to consider my characters in a way which helps me make them fully formed people with not only a past, present and a future but with a mother (or caregiver) whether they feature in the story or not. Reflecting on a character’s mother is important, as is their attachment style because every character has a mother and an attachment style. Ignore them and you miss a wealth of juicy writing material that will enrich your work.



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Truth No. 4 – Sulking means something


For me my best writing comes from emotion, feeling empathy for my characters, understanding their needs and who they are. Have you ever written about a character who sulks? Think about it, the opportunities to discover the inner workings of their mind. Why are they sulking? What is it they want? What is it they need? What’s happening to them inside? Why are they choosing to sulk?

Have you sulked, as a child, as an adult? Do you know someone who sulks, a child maybe? Sulking like any behaviour is a choice made by a fully formed, functioning and healthy adult mind. Sulking in children is another matter.

As I child I often sulked. This is why:

Sulking = Something is Wrong

Sulking is an expression of the spirit. I knew something wasn’t right at home. Children do, they have an in-built barometer to these things (to abuse), but they aren’t capable of fully comprehending their emotions, expressing themselves or doing anything about it

Sulking = Pain

Not the pain of an aching tooth or a stubbed toe, but a pain deep down inside that cannot be seen or described, certainly not by a child

Sulking = Unexpressed Anger

Anger at not being able to communicate the pain inside. Anger at my mother. Anger at my grandparents for not listening, not believing, not understanding, not noticing what my mother was doing to me

Sulking = I Want to Hurt my Mother

I thought I could hurt my mother by hiding myself away, by sulking. Did it work? No. I was only hurting myself.

Sulking = Come and Find Me

I needed to be cared for. I craved attention. I needed my Mother. I was the only one, no siblings. I had no Father. My Mother lived with her friend. I didn’t like her friend. Her friend didn’t like me.


I used to sulk as an adult too but this was a long time ago.

Now I choose to express myself. I choose to communicate. I choose to love myself and find what feels good. I take care of my needs.

Take the challenge in your writing. Write about a character who sulks.



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