Writing Character

Creating a character is the most important element of writing. When I did my MA at Exeter, I was told that any character is like an iceberg, the writer only uses a small percentage of the information she has for the story, the rest provides the motivation for the way the character behaves.

The protagonist in my novel, Crucial Evidence, is a female barrister born in 1974, in Lancaster in the north of England and her parents still live there. Her father, Bernard, is and electrician and her mother, Elaine, makes cakes for weddings, birthdays and other special events. She has a younger sister Amanda, known as Sandy, who is married and has two sons.

I have a picture of Cassie helping her mother, stood on a stool in a warm kitchen, a spotted apron tied round her, mixing fruit into a cake batter, and then licking her fingers as she hands over the mixing bowl to her mother.

Another major influence in her life was her grandfather, Frank. Lancaster was the home of the furniture manufacturers, Waring & Gillow, whose products are now highly sought after because of the quality of the workmanship. The factory closed in 1961 and Frank was made d at the age of 50, after that he had to find work as and when he could.His wife, Alice, died before Cassie was born, so she only knew about her from her father. Frank never remarried and centred his life around his family. When Cassie won a scholarship to Lancaster Grammar School for Girls he made a desk for her and it is one of her most treasured possessions.He died when she was about 14, but not before he had instilled in her a strong work ethic and a sense of fair play.

Her mother thought Cassie would go to Catering College and use the skills she had acquired in their home, but the headmistress of the Grammar School encouraged Cassie to go to University. Cassie was undecided what she should study at University, until she went to the Crown Court when it was sitting in Lancaster Castle. She enjoyed the drama of the courtroom and the pursuit of justice by the barristers representing the prosecution and defence, and decided she would study law.

She went to University in Nottingham, where she met and married a Ph.D. student Tony Cranston. After getting a 2.1 degree in law she became a student at Grays Inn and attended the Inns of Court Bar School. This meant she had to spend the week in London and go home at weekends.. As the final exams approached she found herself working longer and longer hours, and Tony started going out on his own. One evening, she telephoned him on his mobile and she could hear a woman’s voice in the background giggling. She asked him where he was and he said in the library, pretending he was working on his thesis. At the weekend she picked up his mobile phone and scrolled through his text messages. her suspicions were confirmed when many of the messages are from the same woman,  saying how much she enjoyed their evening together and thanking him for sending her flowers. Casssie had begun to have doubts about her marriage and was uncertain she could forgive his infidelity. To test Tony, she told him she was contemplating searching for pupillage in London. He told her it was up to her, but of course he couldn’t leave Nottingham.

She took advantage of the sponsors programme at Grays Inn, attending dinners with another Lancastrian in whom she confided. The older barrister arranged for her to have pupillage with her (a form of apprenticeship). Living and working in London she saw less and less of Tony and they drifted apart.

Getting a permanent place in a set of barristers’ chambers is difficult and Cassie along with many other young barristers found it hard. On one occasion a judge’s son get the place she hoped she would get and she was angry that who you know was as important as what you know. Her own working class background and the hint of a Lancashire accent in her voice she believes went against her.  Eventually she does get a place in 3 Burke Court and her career  began in earnest.

Well that’s the background. By the time of the novel she has been in practice at the Bar for 12 years and is a hardworking, natural advocate. She puts her career first, although her family is very important to her. Her divorce was made absolute in 2002, but there have been no permanent relationships up until now. Her career has been successful and she has bought a flat in Notting Hill, likes nice clothes, even though she has to wear black suits for work, and good food. She still cooks as it is the only hobby she as time for, she has to eat so she might as well prepare herself a good meal and enjoy a glass of wine with it.

About scribblingadvocate

Born in Lancashire, Law degree from Sheffield University and MA in Creative Writing from Exeter. A barrister for twenty five years, who appeared in the Crown Courts in and around London. When I retired we moved to live in Devon, first on Dartmoor, more recently overlooking the Exe Estuary. After twenty years I still feel an exile from London. Married, no children but own an affable Springer Spaniel. I love reading, walking and travel. I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Exeter University and have written three books, Crucial Evidence, Reluctant Consent and Legal Privilege, all set in London. You can email me contact@scribblingadvocate.com

One response to “Writing Character”

  1. alisonnapier says :

    Enjoying the backstory, Margaret – are you going to write a series? A prequel would be interesting too.

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