Malorie Blackman and Chasing Characterisation (Reading & Writing YA Series, Part Two)

In this series, Reading and Writing Young Adult, I'll be looking at the different ways that young adult fiction authors use and subvert writing techniques to tell unique stories. I'll also be including a practical applications for the aspiring YA writer, giving a writing exercises based on the author's work in some way.

In Part 1, we looked at the way John Green uses story structure in Looking for Alaska.

Today, in Part Two, we're going to look at another true expert: Malorie Blackman, former Children's Laureate and a prolific young adult fiction author.


If you've ever written about a character, you're employing characterisation - it's that simple.

We do it all the time when we tell stories - even when we're just recounting our day - through detailing a character and throwing them into interesting situations. However, to characterise in effective ways takes a little more consideration and planning.

There is no one way to effectively develop your characters. The most simplistic might be to specify on their appearance or to decide on their personality type. Taking it further, you could decide on their tone of speech or narration, giving them a backstory, and clarifying their motivations and desires - why do they do what they do? What are their goals in the wider story or in a specific scene?

Malorie Blackman, of course, characterises very deliberately. One way she does so is to compliment and contrast her characters against one another.

In Chasing the Stars, the lives of two sets of people collide: a group of thirty space-refugees are saved by a brother and sister travelling alone back to earth. Immediately, tensions run high as some of try to shift blame and others fall in love.

Vee and her brother Aiden have been travelling alone on their ship for years after the rest of the crew was wiped out by a virus. When Nathan and the rest of the refugees come aboard, it's soon clear that Aiden and Nathan are as different as the universe is vast; they disagree, they actively work against each other, and their personalities clash at every turn. Their characters are so diversely different that they begin to develop more in opposition to each other.


One of Malorie Blackman's signature styles is writing a novel from two perspectives, with two different characters narrating for alternate chapters. Not only does she use this style in Chasing the Stars, but also in her critically accalimed Noughts and Crosses series.

PROMPT: write a scene with at least two characters in it - once from the first character's perspective, and again from another's.

Next time, we'll delve into a fantasy story and talk about world building with Trudi Canavan and The Black Magician series.

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