Irish Eyes

I’ve been obsessing about people obsessing about Q for months now. Since lockdown began. Within weeks of containment, I had already started to receive private messages with links to badly produced Sci-Fi movies masquerading as documentaries. The first one I watched was about the Titanic. Lots of symbols. Lots of Jews. Lots of soundbites and eerie music and a sub plot about global domination being furthered by the Titanic’s deliberate and tactical sinking. It disturbed me enough to reject the next dozen or so links I was sent.

By then, everybody and his Mother had turned political, picked a side and showed a willingness to throw aforementioned Mother onto a fire, for the sake of a cause. Any cause. It was wild. People who had previously posted kittens and kale recipes were suddenly posting provocative political statements and demanding that all who disagreed be culled from their friend’s lists.

It was deeply unsettling. As a politically engaged individual, I had long dreamed of a world of mass political engagement but I never imagined that dream would come true and turn out to a horror fantasy of epic proportions.

See, political engagement comes with a price. You gotta be informed. Without information, it’s just mass theatre. Right now, nobody is informed. Only the most informed of us know how uniformed we are. The least informed of us, and their ranks are swelling, claim to know the most. They have a direct line to truth, all of us sleepy heads can’t grasp.

Because I’ve always been a bit of a header – Irish slang for mentally unstable – I know a larger amount of the uniformed than is healthy. This point was brought home to me sharply when I was sent a D.M. of a speech at an Edinburgh rally, tasked with the ambitious slogan of ‘Saving Scotland’. The speech was by Dolores Cahill , an Irish scientist of international renown that has renounced science in favour of saving the masses from Bill Gates.

So I watched it and it was fairly predicable. Them bad. Us good. Us, for the purposes of this speech, were those who gave her a platform, who clapped and supported her, shared her speech, advocated for her release when she was detained on return to Ireland and now cajole MSPS to #debatedolores and suggest any who won’t is a coward.

Us, on a weekday, when Dolores is not saving foreign countries from themselves, is a non foreigner, an Irish person. Because Dolores’ day job is trying to save Irish people from foreigners and carbon tax and the normal rule of law in certain areas that she aims to have the army take over. The political party she helped set up and chairs is Ireland’s UKIP.

So I say this to those of you, who I knew in a previous life, who think I need to awaken and face society’s dark truths. How dark must it actually be if the messenger is an angel of multi-cultural death? How depressed do you have to be to find salvation in an Irish racist?

And for those of you who were taken in by those twinkly eyes and the lilt, you should know it’s not half as enticing when it’s the only accent you ever get to hear…

The Wellness Grift

Of all the unpredictable to emerge from 2020, the radicalisation of the hippies was what did for me. That, I did not see coming, and even now, as it dances in front of me, an entire new genre of political absurdity, I still can’t get my head round it. Hippies for Trump – Compulsory meditation in schools and the public hanging of all traitor types.

It doesn’t make sense. How did New Age and Far Right fuse into a perfect storm of far out fascism, man? I guess it probably started with the commercialisation of all things hippy. Peace and love, standard package, remains free, but the enhanced service and the deluxe service have become progressively more expensive. Sure, anyone can meditate, but for £15 a month, you can mediate better and for £30, you can meditate your way into a new and exclusive life.

The hippies have taken every strand of free love and put a price tag on it, and now they are paying the piper for trading the wisdom of the ancients for a few dollars more. Part time guru, full time profiteer lacks the discernment necessary to keep the wolves from the door, so a pack have set up shelter in the yoga room. Only everyone’s in sweat pants so it’s hard to tell the hippies from the Nazis.

And Nazis is such an over used word thrown at women who want to hang on to their rights, thrown at every single reader of the Sun, thrown at any individual who attempts to highlight Palestinian persecution. And like every word that is used, repeatedly, out of context, it eventually loses all meaning and by then, actual Nazis have infiltrated the wellness movement and now you can get a massage and a Nationalist (pick any nation) flag in a facebook group special.

And though their numbers be small, they are growing and they are coming to a baby pre- verbal sign language class near you. And as long as you are online, everything’s near you. And you need to know that they don’t just want the commission on the immune boosting bargain basket you’ve put in your shopping cart. They want your mind.

The Woman who cried ‘Wolf!’, ‘coz there was one.

When you’ve a feminist and a writer and an all round nosy person, you hear a lot of sad stories. Stories that as a fiction teller I’ve assimilated into my mind, filed away in a box marked ‘Tragedies’, until they subconsciously snake into my work, through the words and deeds of characters, and through plots that stretch credibility, but never quite as much as fact does. The trick about hearing a lot of sad stuff, if you’re inclined towards empathy, is to not think too deeply about any one tale. Listen, assimilate, sign the petition, move on. If I sound hard, it’s because my story’s made me hard, and I hope you’re hard too, else how you gonna make it?

Every now and then, the ‘passive listening, planned exit’ strategy goes awry, and someone’s story follows you, stalks you, almost. The more you try to escape it, the more it calls to you, demanding attention ‘What if this happened to you?’ it asks, ‘Wouldn’t you want someone to care?’ .

The story of Samantha Baldwin has done such a number on me.

I keep trying to get past what it must be like to wake up, every day, believing your sons to be in grave danger, and being forced to accept how powerless you are to save them. Here’s a link to Sam’s story.

In a nutshell, Sam’s young children alleged their Dad was drugging them and several of his friends were raping them. Sam told the police who talked to the children who corroborated Sam’s statement. An investigation went nowhere. Sam moved away from the Dad. Dad applied to family court for custody. Sam repeated her children’s allegations and provided corroborating evidence of hair samples from her boys that proved they had been been given sedatives. The family court judge found that Sam was a nutjob, so determined to vilify her ex, that she would drug her own kids, and removed both boys from Sam’s care. It should be noted that in all the years Sam was her children’s sole carer not one agency, or individual, ever raised concerns. Anyway, after that it just gets weirder, and I don’t want to spoil the ending, which I can’t anyway, because this story’s not over yet.

It has elements of all the best narratives combining the big themes like good vrs evil and truth vrs reality, with an entirely plausible heroine and a plot that unfolds seamlessly, exposing the corruption and ineptitude of the British criminal justice system and the British family law courts, in a post Saville, post Rochdale era, when we were promised lessons had been learned.

A publishing deal would have been forthcoming, but for embargo on the telling placed by the family courts, and instead of fame, fortune and the high status of a paedo defying, children protecting Super Mum, Sam is reduced to running a full time campaign to draw attention to her plight in the desperate hope that somebody, somewhere, in a position of power and influence, might help.

So far, in three years, some have. But not enough.

And I know why. Because it’s not an easy resolve. There are a lot of players and a lot of pieces and a lot of money and power invested in protecting itself as money and power often does and a lot of public faith invested in the idea that we have learned lessons, and then there’s the law itself, doubling down and protecting itself from the outside scrutiny this case is screaming out for. And it becomes infinitely easier to walk away then to wade in.

I only remain focused on this story because… Sam.

She got under my skin, didn’t she? When I wasn’t looking, with her refusal to be typecast as broken woman, with her rejection of her role as bad mother, with her relentless repeating of all the available facts to anybody and everybody who’ll listen and many who cry deaf.

I want to be trademark cynical and mention how life’s a bitch and family court’s a pack of them. I want to say Sam’s got about as much chance of getting her kids back as N.H.S. cleaners have of securing a fair working contract. There’s no friendship so sacred as a paedo friendship and Sam’s trying to break up a whole gang so…

When you’re a feminist and a writer and all round nosy person, you hear a lot of stories. Many sad, because people feel more comfortable sharing grief and because most of us have known sadness. But you also hear joyous events recounted, and surreal happenings that defy conventional understanding, and those glorious gems of human experience where the little guy wins, where Truth was spoken to power, in the right way, at the right moment, and power had no option but to listen.

And isn’t it grand to imagine that Sam might have her moment, and whilst there’s not limitless gold at the end of the rainbow, there might be enough humanity and compassion within this otherwise broken system to reunite a loving Mother and her beautiful boys?

The Child, the Glitch and the Wardrobe.

I’ve been limiting my social media use to allow for some sleep and completely missed #wayfairgate till this morning.  If a week is a long time in politics then twelve hours is a lifetime in conspiracies.  This one was gestated, birthed and debunked ( a mark of honour in conspiracy circles) whilst I slept.

By any measure of production time – that’s fast.

Details of the conspiracy can be found here.  In a nutshell, wayfair’s selling some seriously over priced furniture including several cabinets that have been personified and given female names.  Do you know who else has names?  All the children on the missing persons data list.  Before you can say “What do these unrelated facts have in common?’ hundreds of tweets have been sent and footage of the expensive wardrobe has been fashioned into short videos about Wayfair the child trafficking epicentre of the bright web.

From this point onwards all attempts to negate the conspiracy are futile.  ‘Wayfair deny they are trafficking children in their cabinets’.  What else would a company fronting human trafficking say?  Fact-checkers flagging the story as false, in under a day, are evidence at how effective the cover up.

I should probably confess to you that  I am something of a conspiracy theorist, with emphasis on the theory part.  I have witnessed and experienced enough corruption and incompetence in my own life to know there’s a lot of it about.  I have a keen personal interest in child protection and am aware of multiple occasions when the state has failed in its duty of care to children with devastating consequences.  To that end it is true to say that agents of the U.K. state (and this is reflective of a world wide trend) have been complicit in the trafficking of children from stable homes to the arms of paedophile rings.  Anyone interested in such injustice could check out The Women’s Collation  on facebook, a group that work tirelessly to expose such hidden truths.  Alternatively, Maggie Oliver, a woman famed for exposing the Rochdale scandal.  Even a cursory glance at either page will give you some insight into the years of collating data, hounding sources, seeking freedom of information requests and chasing dead leads that are needed in order to to hold even one peado to account.

The idea that you can bring down a global network with screen shots and facebook shares would be laughable, if the subject itself wasn’t so serious.  Conspiracies gone mainstream and the resulting product is so diluted as not only to be ineffective, but to be counter effective.  It gives conspiracy theories a bad name.

A recent report by The Centre for Countering Digital Hate found that the anti-vax industry is worth a billion dollars a year which points to a level of funding authentic conspiracies couldn’t hope to afford.

Confused, angry, scared people are being sold a steady stream of ever more absurd lies which they swallow whole because they are burnt out by greedy governing, polarised politics and the abysmal failure of mainstream media and so called independent agencies to hold anyone to account. The only people they can trust are fellow keyboard warriors and a community of dispirited individuals with a common cause is born.  And what starts out as a quest for truth quickly becomes a quest for survival.  And the rules for survival in online conspiracies are simple.

Believe.  Believe.  Believe.

Where Reason came to Die…

I’m two weeks in to my latest round of lockdown blues.  This one’s longer than the last few and harder to shake.  ‘We’re all going to die!’  I’m still thinking, only that’s my lines from an old script when we were all going to die before black lives mattered most urgently before black trans lives mattered even more before anti antisemitism was rooted out of the Labour party by a bloke that can’t tell the difference between clumsy criticism of Israel’s power structures and Jew hating.

Obviously, as a non-Jew, I shouldn’t have an opinion on what constitutes antisemitism.  I certainly shouldn’t conclude that conflating Israeli politics with the Jewish people is inherently anti Semitic, but there you have it.

It’s getting harder, though, to think for myself, and even harder to motivate myself to explain my thoughts.

Intellectual discourse is at an all time low, and the bar was never set that high to begin with.  It’s only a couple of millennia since we believed the world was created in six days by a judgemental maniac with a zero tolerance policy to disobedience – Abraham had to be willing to kill his own bairn, didn’t he?

We’re not savages, any more.  We had the age of enlightenment, hadn’t we?

But all that was so very long ago before the box in the corner, that our parent’s worried might lead us astray, and before the hand held devices we worry are damaging our children’s minds.  And before the thought police patrolled the corridors of every virtual group we dared to enter, in the vague hope of finding somebody, somewhere, that thinks the same as us.  And just like there was no room at the inn for the pregnant Mary, there’s no place at the table for the free thinker, and no donkey to carry them to the next best location.

And when I say them I mean plural and you can shove your linguistic mind games where the sun don’t shine.

And also your fear of science.  I’ve seen it before.  All ex Catholics have, assuming that there was such a thing as an ex Catholic.  ‘Coz religion and science can’t really co-exist, they are inherently suspicious of each other.  And if your gonna fly in the face of most reasoned people better hope your sources are better than Flat Earthers.

Or not.  Sources aren’t important.  Statement’s are.  Say it loud, say it proud, and whatever you do, don’t stop and think about what it is you are saying.  Curiosity not only kills cats, it literally turns women into human beings.  And nobody really wants a Mother, that is human, washing their underpants, reminding their information starved brains that they’re a lazy fuck.

And speaking of laziness, if you’re gonna sell conspiracy theories then at least buy the good ones.  To that end, any ideology with Trump as the end game is playing you for a fool.

Only I don’t say any of it, because there is no-one to listen.  Not really.  Sure, you can shove stuff on line, but what difference does it make?  We’re all going to hell on a handcart and my vague twittering ain’t gonna save us.

Or maybe, as per ‘The Good Place’ , this is hell.  We’ve all died in an event so catastrophic that we’ve wiped it from our collective consciousness and here we are in the afterlife, reaping what we have sowed.  An eternity of virtual self righteousness and out of context biblical memes, which is a kick in the face for the heathens who always reckoned God has no sense of humour.

 

 

 

The Shaming of the Shrew

Yesterday afternoon, absentmindedly, I tripped and fell into the comments section of a Edinburgh based social media group.  I’m okay, still a little shaky and following my doctor’s advice – to stay the fuck away from Community facebook pages.  You may think it’s extreme to call an emergency doctor because you’ve suffered a bruised ego, but that’s how entitled I am.

My website calls me Triona, but lately I’ve been called Karen several times.

I thought about putting up a copy of my birth cert, blanking out bits and showing enough for people to see I’m not Karen, and then I realised they didn’t mean it literally.

Like when a woman is called a whore or a cunt or a bitch, or in more recent times, a terf.  These words aren’t meant to suggest that a woman referred to in these terms is an actual prostitute, vagina, dog or feminist.  They are simply shorthand for misogynists who want to express the universal language of woman hating, in easily understood terms.

And every generation has their own words, but the millennia old tradition of putting women in their place continues.

It’s too late for me to avoid the Karen label.  It is as inevitable as the terf label that proceeded it.  Too mouthy.  See?  In my defence, I was born this way and despite the many successive attempts of the system and violent men to shut me up, I continue to have opinions and to voice them.  But it’s not too late for you. Here are my top tips to avoid being labelled Karen.

(1) Don’t ever express an opinion in a public setting, be it real or virtual.

(2) Whenever possible, avoiding leaving the house, as this will minimise your chances of being overheard, unwittingly, saying something no longer sayable.

(3) In the privacy of your home, stick to talking about stuff you know and avoid all controversial subjects. Most subjects are now controversial so try to keep conversation in the present tense around action words.   For example, you might say, ‘I am doing the laundry.  Do people mind gathering their stinking socks and stained undergarments and leaving them in the washing basket?’

(4) Avoid Mumsnet like it was a recently revived wing of the I.R.A.  Beneath those recipes for fruit scones and advice links to government benefits, there lurks an underbelly of resistance to the whole scale takeover of Womanhood.  Nothing gets you called Karen quicker than resisting the whole scale takeover of Womanhood.

(5) As some of you will have jobs that necessitate leaving the house and compel you to converse about controversial subjects (almost everything) try to be the listener more than the talker.  When you speak, acknowledge your privilege, ignorance and all round gratitude that you’ve been given a voice and then use it to amplify the experiences of people that aren’t you.  Never, ever, centre yourself in any discussion, even with your shrink.

(6) If, as part of your job, you are expected to research your discipline, be aware research has evolved significantly.  Where once it was a pre-requisite to have a well read, intelligent view of a subject, now less is more.  Knowledge will be a handicap and sharing it a surefire, short route to a new nickname.

(7) Woke words evole quicker than conspiracies about Corona, so best to always follow another’s lead.  Underpinning any work focused, compulsory communication should be the clear understanding that words kill, literally, and wokeness kills the meaning of all words, figuratively.

(8) Are you confused yet?  If not, I don’t think I can help you.  Confusion is good, use it to keep you off balance and fearful.  The more afraid you are, the more you will self censor and not add to the workload of the oppressed, who have to take time away from fighting big oppressors – the state, the police, the government, their parents – to explain to you the devastating consequences your micro aggressive behaviour – hogging the office heater- has on the life expectancy of the indigenous tribes of New Guinea.

To summarise, erase from your mind any pre-conceptions of your powerlessness based on your own life experiences.  You may never have been able to get the fucker to pay child support, but are so omnipotent that if you retweet a J.K. Rowling comment, a gender non conforming child loses their wings and the whole world becomes a shade darker.

 

 

 

Tribalism in the Digital Age

‘If you think in any any way differently than me about anything I choose to care about, in any given moment – Unfollow me now.’  I read for the eighteenth time, this morning, from people I sort of know and strangers on facebook.  There’s no danger I’m unfollowing anyone who disagrees with me politically because political beliefs are transient and facebook likes are forever.

It’s not easy being anybody, anywhere, right now.

We’re all scared, except those of us too young or too stupid to appreciate the fragility of human life.  We’re all frustrated.  We’re all worried about a future we can’t see or even imagine.  We’re stuck in the present and we are a people who have very little practice living in the now.  We’re all binge surfing, connecting with like minded people and consolidating our limited understanding of events by agreeing with those who agree with us, and challenging, arguing with, and eventually telling those who don’t agree with us to ‘Fuck off.’

In between this we sleep, in order to keep our energy levels up so we can repeat the cycle the next day.

This is our new normal.

That polarised lifestyle that social media sold us with our free subscription is all we have now.  You are with us or against us.  You are on our side or you are on the side of moral corruption and spiritual denigration and worst of all – you are in danger of losing followers.  There is only two ways to think about anything, our way or the wrong way.

The pandemic was the perfect breeding ground for our latest round of them versus us.  What were your priorities, economic or social?  Did you want to save lives or save the stock market?  Were you one of the ones stupid enough to believe there was a virus?

And I was and I am.  I witnessed capitalism beaten into retreat in the West, for the first time, in my life-time, and I witnessed the housing market (the cornorstone of inequality in every society) grind to a halt.  And I knew a vast and deadly plague must have been unleashed on humanity coz money doesn’t stop making itself for no reason.

And it was hard on everyone, but especially the media who found themselves selling less papers than ever with only one source for content and an unchanging narrative.  Those on the left championed restrictions of movement for the greater good, those on the right outlined the case for reopening the economy cautioning against the long term effects of increased financial insecurity amongst a stir crazy populace.

The closest we came to agreement was that Dominic Cummings was a cunt with 71% of us reaching that conclusion, after watching his press conference.  We were robbed of any resolution on this shared belief because Dominic Cummings is a well protected cunt.

But the fiasco that united us is but a fleeting memory, now, as dystopia moves on and kicks down the door that is racism and live streams it across the globe.  And it is uglier and more garish than anything we had previously thought it was, and we have more time to think than ever before.  And we also, now, have something to think about that isn’t endless boredom and death stats at the top of the leader board.

And before you could say ‘Stay Alert – Control the Virus’, a global uprising against racism was in full swing, and it should have been a euphoric thing for those of us who want a systematic end to racial oppression, but the pandemic loomed large over the gathered crowds and will now spread in the very communities it has already disproportionately affected.

And as I stay at home to save lives, I feel so very sad.  Nuance is dead and there is only one way to see things.  It is not possible to believe that black lives matter more than any cause, even the cause of their own oppression.

And who the fuck am I, with my Celtic complexion, to whitesplain racism?

The papers who, last week, told us to stay put under pain of death, literally, are now telling us to take to the streets in our thousands and chant the slogan ‘I can’t breathe’.

And, as I stay at home, I’ve slowly come to accept the only lives I’m saving are that of me and my boy.

 

 

How to make a killing on the property market.

Another day, another damning reveal of Tory priorities.  After the mayhem of the weekend, which saw Johnson’s re-branding of the virus as something controllable, as long as we #stayalert, we now have Wednesday Morning’s attempt to re-open the housing market.

This, it has been pointed out, sends a confusing message.  On the one hand, we cannot yet meet out loved ones ‘coz virus. On the other hand, we can have countless strangers sift through our property, determine its’ value and make us an offer.  So, to be clear, Grandpa is still out of bounds, unless he is in the market for a two up, two down, with charming views of the Thames.

One does not have to be a convicted cynic to see what is going on here.

The Tories are putting the sale and purchase of houses above the welfare of those living in them.  This is not a new policy.  This is Tory 101.  Money matters more than people.  It’s also housing policy 101, across the U.K., across Europe.  It is why people live and die in over the odds rented accommodation, so that others can live and die with a property portfolio.

One of the first and starkest casualties of the virus, apart from the dead old people, and the dead N.H.S. staff, was AIR B and B.  An industry completely reliant on tourists paying vastly inflated rent to cover mortgages and business models that had no get out plan for a world wide recession.   It was a very small violin that we played for these victims because, instinctively, we knew their retirement funds came at the expense of our children’s chances on the property ladder.

The property ladder that we all queue to join, coz you’re nobody ’till you own your own home.  That’s actually not true.  If you want lifelong, residential security, you are better off serving your time in the ‘homeless- will live anywhere for a few years’ property market, in order to gain the most elusive of things – secure, affordable, lifelong accommodation.

See, the most unbelievable plot line in ‘Friends’ was not how six white gorgeous people found each other, but how Monica walked away from a rent controlled apartment in New York City.  That would never happen.

People weren’t that stupid, then.

And people aren’t so stupid, now, as to buy and sell properties, willy nilly, during a pandemic.  Some will still try to buy and sell, but not enough people to keep the wheels of the property market, where they want it, spinning out of control.

Property rising without end only benefits the few.

Your refurbished bungalow, with a veranda that opens up on a lush back garden, complete with Granny flat, loses some appeal when we have to kill Granny to make the sale.

 

 

 

Eleven things I’ve learned in Lockdown

The longer lockdown goes on the more confused I become.  It’s not accidental.  In a time when data is worth more than gold, non bias information, that doesn’t come with a follow me caveat, is priceless.  Because of this, I feel like I know less, now, than I did when this shit storm began.  That’s not to say I am completely ignorant.  This much I’ve learned.

(1) There is a either a real virus or a pretend virus.  This possible virus is probably highly contagious and because of that we need to practice social distancing.  Social distancing means different things to different people and we have no consensus, as a population, on what two metres looks like.  The impact of social distancing is severely weakened if international travel restrictions aren’t in place.

(2) The only consensus we have is that we are deeply divided.

(3) If the virus is real, then we are reaping what we have sown.  We have prioritised wealth accumulation for the few, over basic social and healthcare for the many.  Most of us belong in the ‘many’ category, when stripped of our meaningful job titles and social status.  If the virus is real, we have been exposed on the world stage as the fur coat and no knickers, tin pot, sham of a democracy we actually are.

(4) We really hate old people.

(5) If the virus is real, many more of us are going to have to die, in order to convince enough of us to take action.  A probable virus verses an economic downturn is the false dichotomy we are all being sold.  The economy, in its current form, exists to make the rich richer on the back of zero hours contracts, a monopoly on residential real estate and the privatisation of public institutions.

(6) Demonising those on welfare and making poverty synonymous with idleness and a flawed character only works when the minority need state benefits.

(7) If the virus is pretend, then we won’t ever believe anything a government or media outlet tells us again.  If the polls are to be trusted, we don’t believe anything our government or media are telling us now.  If the virus is pretend, most of us will continue to be duped by the belief we have lived through a pandemic, if we do, for the rest of our lives.  If the virus is pretend, as we stay indoors, a global cabal may be planning to take control of our bodies and minds through vaccines and contact apps.  A sort of contemporary version of The Spanish Inquisition, with a celebrity angle, coz a cult without high profile influencers is just a group of people.

(8) The right to bear arms is making America more dangerous by the day.

(9) The closer we get to death, the deeper our understanding of the fragility and sacred nature of human life.   As a society, we have been duped into believing that we exist solely for the realisation of our personal desires.  We have been conned into the cult of individualism, where narcissism is a virtue and intellectualism is despised by a quick fix culture that doesn’t have time to think.

(10) Teachers should be given a fuck load more money.

(11) People dependant on food banks to survive.  Do not resuscitate orders flying out of doctors surgeries.  The elderly abandoned to a mass cull.   TV shows donating medical  equipment  to I.C.U. units.  Homeless, dying of thirst, on the gold paved streets of one of the finest capital cities in the world.  In an age where patriotism is enjoying a resurgence, there is very little about life on this island, right now,  to make us feel proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips to held create rounded characters in fiction.

Creating believable, interesting characters is one of the cornorstones of writing any fiction, from a short story through to a series.  Like all writing skills, the ability to do so is as learned as it is in -ate, and practice always helps.

(1)  Picking a sex and a name are obvious starting points.  Names will be influenced by other major characteristics, such as nationality and job.  For example double bar names are more common among professional types such as lawyers and academics than they are in the service industry.  Artists often have quirky names, by both accident and design.

(2) Give them an age and root them chronologically.  After you have determined their date of birth you can create a rough timeline of their lives including all major events such as starting schools, starting collage work,  all their firsts that they have experienced from alcohol to sex to violent encounters.  When they married, if they did, or moved in with a partner or their current flatmate.

(3) Give them a look.  Start with the basics height, weight, nationality, skin colour, eye colour, hair colour, hair length.  Give them scars and tattoos and physical quirks, and dress them.  Are they attractive?  Or ugly as sin?  How confident are they?  Are they naturally beautiful or do they try to hard?  Are they conscious of their appearance or indifferent.  Their income will shape some of their style choices, but style itself does not belong to any class.

(4) Give them a family tree that traces their parents and siblings and off-springs and other relatives that are significant to the plot.

(5) Give them a personality.  Start out in broad strokes and then refine.  Are they an optimist or a pessimist?  Are they mild mannered and pleasant?  Or quite rude and abrupt.  Are they alpha or beta?   Are they good or bad?  Once you have determined the bigger traits you can start to add layers.  What about contradictions?  They may be notoriously mean, never buying their round in the pub, but have one person or cause that they lavish their money on?

(6) Give them a present.  What do they do?  What do they earn? Where do they live?  Do they have financial security?  Do they have emotional security?  Are they happy with their current lot.

(7) Give them a past.  Once you know where they are at the start of their story, you can figure out better how they got there.  A doctor, for example will have years of study in her background, if she’s young, she may have huge debt, if she’s older, she might have accumulated wealth.  A successful actor may have spent years moonlighting as a waiter.  People often tend to do what their parents do, or reject their background entirely.

(8) Make a list of their likes and dislikes.  What their favourite food, film, book?  What’s there guilty pleasure.  What do they do in their free time?  What are they passionate about, bearing in mind even the apathetic and cynical, have causes and people that matter to them?  Who do they admire? Who do they hate? Who do they envy and why? Are they authentic, or a hypocrite, or like many of us, a bit of both.

(9) Dig into their secrets.  What do they feel guilty about?  What are they ashamed of?  What do they hope no-one ever finds out about them? Who have they lied to?  Who have they lied for? Who do they trust? Who do they fear.  Broadly and more specifically.  For example a woman who has been subjected to a sexual assault may fear all men, but especially her attacker.

(10) What is their relationship to modern technology?  If a piece is written in contemporary times, the characters must interact with modern communication systems such as the internet and all its corresponding social media, in age appropriate ways and devises.  For example the young ones all have phones and communicate through them almost all the time, including to each other, whilst sharing physical space.  Many of your older characters will also engage with social media for work and pleasure.  At least some of your characters will access the dark web.

All of the above are just suggestions and should only be used if they prove useful.  There is no one way to write a character and the most carefully crafted protagonist can find themselves acting in an unexpected fashion as planning meets writing.  The important thing to remember is to enjoy creating characters and the freedom knowing them better brings to your story.