Key characters: The Inkwell with Vanessa Gebbie

 In The Inkwell

In this blog series, The Inkwell, award-winning author Vanessa Gebbie shares writing tips and exercises to keep your writing mind in motion during lockdown.


An interesting game this week, which works well in workshops, so let’s see if it translates online! 

Below are nine key rings, some with keys attached. Working with another writer, perhaps … each pick a key ring and sketch out a character study for the person who owns that key. 

Or, if you are working on your own, do as many characters as you like. 

1) Put any two characters together, and see if there is a scenario emerging which might lead into a story.

2) What does each key open? 

3) What happens if the wrong character gets hold of the wrong key? 

4) Swap characters round. Maybe put two together that really wouldn’t gel? Or put three together – three is usually a crowd. 

Have fun! 


Vanessa Gebbie is a novelist, short fiction writer, poet, editor and writing tutor with ten books out there somewhere – including Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt), editions i and ii, for which she was commissioning and contributing editor. She has taught for The Arvon Foundation, The Arts Council,  London’s Spread the Word, The Word Factory, Curtis Brown Creative and New Writing South among others. She is self-isolating in Sussex.