Character Column: Meet Helen Venn and ‘Seri’

A warm welcome to my writing buddy, Helen Venn, and the silvery, elfish Seri. Helen has taken a different, up close, tack in introducing her favourite character, by taking us into her own process of ‘love at first meeting’….on a beach, far, far away…here is Seri…

Seri is a main character from my as yet unfinished fantasy novel set in the mid 21 century.

We first met (as I do with so many of my characters) when I was doing a writing marathon with Karrinyup Writers Club. This is an awesome group (and I use awesome deliberately because they do inspire awe in me) of writers, ranging from multi-published to rank beginners, who have supported and inspired me for many years. Writing marathons with timed segments are a popular way for us to jump start new writing. I still have the fragments of where Seri first appeared to me, although I’m sparing you by mostly summarising here.

Before I go any further, perhaps I should say what happened here was fairly typical of how a story comes to me. It can come over hours, days or weeks but usually a scene forms around a simple image of a place or a person and, while the background or story slowly builds with more and more detail, the character is there, whole and clear in my mind from very early on. I know what they look like and their life history – relationships, interests, the good and bad about them. What comes next though is often a mystery. I generally have an idea of two or three major events and the ending but as to how they get there … that is the story she or he is about to live through with me after all.

But back to Seri. We were writing from trigger sentences and, although I now have no idea of what the actual trigger was, I found myself describing a scene where a group of men were carrying someone from the sea. It was a sandy beach with long, rolling surf and the men were tall and muscular – and somehow not quite human. Running towards them across the sand was Seri. Tall, slender with short silver gilt hair, she was obviously young and female. The five minute timer jarred into my thoughts and I had to stop writing but I couldn’t let go of her.

Another trigger sentence and, with no plan at all, I found she was a healer and a three hundred year old Fae. She had the man set down on the sand.The rescuers, who I now realised were also Fae, gathered around while Seri knelt beside him only to look up in shock. He was human. The timer went off.

A new trigger – ten minutes to write this time – and an older male Fae carrying a staff hurried across the sand to where Seri was working on the the victim. He slammed his staff into the ground in front of her. She jumped, looked up, then ignored him, going back to her work. The man stirred, coughed. Seri spoke softly to him. The older man dragged her to her feet.

“You fool!” he shouted. “Don’t you realise he’s human? He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be able to pass the barrier.” He jerked his head at the prone figure. “Take him out beyond the reef and throw him back.”

The rescuers hesitated and Seri swung around and glared at the older male. “You call yourself a healer? You should be ashamed of yourself,” she said. She pointed to the man. “Take him to the Healers’ House. He is in my care.”

The timer went off again and the marathon was over. I didn’t care. I knew all I needed to continue the story. Seri was young, intelligent, impetuous and caring – and, most importantly, willing to stand up for what she thought was right. There was obviously a mystery too and things were not all sweet and light in the land of the Fae. I had the beginning of a story.

 Helen, thanks so much for joining us at the Column today, and giving us a ‘taste of things to come’ for the vibrant, strong-willed Seri and her world. The vividness of that first spark you’ve shown us is bright and clear, and I look forward to reading Seri’s full story.

Helen Venn

Helen Venn


Helen Venn began writing literary short stories and poems. Now, no matter how hard she tries, she seems to end up with speculative fiction. Published in several anthologies, she has placed in various 
competitions (including being a finalist in one Quarter of Writers of the Future). In her spare time she is an occasional reviewer, originally for the now defunct Specusphere and now on her blog. She attended Clarion 
South in 2007 and was an Emerging Writer in Residence at Tom Collins House Writers’ Centre in 2009. She is currently working on the second novel of a trilogy. She lives with her husband, dog and cat in Western Australia.

She blogs at and http://egoboo-


9 thoughts on “Character Column: Meet Helen Venn and ‘Seri’

  1. Helen, you have a very similar way of proceeding to my own. Stories often if not always start with a single image that gradually expands to set itself in a particular time, place, and storyline. Thanks for sharing with us.


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