Everyone Loves to Hate the Evil Villain!

Everyone loves to hate the evil villain!

They are great fun to create.

Make a ‘Wanted ‘poster for your villain.


Draw their picture and write a brilliant description of them.

What do they look like?


Height, build, eyes, mouth, nose, teeth, hair.

What are they wearing? Clothing, footwear, jewellery.

What do they smell like? Go on have a sniff. Is it time to put a peg on your nose?

What do they sound like? Voice – its pitch, volume, speed.

What about skin texture/ temperature / moist/wet/slimy dry.

How do they move? Slither like a snake? Stomp like an elephant? Glide like a swan? Do they twitch? Or stand as still as a statue?

What’s their character? Hot-headed and hasty or cold and calculating?

Any distinguishing features?


What evil crime have they committed?


Last seen?


Like all authors, I’m often asked “Where do your ideas come from?” and sometimes I know the answer. Or at least an answer.

I had accepted an invitation to write for Barrington Stoke. I knew of the Barrington Stoke books – short, easy to read, many of them aimed at teenagers but with a younger reading age. I’d always thought it would be hard to write such a book in the way I wanted, but thinking of the approaching 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, I agreed to take up the challenge.

It was a hard-hitting Siegfried Sassoon poem that started it off. Here’s the first verse, which I quote at the beginning of Tilly’s Promise:

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark …


The poem is called Suicide in the Trenches, and goes on: He put a bullet through his brain … No one spoke of him again.

For this, Sassoon blames not the enemy, not the generals (though he had plenty to say about them in other poems) but the crowds at home who encouraged boys and young men to go and fight, and jeered if they wouldn’t.

I wondered about a boy like this – who was he? Where did he come from? What finally drove him to despair?

Although there’s no suicide in my book, the simple soldier boy became Georgie, and the story is told by his sister, Tilly, who becomes a nurse. Once I had the idea of Tilly making her sweetheart, Harry, promise to look after Georgie – a promise he’s reluctant to make, for good reason – I had my story.

The publishers, Barrington Stoke, have made a special website called READING WAR, which gives background information to both TILLY’S PROMISE and a story by Tom Palmer called OVER THE LINE. Find the website here: www.readingwar.co.uk

WRITING IDEAS: Find out more about the poet Siegfried Sassoon (from his name you might think he was German, but in fact he was English, with a home in Kent) and what happened to the Military Cross medal he was awarded for bravery. He is known for his blunt, very direct, hard-hitting poems about the First World War.


You could find the whole text of SUICIDE IN THE TRENCHES, and see which bits I used, and which bits I left out. You could look at another of his poems, for example MEMORIAL TABLET, and write the beginning of a story based on that – maybe set in the village where Tilly lives with her family, but using a character you make up yourself. It’s an unusual poem in that it speaks from a viewpoint ‘beyond the grave’ – that of a soldier who has been killed in the war. You could try using that in your story.


For this activity you’ll need to do some exploring. Have you ever read a book with a map inside? One of the most famous maps is that of Middle Earth, a highly detailed, expansive map found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Try to create your own map drawing on inspiration from your surroundings!

I used to love finding maps in author’s books when I was growing up: J.R.R. Tolkien and Michelle Paver’s books have brilliant maps. And one of the things I really wanted in my own book was a map. Take a photograph (or print out an image) of your favourite literary man and bring it into class. Tell the class why you think it’s a good map then have a go at creating your own literary map. What places would you want to write about: a sea, a cave, a forest, mountains, a volcano, a river, a beach…


Author and Illustrator Rilla Alexander shares tips and ideas to help YOU write your own book! You might want to print all the beautifully illustrated worksheets Rilla created, and use them to guide you on your book-making journey.

Can you write a ‘personification poem’? Have a read of the poem in the photograph above, then follow the tips below to guide you through composing your own poem. ‘Six Facts of Life’ is from my poetry collection called ‘My Life as a Goldfish’.

Now YOU create your OWN poem!

NOTE: Your poem does not have to rhyme and you can use as many ‘facts’ as you want!

1. CHOOSE a season – Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter.

2. WRITE down as many facts you can think of about that season.

For example: what the weather is like, what animals might do at that time of year, what happens to the flowers and trees, how people behave in that season – as well as celebrations at that time of year.

3. Now IMAGINE the season was a person and ask yourself…
Is it a man or woman?
Are they mean, friendly, bossy, mysterious etc?
When might you first meet them?
What might they wear?
How do they move around?
How do they use their powers – for good or for bad?

4. Combine your with interesting made-up details. Make your season really come alive!

5. At the end of the poem, maybe you can add something that they might say to you. What sort of voice would they have?

When I wrote ‘Tall Story’, I wove several legends into the story. In my native Philippines, a lot of our storytelling has to do with legends that explain the origins of things. I made this video soon after ‘Tall Story’ was published to explain how to write a legend. I hope you have a go, because it’s a lot of fun!