As you’ll be aware, it’s been a bad week for Australia, Brazil and Sri Lanka, with heavy floods displacing millions and causing the deaths of many. Two of the Write Anything columnists live in Brisbane, and the blog’s team are putting together an anthology of flash fiction to raise funds for those affected by the Queensland floods. Submissions are invited, and you’ve a fortnight to get yours in.

We’ve less to worry about here in the UK, now that the snow’s more or less gone. (I keep finding frozen heaps in car parks and our local pond only thawed out today, but basically… it’s over.) There’s nothing to distract us now from the swingeing cuts that have been foisted on our local councils by the powers-that-be, and–as in the USA–libraries have been first in the firing line in many areas. Following proposals to replace paid librarians with volunteers, John Harris protested in the Guardian that “librarians do so much more than shelve books and say shhh!“, while Jen Brubacher–who is a librarian–took it on herself to explain her current research project.

On to the writerly stuff.

A lot of our regulars picked this week to focus on characterisation, one way or another. Darcy Pattison posted on Fiction Notes about differences in levels of development between major and minor characters. KM Weiland sees things differently, and argued that it pays to know the backstory for every minor character, even if you’re never going to use any of it. Juliette Wade agreed, pointing out that a well-rounded secondary character can easily become a reader’s favourite. Janice Hardy stepped in with a post about the relationship between point-of-view and character development, and Alison Janssen of Dead Guy reminded us that sometimes the development of a character is the story. Meanwhile Lynn Viehl had been testing a piece of freeware intended for genealogical research, and reported that it’s perfect for keeping track of fictional character data.

There are other areas than character to explore, of course. Kay Kenyon posted an item about the importance of a strong plot, along with some pointers to resources for learning plotting skills. Cheryl Ossola, getting into some resources of her own, wrote about non-linear plotting and the hidden story. Way over my head, but it may make good sense to you. Julie Eshbaugh posted a piece on Let The Words Flow about anagnorisis–the moment when the hero learns something that changes everything.

Talking of things that change everything brings me smartly to critiquing. Elizabeth Spann Craig wondered when is the best time to offer helpful suggestions, while Janice Hardy wrote about putting critiques to good use. Charlie Stross was more interested in finished works, and published an item that should go some way to take the sting out of poor reader reviews. John Gilstrap went one further and attempted to make sense of Amazon’s sales rankings. Good luck with that, pal.

Over at The Kill Zone, Kathryn Lilley wondered whether a sugar placebo could really banish writer’s block? (Spoiler: it seems it can.)

Scott GF Bailey of The Literary Lab shared a thoughtful piece about the courage needed to create original art, but Tawna Fenske reckons originality is overrated and a piece of art doesn’t have to be all-new to be good. Indeed. (Check this one out just for the Obadiah Parker clip, I promise you won’t regret it!)

Two pieces of stellar news this week from our regular linkees. First, The Pain Merchants–the UK version of Janice Hardy’s YA novel The Shifter–has been shortlisted for the 2011 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Second, Lynn Viehl made the Times extended list with her latest release, Frostfire. Congratulations, both!

And finally.. here’s cartoonist Matt Bors on the cleansing of Huckleberry Finn.