3 Ways Doctor Who Can Help You Become a Fantastic Writer

3 Ways Doctor Who Can Help You Become a Fantastic Writer

BBC’s Doctor Who began broadcasting over fifty years ago, and after a few years off the air, it has been rebooted to a new generation and is more popular than ever. Personally, I love the show. And as a writer I am always impressed with the writing–well developed stories and excellent characters.

I know a lot of writers and it seems all of them also watch Doctor Who. It made me think about the possibility of the Doctor as a creative writer and how he can teach each of us to become a fantastic writer!

1. A Fantastic Writer Should Have a TARDIS

What the Doctor Does

The Doctor has a vehicle for traveling through space and time. It’s called a TARDIS. He can go the edge of the universe as well as borders of time. He can go into the past or the future and end up anywhere on the earth or to the 51st century to the planet New Earth.

What Writers Should Do

Creative writers can do the same thing, but instead of using a TARDIS to travel, we use our minds and our laptops. We can go anywhere at any time, here on Earth or to places in the universe never seen or known by mankind. And we can record what takes place there.

You can go back the Civil War in Virginia, the Silk Road with Marco Polo, Versailles Palace with King Louis XV and watch his bodyguards. You can go to other galaxies and other universes, either in the past or the future. And that is why a creative writer’s mind works off Time Lord Technology. Our minds are bigger on the inside.

TARDIS Doctor Who Space

2. A Fantastic Writer Should Know Everything

What the Doctor Does

Regardless of which iteration of the Doctor we see, he always knows more than everyone else in the room (regardless of how big the room is). And he knows it. He knows he’s the cleverest being, cleverer than his companions, cleverer than his adversaries–and you doubt it only by tempting his scorn.

What Writers Should Do

Creative writers know more than anyone else in the room that is the world of which we write. We know more than all of the characters in our stories. We know things before they do. And more than that, we are clever and we have a plan. We arrange and we orchestrate and our characters do what we want them to do. And everything always ends up the way we want it to.

David Tennant Doctor Who Because I'm Clever

3. A Fantastic Writer Should Be Able to Regenerate

What the Doctor Does

There have been more than a dozen men play the role of the Doctor on television. I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling the idea of the Doctor regenerating was a simple answer to a casting issue some time ago, and the device worked so well in the story it was kept. Simply put, the Doctor regenerates instead of dying. He cheats death and is recast. He not only looks different, but has different tweaks in his personality. Despite these variances, the nature of the Doctor is also the same.

What Writers Should Do

Creative writers have this same regenerative capacity. It has nothing to do with Time Lord physiology. We regenerate by reading great books, learning more about our craft, and willing ourselves to go on. Let’s face it, sometimes we as authors are done in. We’ve hit the wall, and we need to find some unreal way to go on or we will die (metaphorically).

When we’ve reached the place where we cannot go on any further, when we cannot write one more word, we can begin again from a fresh place. When we are dried up, we can find energy from reading our favorite books. When our skills are gone, we can resharpen our utensils by continually learning more about creative writing. When we are exhausted and feel as if our writing is no better than a five-year-old’s crayon scribblings on the wall, we can push past the urge to give up–because we are committed to being authors. Our passion may bruise, but it will never die.

Dr Who Regeneration One Through Eleven Day of the Doctor

The Doctor would be a fine author if he set his mind to it. And that’s because of a secret more dear than the first question. We as creative writers are genuine Time Lords. My advice is that we keep this always in mind, but maybe we shouldn’t dress like one. Looks weird.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What do you think is the single most important skill of a fantastic writer? Tell me in the comments!

3 Ways Doctor Who Can Help You Become a Fantastic Writer

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About Neal Abbott | @NealAbbott

Along with the recently released novel Bloodhound, Neal Abbott is the author of three non-fiction books: The Gatsby Reader, Think Like a Writer, and My Plans for World Domination. Neal has also authored four novels Siciliana, Drover, Prince, and Pietas. These will be launched throughout the rest of the year. He is the content editor for the creative writing blog A Word Fitly Spoken.


  1. thanks for posting my material once again. you are a great help to writers.

  2. Claudia says:

    I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, so when I saw this post I fangirled for a moment…

    Anyway, wonderful article! I’ve never realized that what the Doctor does can help writers. Interesting idea, and you have very good advice.

  3. Love the Doctor. Thanks for the bit of brilliant parallelism and insight.

  4. This. Is. Perfect.

  5. As a lifelong Dr. Who fan and a writer, I appreciated the analogies in your post. Thanks, Neal…and thanks, K.M. Am sharing!

  6. I would love to see a deconstruction of a Dr Who episode: major plot points etc. Is it different to the structure of a novel? 🙂

  7. Absolutely love this! Great post, Neal.

    As for the question, I think the most important skill is persistence, the determination to never give up no matter how big the challenge. I think that’s a large part of what separates the great writers from the never-heard-of writers.

    “…but maybe we shouldn’t dress like one. Looks weird.” But…BOW TIES ARE COOL! 🙂

  8. Allison says:

    Dr Who’s advice to writers would surely be
    “Whatever you do, don’t look away, and don’t blink!”

  9. JSchuler says:

    “What Writers Should Do

    Creative writers know more than anyone else in the room that is the world of which we write. We know more than all of the characters in our stories. We know things before they do. And more than that, we are clever and we have a plan. We arrange and we orchestrate and our characters do what we want them to do. And everything always ends up the way we want it to.”

    Sounds boring.

    I write my characters into corners they can’t possibly escape from. Then they surprise me and succeed in spite of my efforts. My characters frequently know more than I do. They will do things for no explicable reason, telling me to write scenes where I have no clue as to the purpose, only to have those scenes provide the solution to the story’s problems, whatever they may be.

    This is something I’ve learned through lots of pain and error as I tried to force my characters to do what I want, and force my story to play out how I want. Shockingly, when I write that way, that’s how the story feels: forced. When I let my characters tell me what they do, tell me how they relate to each other, tell me about the world, it comes out a lot smoother and more exciting.

    Turns out, it’s their world. They just let me write about it.

    • I absolutely agree! When characters live their own lives, make their own (unplanned and often unwanted by us, authors) decisions, that’s when they become real, three-dimensional and interesting. Planning ahead is good, but there always has to be room for freedom and surprises.

      • this is the difference between planner and pantsers. i don’t get unorganized world and sitting down and letting it fly. it’s not free and it’s not more creative. the best stories come from writers who in control. here’s some homework. name one classic written by a pantser

        • I define myself as a tweener 🙂 Structure and outline aren’t my enemies, but I do let myself free write every once in a while. Mainly because I can’t start outlining if I don’t have a feeling of the characters. And I can achieve that only with free write. I’m getting more into detail of my creative process in my tomorrow’s blog post if that interests you 🙂

          Anyway, I don’t think that an author should limit him/herself to one method only: we should always experiment and find what works best. And for me, it’s always something in between. As for your homework, from the top of my head, I can name the Gambler by Dostoevsky. He was on a very tight deadline from his villain editor and wrote the novel (albeit not his most successful one) in less than 30 days. K.M. talks more in detail about this novel here: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/dostoevsky-and-art-of-in-medias-res/

          • P.S. Just found your comment for that post 🙂 But this is still a pure example of pantsting to me, since he was dictating the novel to his assistant and just had no time for elaborate outlining and such.

        • JSchuler says:

          Strange Case of Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde

          Probably anything by Kafka.

          Take your own advice and look to the Doctor:

          “Because this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to rescue her. I’m going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m going to save the Earth, and then–just to finish off–I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!”


          “Yeah. And doesn’t that scare you to death?”

          • JSchuler says:

            Ah, I feel like I should have at least bothered with some scant research to answer your homework. So, how about this:

            “A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and he trusts he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results. So he goes to work. To write a novel? No–that is a thought which comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little tale, a very little tale, a six-page tale. But as it is a tale which he is not acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as it goes along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on till it spreads itself into a book. I know about this, because it has happened to me so many times.” – Mark Twain.

            If you will condemn me to the company of the greatest writer America has ever produced, I will accept the judgment.

    • trust me, not boring

      • JSchuler says:

        What’s there to trust? As I stated, I tried it. It was worse than boring. It was painful.

        Do I have an idea of where I want the story to go, how it should end, what points it should hit? Sure. But I’m a fool if I don’t listen to my characters when they disagree with the direction. And when they want to do something crazy I let them try.

  10. Any excuse to watch more Dr Who! 🙂

  11. Interesting post, Neal! Thanks for sharing the space with him, K.M. 🙂

    I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I’ve come to realize that’s because I do some of the plotting in my head, just enough to let my characters reveal themselves and their story to me.

    Like the Doctor’s companions, antagonists, and the innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders in his adventures, my characters tend to have minds of their own and exercise their free will (such as it is) with little regard to my agenda. The Doctor may well be the cleverest man in the room (on the planet, in the galaxy, wherever), but he can’t control everything, and often even he has to make up things on the fly in order to save the day.

    My own writing experience is that I require a combination of plotting and pantsing to keep a story alive. Guess that makes me a plantser. 😉

    And yes – bow ties, fezzes and Stetsons are cool, but my favorite ensemble is the scarf, hat and overcoat sported by the fourth Doctor (aka Tom Baker). Love those never-ending piles of stuff his coat pockets produced. 🙂

  12. I really enjoy Doctor Who and I would like to mention the season arcs, and how we, writers, can learn. It’s masterful patience (which authors and writers need, and I lack)

  13. This was a great post and I loved how you added Doctor Who to it! I love the T.V. show. We also have the ability to bring new companions to our books 😉

  14. great point about the doctor’s companions


  1. […] Creative writers can do the same thing, but instead of using a TARDIS to travel, we use our minds and our laptops. We can go anywhere at any time, here on Earth or to places in the universe never seen …read more […]

  2. […] Become Authors. Here’s a link to my article comparing Creative Writers to The Doctor – https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/3-ways-doctor-who-can-help-you-become-a-fantastic-writer/. Check out her site, it is a wonderful resource for writers. Thanks to K.M. for her […]

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