Friday, October 19, 2018

Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters

by Susan Stephenson,

This is the third in my new series of writing tips for kids. Over coming weeks you’ll see new short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

How to Develop Your Characters

When you go into the bush, you go prepared with the tools you need. What if you want to find your way into a story? Some people start by writing a title, others start with a first sentence. But most writers agree you should get to know your characters before you start.

Let's look at four ways of doing that:

* Interview your characters. Think up questions, and then try to answer them as if YOU are your character. Brainstorm all sorts of questions like: "What makes you afraid?", "What do you want more than anything in the world?" or "What don't you want people to know about you?".

* Make up a profile for each character in a story. Profiles can cover features like looks, personality, likes, dislikes, and hobbies. Find some samples online by searching for "character profile".

* Draw your character, or find a picture in a magazine or online that looks like the character in your head. This helps a character become more REAL to a writer.

* Act out a scene you'd like to write. This is great for plot ideas, and it’s another way to get to know your character. Ask a friend to join you, choose a scene you'd like to play with, and start improvising. Or you could use toys or puppets. There's no right or wrong way to improvise. Have fun with it!

If you know your characters well, your stories will seem more realistic to a reader. But you don't have to write all you know about a character at once. Imagine if we read: "Jack, a short elf, had blue eyes, blond hair, pale skin, brown pointy shoes, a gossamer shirt, green leggings and a feathered hat. He liked: sardine ice cream, loud music and helping frogs. He hated: being short, and getting his feet wet." That would be information overload!

Instead, keep what you know about your character in your head, and introduce a detail when it makes sense to do so. Show us, don't tell us. Let the reader work it out. If you write "Jack brushed the hat feathers away from his eyes, and tried to make himself look taller", it helps readers to understand Jack better. The facts you don't use in the story are still useful because they make a character more real to you.

If a character is well developed and real to you, if you can hear his voice inside your head, and see his grinning face while he flicks feathers away, chances are he'll be real to your readers too.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

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