Saturday, July 18, 2009

Encouraging and Equipping Children Who Love to Write

Write Like Crazy has a bit about encouraging and directing your children who like to write. It’s full of good advice.

Maybe we should try to add to it. Kids who write are going to take publishing to heights we haven’t even begun to imagine. As a group, wouldn’t it be fun to add methods, ideas, suggestions about how we can help our youth become better writers?

Does your character seem flat?

Think of your favorite books. What makes those books so memorable to you? I’ll bet it’s the characters.
Select the main character from one of your favorite books and answer the following. Even if the author doesn’t mention these specifics in the book, if the character is well-written, you should be able to guess at the answers:
1. If the character had free time on their hands, what would they most likely be doing?
2. If confronted by a bully, how would this character react?
3. What is this character’s favorite subject in school? Favorite band? Favorite TV show? Best friend?
How did you find the information listed above? Was it written into the story? Or maybe, the character’s traits, personality and unique quirks were so specific, you could make your own conclusions. This is a well-written character.
So, when you’re writing your own short stories or novels, how do you create memorable, realistic characters? In a first draft, your characters may seem lifeless and flat. Not sure? Test it out:
First, give your story to someone else to read. Then, give them the list of questions above and see if they can come up with the correct answers. If they’re stuck, so are you. Your character needs more life, more details to flesh him out.
Come back all this week to get tips on “fleshing out” your characters. Already have tips that would help others? Share them here!
Since we’re discussing characters, let’s write wacky characteristics and discuss how you can “show” not “tell” through writing.
Example #1: Minor Character has a nervous twitch when he walks.
Don’t say:
Billy has this weird twitch when he walks.
Instead, say:
Billy lagged behind the others. He was careful to pretend he had stumbled if anyone noticed that his left leg swung out at an awkward angle when he walked.
Example #2: Main character has a unique fashion sense.
Don’t say:
Melody liked to dress in mismatching clothes to get attention.
Instead, try:
All eyes turned when Melody entered the cafeteria in her purple leopard printed leggings, orange turtleneck and red gingham jacket.
Your turn! Write a before and after of a character describing a wacky characteristic or trait. And don’t be selfish with your creations – share them here!
Advice for Developing a Character:
• Start with what matters to you about your character: Is he or she like you? Like someone you know?
• Put together a character so that all the parts fit together: Do these different things make sense within one person? Do they fit together in a believable way? Are these traits here for a reason?
• Explain any general descriptions of your character: What exactly does this description mean for this particular character?
• If a character seems too good to be true, make it more human: What is the downside of this trait? (too nice, too giving, etc.) How does this characteristic help and hurt the character?
• Know your character’s motivations (longings) and struggles.

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