One Writer’s Journey

May 15, 2017

Characters: Creating People that Live and Breathe and Can Walk Off the Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:46 am
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Recently I read a really interesting post at Heather Alexander’s blog, Interrobangs.  Titled “Antagonists Need Love Too,” Alexander wrote about being as nurturing and in-depth in the creation of your antagonist as you are with your protagonist.  The reason for this is that she sees to many ho-hum flat antagonists in middle grade fiction.  They are bullies who bully for the sake of bullying.  They have no back story.  They have no justification for their actions.

The techniques she recommends will help you create not only viable antagonists but also living, breating secondary characters.  Alexander asks writers to create back stories, to give non-human characters human trains, to show what they like, show where “bad” characters went bad, and show how the character is similar to your protagonist, give the history of their connection.

But there is one more thing I’d like to challenge you to do.  Develop the connection between yourself and the character.  In short, how is this character like you?  What does she feel that you feel? Want that you want?  Believe that you believe?  Develop these connections because these quantities, known to you, will help the character feel genuine.

Personally, this can be a lot of fun because it gives you the opportunity to act out through your characters in ways that you, as a human being, would not normally do.  In one fantasy that I wrote, I wrote a protagonist who is a misunderstood youngest child.  I’ve never been the youngest child.  In fact, I’m the oldest.  But I know what its like to be misunderstood.

It was easy enough, in writing the antagonist, to write from the perspective of an oldest child.  After all, I know what that feels like.

In creating this character relatioship, I drew on what I knew for both characters.  After reading my first several chapters, several people commented that I had very clearly shown how I felt as a youngest child.  I didn’t correct them.  I just took the compliment and smiled.  I had created a character the reader could believe.




August 10, 2009

Connecting with Child Readers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:33 am

laughPerhaps the hardest thing about writing for children is connecting with our young readers. 

Lots of people offer you advice on how to do this. 

  • Go to where children are and listen to them. 
  • Wait!  Your presence alone will put them on their best behavior and they won’t act naturally.  (Says Sue: I laughed out loud when I heard this.  I must know particularly uninhibited children.)
  • Eavesdrop when you are acting as chauffeur.  (Says Sue: Just don’t get so caught up eavesdropping that you rear end the car in front of you.  That will almost certainly alter their behavior.)
  • Substitute teach. 

Why not try something different?  If you want to see what makes them tick, be with them but at their level.  In the summer, get in the pool with them.  Play catch with the splash ball.  Play Marco Polo.  This fall, when you’re raking leaves, don’t have a fit when someone jumps in the leaves, unless they’ve butted in line and taken your turn.  In the winter, when you take them sledding, don’t sit in the car with the heater on.  Get on the sled.  A little snow in your face is good for you. 

You’re still Mom or Dad or Aunt Angie, but you can also take the time to connect with them on their terms.  You’ll know you’ve managed to pull it off when you suggest doing something with them and they jump at the chance.  Or when you laugh at the same thing they laugh at, especially if the other Moms glare at you. 

Don’t believe me?  Just ask my son about the butt print bar stools at Old Time Pottery.  I’m almost certain they were supposed to look like heart-shaped tropical leaves, but the sitting spot in the middle looked just like a giant butt print.  Honest.   All the kids in the vicinity knew why we were laughing. 

Laugh when the kids laugh and you’ll know you’ve made a connection.  Make this connection often enough and it will show in your writing.


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