Writing Believable Children’s Characters
by Cheryl Carpinello
Authors can have the most exciting plot loaded with lots of action in the most exotic place, but if their readers do not form a connection with the characters, then they won’t finish the book. How do children’s writers ensure that their characters will appeal to young readers and, hopefully, draw those readers back for more? This is no easy task, but these exercises may help a writer connect their characters to their readers.
1) Determine the age group that will be reading the story. The most common breakdowns, but not the only ones, are infant (ages 0-3), preschool (4-6), lower elementary (7-9), upper elementary or middle grade (9-13), tweens (12-15), and young adult (15 +). Every time I do a writing workshop with elementary students, I ask them to decide who they want to read their story. Inevitably they say, “Everyone.” I use this vivid example to help them understand why they can’t write for everyone. If they want high school students to read their story, then they need to put in kissing. The groans are sufficient to get my point across. Writers cannot write for all ages if they want to create believable characters that readers can relate to. Each age group has its own distinct qualities which must be embedded in the characters.
2) List qualities associated with the chosen group of readers. Consider their maturity as far as what they are able to do on their own and how developed their thinking skills are. When writing for children, a copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy is a must. It gives a breakout of what children are capable of doing at different stages of their development. Take into account the immediate world(s) of the readers as these can vary greatly based on economic, social, and even political situations. See how the different age groups handle relationships with the same sex and the opposite sex. Don’t forget think about their dependency on parents and their sophistication of language usage.
3) Observe and interact with the chosen age group. Observation only is not enough. Writers need to interact with them. Find out what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, what angers them, what touches their hearts. Each age group is different. Learn what makes each group of readers unique. Some ways to do this are to volunteer in classrooms, lead Sunday School classes, work with after school activities, help out at homeless shelters for families and battered women’s shelters. The opportunities are limitless.
At the end of these exercises, writers will find themselves building characters that echo the world and surroundings of their readers. These characters will then find their places in the hearts of readers.
Author Web Site: http://www.beyondtodayeducator.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.carpinello1
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In addition to be a writer, Cheryl is a retired high school English teacher. Still passionate about working with kids, she conducts writing workshops for kids in the elementary and middle schools. The kids outline their own medieval stories complete with knights, dragons, magicians, and usually princesses.
Cheryl loves to travel to college football games, to Las Vegas, to visit family, and to see new places. She and her husband recently spent two weeks visiting Egypt where they traveled by local train from one end of Egypt to the other.
Finalist Pre-Teen Literature: Dan Poynter’s 2011 Global Ebook Awards.
At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king in England’s history.She is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted–all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage.
For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits?
However, the wizard Merlyn–her teacher and friend–knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.
Genre - Arthurian Legend
Rating – G
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