Nov 19

SCBWI Book Critique Boutique

I’m excited to announce that on December 10th, I’ll be at Touro College in Bayshore, Long Island selling books and giving 10 minute critiques for ONLY $10!

Get a critique of your manuscript

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is having it’s first ever (as far as I know) Book Critique Boutique.

If you’re in the area and you’re a children’s author or illustrator, stop on by.  I look forward to seeing you!

Children's Author

Is Your Protagonist Multi-Dimensional?

Image

Is your character fully dimensional?Does your protagonist have one, two, or three dimensions?

Between your characters and the plot, you develop a story. If the mix is right, and the characters are believable, you can create a story worthy of publication.

While there are many articles about creating believable characters, it’s an important topic and reminders are always in order since your characters are a crucial aspect of your story.

So, which is your protagonist?

1. Is your protagonist flat…lacks any type of emotion and action. Like the simple and safe kiddy rides at a children’s amusement park…the carousel horse that goes round and round, but does nothing else? Then you have a one- dimensional character on your hands.

2. Is your protagonist a little bumpy…he has some quirks, life and emotion, but no real depth of character or history. Like the carousel horse that goes round and round and up and down at a steady easy pace? Then you have a two-dimensional character struggling to break into the world of believability.

3. Is your protagonist a full-blown amusement park…a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, knowledge, emotion, character, quirks…life and history? Now you have it—you have a believable three-dimensional character that is strong enough to bring your story through to the end.

Now the question is: how do you create a wonderful, believable life-like three-dimensional character?

There are a number of methods you can use that will help create a believable character, here are two:

1. Create a character sheet or use an index card before you begin.

On your sheet, list all the characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, physical attributes, artistic attributes…you get the idea. Keep this sheet handy as you’re writing your story. If you tell the reader Pete has blonde hair in the beginning of the story, and then you describe it as black, unless he dyed his hair as part of the storyline, stay true to the character. Readers pick up on errors very quickly.

The more detail you add to your character sheet the easier it will be to know what your protagonist will do in any given circumstance. This will take the element of wondering out of your writing process and save time…Pete finds a bag of money next to his neighbor’s car. Hmm . . . will he keep it or try to find out if it’s his neighbor’s? Oh, wait a minute, on your character sheet you wrote he’s an honest guy! Simple.

2. Add characteristics and attributes to your protagonist as you write your story.

Write your protagonist’s characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, and so on, on a character sheet as your story evolves.

There are some writers who use different methods to create a story. Maybe you’re using the ‘seat-of-the-pants-method’ and your character evolves as your story does. With this method, you want to be sure to note each new development in your protagonist’s character or being.

Let’s go back to Pete again. Pete scratches a car with his bicycle. Does he leave a note on the car he damaged? Does he quickly leave the scene? Does he just go about his business, ignoring the incident?

While he’s usually honest, he could have a moment of weakness? Maybe he’s afraid of the consequences.

Whichever one of these actions he chooses will establish another element to his character – be sure to make note of it.

No matter what process you use, remember to add life-like qualities to your character. Readers need to develop a relationship with the protagonist. If they feel Pete is three dimensional and they are drawn to him, they’ll be sure to read to the end of your book.

Let's talk about your children's writing projectWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Articles on writing for childrenhttp://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2016/04/24/the-one-sentence-pitch-for-your-manuscript/

How Do You Build a Successful Writing Career? (3 Tips)

8 Top Fiction Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Nov 05

Self-Publishing – 3 Perks and 4 Warnings

Self-publihsing tipsIt seems the majority of people are self-publishing. With the limited traditional publishing opportunities, it only makes sense.

In addition to the difficulty in getting a traditional contract there are at least three perks to going Indie.

1. You are in complete control.
2. Getting your book published and available for sales will take a fraction of the time it will take a traditional publisher to get it out into the world.
3. You’ll make a lot more per book sale than through the traditional route.

All seems good, right?

Well, it can be. But, while self-publishing brings the brass ring within the reach of just about everyone, there are some things to watch out for.

Four things to watch out for when self-publishing:

1. You are in complete control.

While this is also a perk, it can be a pitfall. You don’t have the luxury of a publishing house editors, book designers, and illustrators. This means it’s all up to you.

Do you know what’s involved in producing a quality book?

If not, do your research.

You might want to start out with learning how to write if you’re not already a writer. Read books, take classes, do whatever you need to in order to write right. Keep in mind that this includes learning about revisions, editing, and proofing.

While self-publishing is gaining ground by leaps and bounds, there are still those books that are poorly written and published that weigh the arena down.

While writing a quality book is paramount, the book’s design and cover are also crucial.
Some questions to consider might be:

– Do you know what the front matter is?
– Are you qualified to create your own cover?
– What about the back cover design and copy?
– Do you know about interior layout design?
– Do you know how to properly format your book for publishing?
– Do you know how to upload your book to the service that will print it?
– Do you know you need to write a synopsis and description for your book?
– What about effective keywords and categories for your book?

There are more elements involved, but this will get you started.

If it seems overwhelming or is too time consuming get outside help. I recently hired someone on Fiverr to format and upload my book. I debated between publishing with CreateSpace and IngramSpark and ended up going with CreateSpace.

There are plenty of services and freelancers available to help you get your book published.

2. It’s most often not a slam-dunk.

I’ve had a couple of clients approach me saying they want a book that Disney will want to turn into a movie. I laugh to myself because so do I. After I find the humor in it, I tell those clients that there are no guarantees in books.

You must have realistic expectations when self-publishing. The market is flooded with books. It’s true that some books take off, but this is not the norm. Again, be realistic.

The best thing you can do is create a book you can be proud of and learn how to market it. The first part of book marketing is creating an author platform.

For more on this, read my article: What is an Author Platform?

3. You don’t have a hook.

With so many books available and more and more coming on the market each day, you need to find your hook. Simply writing a good book may not be enough. You need to let the reader know why they should buy your book. What makes your book different.

“Sensational writing, words that jump from a page, a heart stopping plot and real recipes from your grandmother in a village in Sardinia, where many people live to be 100, are all potentially unique aspects of a book, which will help you find readers.” (1)

If you don’t think your book has anything unique, take a closer look. Think of an accident witnessed by 10 people. Each one will have a different account of what happened. Even if only somewhat different, there will be differences.

Find the unique element in your book.

4. You’re not familiar with book marketing.

Even if you’re traditionally published, you MUST promote your books.

Book marketing begins with your author platform and the foundation of this platform is your author website.

Along with this, you’ll need to be on social media and you’ll need to create an email list.

While this may all seem like a lot of effort, if you want to make you and your books visible to potential buyers, if you want to sell books, it’s necessary.

If you need help with the first part of your book writing journey, writing the story, I’m a children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. Let me take your story for a spin. Contact me today at kcioffiventrice@gmail.com

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Reference:
(1) 5 Horrible Mistakes Self-Published Authors Make

Articles on writing for childrenhttp://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2016/07/24/writing-a-book-to-publish-traditionally-or-self-publish/

Self-Publishing: 3 Tips to Help You Avoid the ‘I Want It Now Syndrome’

Writing with Clarity

Oct 29

What is an Author Platform and How Do You Build It?

Book Marketing TipsBuilding a writing career can be a long, and at times, difficult road. And, many new authors think writing itself is the tough part, but that’s not really the case.

Writing a story that you intend to publish traditionally or self-publish has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can create an outline as kind of a GPS to get you from point A to point B. There are steadfast rules and tricks to help you complete your writing journey.

There is an end to that particular writing journey.

With book marketing, that’s not the way it works.

Marketing your book is the roll-up-your-sleeves part of a writing career. It’s the ongoing job of creating and building your online presence, your author platform. And, the rules and tricks of the game are in constant motion, always changing.

While many of the rules may change, there is one constant in your author platform, and that’s visibility.

It should be noted that the definition of an author platform encompasses multiple genres and freelance writers, and even marketers who create and sell information products, so it may vary, depending on who is providing the definition.

But, in regard to your author platform, web editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review Jane Friedman notes that editors and agents are “looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.”

So, the bare-bottom basics of an author platform are: visibility, authority, and proven reach.

Breaking Down the Three Basic Elements of an Author Platform

1. Visibility

This is the promotional aspect of marketing. It’s the element of becoming known in your particular niche and building on that presence.

With online marketing strategies and Google’s updates always on the move, the face of creating visibility has changed. Today, visibility is created through ongoing connections and relationships with your target market, your audience.

It’s also about creating engagement on your blog site and your social networks. This means Likes, Follows, Shares, Retweets, Favorites, and so on.

2. Authority

Authority is built through ongoing communication. As an author you need to provide valuable information to your readers. Providing this information on a regular basis establishes you as an authority in your niche.

Another newer factor in the mix is social proof. Numbers speak and boost your authority.

What’s meant by this is the number of social media followers you have and engagement, your website traffic along with visitor engagement.

3. Your Reach

Elements one and two of your author platform help take care of number three, your reach. By using effective marketing strategies to create an online presence, such as building a website and creating your authority through ongoing information/article marketing, your reach is automatically broadened.

Other strategies you can use to further broaden your reach include:

• Social media marketing
• Blogging regularly on your own site
• Guest blogging
• Joint ventures
• Presenting webinars
• Presenting workshops
• Offering ecourses

Today, your author platform is about what you can offer your audience. It’s about creating content that’s engaging and/or valuable enough for others to share. It’s not about what you’re selling.

Providing ongoing ‘wanted or needed’ information builds a relationship. In the marketing arena a general rule of thumb was to offer 80 percent free, valuable information and 20 percent promotion. Now, it’s recommended to offer 90 percent free, valuable information and 10 percent promotion.

It’s this ongoing author/reader relationship that will build your author platform and help sell your books, other products, and services.

Reference:
http://janefriedman.com/2012/03/13/author-platform-definition/

Be a children's writerBeing a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 180 page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

Articles on writing for children

Small Home-Grown Book Publishers – Good or Bad?

Writing Success – Commit to It

Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing – The Differences

Oct 22

Small Home-Grown Book Publishers – Good or Bad?

Publishing with Small PressesI’m thrilled to announce that I have an article up at Writer’s Digest!

It’s about the pros and cons of working with very small book publishers. What I mean by “very small” is the publishers that are primarily one-man or one-woman businesses.

While these home-grown publishers can be a life-saver for the new author and certainly do have benefits, there are a few things to be aware of before jumping in.

Here’s the very beginning:

As a new author or even if you have one or two books under your self-publishing belt, you may be thinking of entering the traditional publishing arena.

I’ve been there and have had my share of rejections from the larger well-known publishing houses.

But, I didn’t let that discourage me … well, not entirely.

While disappointed, I dug in my heels and attended writers conferences and joined writing groups. In one of the online conferences I attended, small publishers were on hand to take pitches from authors. Naturally, I took advantage of this opportunity. I gave my pitch and the owner of the publishing house asked to see my manuscript.

Excitement, excitement.

Check out the full article – it has very helpful information and insights into publishing with a small home-grown publisher:

The Pros and Cons of Publishing with a Small Publisher

HEY! While you’re there, please SHARE and COMMENT!

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

Oct 15

Writing Success – Commit to It

Tips on achieving writing success.Contributed by Suzanne Lieurance

Become Totally Committed to Your Own Success.

Why do some people succeed against all odds while others never live up to their potential?

Those who succeed aren’t necessarily more talented or have more valuable contacts than those who don’t succeed.

But what they do have is a total commitment to their own success.

You may be somewhat committed to your own success right now.

Somewhat committed means you take action now and then to move ahead toward your goals.

And you make a little progress toward those goals from time to time.

But you don’t really have that much invested (in terms of time, money, or effort) towards your goals.

It will be nice if you reach your goals, but you’ll still be okay if you don’t—so you don’t mind losing focus now and then.

Someone who is totally committed to their own success, though, doesn’t look at or think about anything that causes them to lose focus on what they want.

They know they will be successful because they are totally committed to doing whatever they need to do to make it happen.

So consider this.

If you aren’t totally committed to your goal, then it isn’t a goal.

It’s just a wish.

Wouldn’t you rather be totally committed and know you were going to get what you want instead of wishing you were going to get it?

Try it!

For more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge from Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer’s Coach.

Be a children's writerBeing a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 180 page ebook (or paperback) that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN. It’s newly revised and includes information on finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

Writing – Showing vs. Telling

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Oct 08

Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing – The Differences

Tips on writing your storyIt seems the publishing waters are getting murkier and murkier.

I think the most significant difference between ‘real’ traditional publishers and services that are NOT ‘real’ traditional publishers (vanity presses, self-publishers, and others) is the cost. This is aside from ‘quality’ in many cases.

If you are submitting to a ‘real’ traditional publisher, you will NOT PAY A PENNY

What the ‘Real’ Traditional Publishing House Will Do

The publishing house, after they’ve read your manuscript, decided whether it’s marketable and given you a contract, will take your manuscript and request revisions if needed. It will then edit the manuscript and proof it.

You will pay nothing. The publishing house gets its income from the sales of your book. The publishing house wants to sell your book.

You will get a royalty from the sale of each book. And, unless you’re with a major book publisher, you won’t get an advance on royalties.

The royalties are usually somewhere around 10 percent. It may be higher for ebooks. And, you may get the royalty quarterly or less often.

So, while you don’t have to pay a penny, you likely won’t get rich from your books.

It should be noted, since this is a writing for children’s site, that this includes picture books. The publishing house will also cover the expense of having the interior and exterior illustrations created, along with the interior layout.

What Does Self-Publishing Services Do?

Self-publishing services will also do everything you need done to publish your book. BUT, you will pay for each service individually or in a package.

You’ll pay to have the book edited, proofed, formatted, layout, illustrations, and so on and so on and so on.

While you get most of the money from the sales of your books, there’s no guarantee that you’ll recoup the cost of self-publishing.

These services make their money from you, the author. They have NO vested interest in you selling a single book. Again, they’ve made their money.

Note: Picture book illustrations can be expensive and you’ll need at least 16 interior and a cover.

Usual Time Frame of ‘Real’ Publishing Houses

The other thing that’s distinctive about ‘real’ traditional publishers is it can take 16-24 months for your book to get published (available for sale) from the time you sign your contract.

And, keep in mind that it takes that long after you’ve got the contract. Don’t forget to include all the submissions, rejections, and time spent on this phase.

Yes, you have to be patient. But, again, you pay nothing. And, you have the clout of a traditional publisher behind you.

Time Frame for Self-Publishing Services

I think this can be anywhere from a two-weeks to four months, or so. The four+ months would be if children’s illustrations were involved.

It is quick!

Quality of Traditionally Published Books

I’ve self-published and I’ve traditionally published. And, I’ve read many, many, many books in my niche. ‘Real’ traditionally published books are usually of a much higher quality.

This goes from the cover illustration to the interior illustrations, to the editing, to the formatting, and so on.

A big reason for this is the quality control that goes into a book being published with a traditional publisher. The illustrators and editors are professionals and do quality work.

Quality of Self-Publishing Services

While you can have the same services done through self-publishing, you’ll pay for each of the services offered. The down-side is often the writers, editors, and illustrators are less than qualified or professional.

This is just the way it goes. The service needs to keep its costs down.

Which Is Better?

This question is a personal one.

It could be you’ve tried to get a traditional publishing contract, but it just didn’t work out. This may not mean your book isn’t good, it means the publishing industry in overwhelmed with books.

It could be you have the ‘I want it now’ publishing syndrome. The thought of having to wait even a year to get your book published is more than you can bear.

I personally think if you have the time, try traditional publishing first. Even if you’re impatient, give it six month. You just never know.

If you feel self-publishing is the way to go for you, GO for it.

While there are lots of less-than-professional services out there, there are also some good ones. You’ll have to do your homework. Research services. Review some of their books.

No matter what publishing path you take, you want quality published book. You want a marketable and saleable book.

You want a book you’ll be proud to be the author of.

What are your thoughts on traditionally publishing and self-publishing?

Sources:
Traditional Publishing Royalties
Should You Pay to Publish

Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com. Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

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Oct 01

Children’s Writing – Creating your Main Character Part2

Writing great charactersThis is Part2 of an article about creating your protagonist. Well, not just creating him, it’s about creating a powerful and memorable main character (MC). And, it’s based on an article I read at Jerry Jenkins, author of 186 books.

Part one discussed:

– Naming your character
– Making him quickly visible
– Let the reader be able to picture him
– Give him a backstory
– Making him realistic
– Making him heroic

You can check out Part1 HERE.

Now on to tips 7-11 for creating your MC.

7. The reader needs to see inside.

This strategy helps the reader connect to the MC. It helps the reader create a bond. It makes him want to turn the page and root for the character.

A great way to do this, in part and especially with children’s writing, is to let the reader see the MC’s thoughts. I do this with italics.

Here’s an example from “Walking Through Walls”:

I will be rich once I am an Eternal. I will have servants to toil in the land I own. Anything I want I will just get. Who can stop me?

It’s kind of like having the character whisper in the reader’s ear. The reader is privy to what’s going on inside the MC. His hopes, his fears, his anger, his happiness . . . his emotions.

This is powerful.

Another great tool for this is writing in first person.

Take a look at the first chapter, first paragraph of “The Talented Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker:

“I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot. But when my teacher said, ‘Class, we have an exciting project to talk about,’ I listened anyway.”

What a great first paragraph. What kid wouldn’t relate to that.

8. Make your characters a bit like you.

For this strategy, weave your experiences into the development of your MC.

You may not think you have anything in common with your MC. Or, you may think none of your experiences are relevant, but you’d be surprised. Your wants and fears and all the other emotions you have can easily make their way into your character. Even if the character is a different gender than you.

And, this can come in handy when you’re stuck for a reaction or even motions from your character.

In one scene in Walking Through Walls, the MC was drooling over some delicacies he saw but couldn’t have. I had to picture myself in the scene and think of what I’d do.

Would my eyes grow wide? Would my mouth hang open? Would I actually drool?

Other times, you might be stuck on how your character will move or use his hands. Again, you’ve got to step into his shoes. Act out how you’d move in a similar situation.

Would you wave your hands? Would your eyes blink quickly? Would you glare? Would you smile, laugh, or cry? Would you form a fist? Would you throw your hands out wide? Would you shove your hands in your pockets?

Finding these answers and using them in your story will be bits of you woven into your character.

9. The character arc.

The character arc is super important with writing for children.

Your story starts with the child having a problem. He tries and tries to overcome it. As he struggles to get past, over, under, around of through the problem, he grows and changes in some way.

“The Talented Clementine,” is a perfect example of the character arc.

There was a talent show going on and Clementine wanted to be good enough at something to be in it. But, she didn’t believe she had any talents. She tried to get out of it, she tried to find something she was good at. Everything failed. Finally, at the end, her principal needed her help directing the show and Clementine did an amazing job. She found her talent.

10. You’ve got to ‘show’ your story and your characters.

While you want the reader to know all about your MC, you don’t want to tell the reader.

Everything your character does will convey what he’s about. How he acts. How he reacts to situations. How he talks. How he moves. These all show what the character is about. And, adding his thoughts here and there helps too.

Here’s an example from “The Chocolate Touch” by Margot Apple:

“At last he came to a small central ball of cotton batting, and there right in the middle, was a little golden ball. He picked at the ball with his fingernail and peeled away the gold paper. . .”

It could have read: John opened the box and ate the chocolate. Instead, the author shows the reader exactly what John is doing. You can feel the character’s anticipation. This is showing.

11. Research, if needed.

Jenkins says, “Resist the temptation to write about something you haven’t experienced before conducting thorough research. Imagination can take you only so far.”

It’s a sure bet that I did lots and lots of research writing Walking Through Walls. Set in 16th century China, my imagination could take me only so far. And, it’s essential when writing in a specific time period that you get it right. You want the flavor of the time. You want the authenticity.

But, I also do research for lots of my children’s ghostwriting clients. I may be writing a fiction story about a horse or a pig and I want to know what their real characteristics are so I can incorporate them into the stories.

Or, maybe it’s a story about a boy with asthma or a girl learning to swim. Getting the details right matters.

Summing it up.

There are at least 11 elements to writing a great character, a memorable character, the first of which is to give him the right name. Use all the tricks of the trade when writing your characters to ensure their engaging, connectable, and memorable.

Do you have your own strategies to write a great character? I’d love for you to share with us.

Reference:
10 Tips to Developing Your Characters

Articles on writing for children

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Writing Picture Books for Young Children – A Different Writing Style

Children's ghostwriterLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a publishable book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Sep 24

Children’s Writing – Creating Your Main Character Part1

Write Memorable CharactersI read an excellent article by Jerry Jenkins who is an author of more than 186 books and a New York Times bestselling novelist. This is a writer who knows about writing.

The article was about creating memorable heroes.

Every author wants to be able to do this. So, below are the first few tips Jenkins offered (I put my own spin on these tips and made them relevant to children’s writing. And, since it’s a long post, I divided it into two-parts):

1. Name him right.

A name isn’t just a name. Giving your main character (MC) the right name matters.

I’ll use my middle-grade fantasy book, “Walking Through Walls”, as an example.

The story is set in 16th century China.

What names come to mind?

Harry, Shawn, Dale, Justin, Juan, Saheb? I don’t think so.

If you want to keep the flavor of the story true, you’ll need to use appropriate names. The MC in “Walking Through Walls” is Wang.

2. Get him out there.

You’ve got to get your MC out there in front of the audience right away.

You don’t want any confusion as to the MC. You want your reader to make a connection quick. The MC should be the first character introduced in the story.

This is especially true with young children’s books.

3. The reader should be able to picture the main character.

This may not be relevant if you’re writing a children’s picture book or even a chapter book as most of them have illustrations. But, if you’re writing a middle grade, you most likely will need to describe your MC somewhat.

Just give enough information for the reader to be able to imagine what your MC looks like.

Is he tall? Is she fair or dark? Is she thin? Does he have any unusual characteristics?

You want the reader to be able to picture him – to create her own image of him. Whatever information you leave out, the reader will fill in.

4. He’s got to have a backstory.

Okay, this isn’t relevant to picture books as they’re too short for backstory. But, with other stories, the MC needs to be realistic and this means he needs a life.

Using “Walking Through Walls” again, it’s quickly revealed that Wang has a father, mother, and sister. It’s also quickly revealed that he’s a dreamer and doesn’t like to work. And, he wants the fast track to fame and fortune.

This was done within the first couple of pages.

Other aspects of your character that might be conveyed are:

– Is he smart?
– Is he an athlete?
– Does he have lots of friends?
– What are his innate qualities?
– Is he a follower or a leader?
– What are his goals?
– What are his hobbies?
– What makes him happy, mad.
– What he’s afraid of.
– Is he outgoing or shy?
– What’s his family life like?

The list can go on and on. Use the qualities or characteristics that are relevant to your story.

5. Make him realistic.

I wrote an article a few years ago about your character being one, two, or three dimensional.

You need a three-dimensional character.

He needs good qualities, bad qualities, things he’s good at, things he not good at, and so on and so on. You need a character who is life-like.

Along with this, he needs a mutli-faceted personality. What I mean by this is, a boy will act differently with his brother, his friend, a girl he’s sweet on, his teacher, his coach, his mom, his dad, and so on.

Our personalities are able to adapt to the interactions we have. You don’t want a MC who acts the same with all secondary characters and in all situations. He needs to portray realistic feelings and reactions.

6. He’s got to be heroic.

While your MC needs to be human / flawed, he also must learn from his failures . . . from overcoming the obstacles thrown in his way.

I love the way Jennings put this, “While striving to make your main character real and human, be sure to also make him heroic or implant within him at least the potential to be heroic.”

When writing for children, especially young children, the MC must prevail. He needs to overcome his obstacles and end up smarter, stronger, wiser, happier. Whatever the growth is, it’s got to be there.

Going back to Wang, while he’s kind of a slacker, he feels a need to help his friend even though it would mean fighting against warriors. There’s more to the story to make him heroic, but just wanting to help a friend in need is enough.

To read part 2, click the link:
Children’s Writing – Creating your Main Character P2

Reference:
10 Tips to Developing Your Characters

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Sep 17

Secondary Characters – Are They Important?

Writing FictionBefore I get into whether secondary characters are important or not, what is a secondary character?

A secondary character is any character in the story aside from the protagonist (main character) and the antagonist (villain or force in opposition to the protagonist).

Just a side note here, an antagonist doesn’t have to be a character. It can be an internal emotional or mental problem. Or, it can be an external force, such as a category 4 hurricane that the protagonist must prepare for or fight to survive.

It’s important to mention also that there are two categories or ‘subclasses’ of secondary characters:

1. The supporting character.

A supporting character is a substantial part of your story. She or he is part of the protagonist’s life and is usually there throughout the story helping move the story forward.

An example of this is Chen from “Walking Through Walls”. Wang is the protagonist and Chen is his best friend. Wang bounces many of his problems off Chen and Chen advises him. Chen is the voice of reason and calm while Wang ‘wants what he wants’ and is impatient.

This friendship is an essential part of the story. It’s part of what makes Wang choose one course of action over another in the end.

Sometimes supporting characters can have their own subplot. Using “Walking Through Walls” again, Chen was chosen by his village to become an Eternal apprentice. His village was invaded by neighboring warriors and his younger sister was abducted.

Supporting characters can be a catalyst for the direction the story takes.

Chen’s backstory also plays a part in the direction Wang takes in his character arc.

Along with this, supporting characters are essential to a book series.

Think of just about any series on TV (old or new): The Big Bang Theory; Superman; NCIS; Castle; The X-Files; even the MythBusters. You expect to see the supporting cast. You’d be disappointed if you didn’t.

2. The minor character.

A minor character is someone who may make a brief appearance in the story or is there in the background throughout. They give the story more authenticity and dimension. There will most likely be various minor characters throughout a book.

For example, in “Walking Through Walls” Wang and Chen are in an apprenticeship with other students. These students help create a dimensional world for the story. But, while they exist and are mentioned here and there, they aren’t essential to the story.

A great example of a minor character is the taxi driver, Sylvester, from the 1947 movie, “The Bishop’s Wife”. Sylvester was only in a couple of scenes, but he was memorable while adding nothing more than humor to those particular scenes.

Summing it Up

Getting back to the title question of whether supporting characters are important to stories, they are. They are an essential part of every story.

Sources:
http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall10/kane_amanda/character_types.htm
http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/how-to-write-effective-supporting-characters
http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/what-is-a-minor-character-understanding-the-minor-characters-role

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