Apr 30

Children’s Writing and Information Dump

Tips on writing for childrenAs a ghostwriter and editor, occasionally I get clients who give me a draft of a story that has information dump within the first few spreads of a picture book.

This is a no-no.

Information dump is when an author literally dumps a chunk of information for the reader to absorb.

Granted most new writers may not realize they’re hitting the reader with these big chunks of information. Or, the author may want to tell the reader what she thinks the reader should know, but doesn’t know how to weave the information into the story.

I think the problem is the ‘author’ wants to make sure the reader understands what’s going on. For example:

Billy and Joe had been best friends since Kindergarten. They played together every day and even had sleep overs. They were also on the same football team. Then Billy insulted Joe last year. After that, Joe didn’t want to be friends with Billy anymore. Now, it’s a new school year.

While this example isn’t too long, there are some info dumps that are paragraphs long, pages long, or in the case of picture books, spreads long.

Another possible reason for information dumping.

Another possibility is that the ‘author’ is writing the story for himself. He’s writing to see what he wants to see in the book. He’s not thinking about what a seven year old or a 10 year old will want . . . even expect in a book.

Whatever the reason, information dump at the beginning of a story leads to a very boring beginning. And, it delays the initial problem that the protagonist must overcome.

While this has touched on the beginning of a story so far, it’s not a good idea to dump clumps of information elsewhere within the story either.

Why information dumping isn’t a good idea.

Children, even adults, have short attention spans. Being told what went on is boring for the reader. She wants to see or hear what’s going on through action and dialogue. Information or backstory must be weaved into the story here and there.

For example, going back to Billy and Joe. Instead of telling the reader flat out in the beginning of the story why they’re not friends, bring it in through dialogue.

It was the first day of the new school year. Joe walked past Billy in the yard without looking at him or saying a word.

“Okay, enough already. I insulted you last year. Get over it already,” chided Billy.

This lets the reader know what’s happening without knocking him over the head or dumping clumps of information. It brings the reader into the action and conversation. It’s effective writing.

While you may not be able to get every bit of information into the story that you think should be there, it doesn’t matter. Your reader will read between the lines. .

So, think twice before dumping that information on your reader.

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Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

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

Apr 09

4 Writing Tips on Using Descriptions

Tips on writing descriptionsUsing descriptions can be a powerful writing tool. The most important thing to keep in mind is to use your imagination. Close your eyes and picture what your character is doing. Picture what the scene looks like then paint it with words.

Below are four tips to help you get a handle on writing descriptions.

1. You’ve got to engage your readers.

How do you do this? By showing them what’s going on.

Let the reader:

– Smell what the character is smelling.
– Hear what the character is hearing.
– See what the character sees.
– Feel what the character is touching.
– Taste what the character is tasting.

Let the reader feel like she’s there. Use your character’s senses to describe (show) what’s going on.

2. Use descriptions in action scenes.

Using an excerpt from my middle grade fantasy adventure Walking Through Walls, I could have said just said it was hot. But that wouldn’t show how hot it was for the protagonist, Wang.

The sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore. He hurled the bundles on a cart.

I used description to show the action scene. This helps engage the reader.

3. Use description to emphasis the scene.

While you should write tight, sometimes it’s powerful to use description to bring the reader into the scene. In the excerpt below, the protagonist of Walking Through Walls is on a path that could change his life forever:

Deep in thought Wang did not notice the black cat that crossed his path, or the black raven that swooped and almost landed on his head. He did not even notice the silver snake with the purple tail that slithered along beside him on the road. Wang only noticed that each step took him closer to the merchant’s home and the beginning of the road leading to his destiny.

I could have simply used a version of the last sentence to say he didn’t notice anything. But, this wouldn’t allow the reader to know what was going on around him – how absorbed he was in fulfilling his dream. It wouldn’t bring the reader into the scene.

In addition, the description used for that scene is brought up later in the story. So, it’s also helping move the story forward.

4. Don’t use description dumps.

While it’s essential to use descriptions in your writing, you don’t want to overdo it. And, you don’t want to give description dumps.

What this means is avoid going beyond what is needed to engage. Yes, authors did it years ago – they’d elaborate on descriptions for sometimes pages. And, I would think it gave the writer a sense of freedom to be able to describe in full what she was imagining – not having to worry about tight writing. But, it won’t fly today.

Today is about writing ‘lean and mean.’ It’s about thinking carefully about your word choices, your descriptions, and your character’s backstory. If you can say it effectively in two words rather than six, do it in two.

It’s about making sure everything thing in your story is moving the story forward. No sidetracking for a beautiful description. No sidetracking for over elaborating.

Weigh what will work and what is too much. Use balance in writing descriptions in your story.

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WANT TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK?

Being 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 Fiction Writing for Children. This 180 page ebook  gives you all the basics of writing fiction for children, finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

Writing Children's Fiction

Jan 22

Balance in Fiction Writing – The Major Elements

Writing elements needed for balanced writingThere are five major elements to a fiction story and it’s the combination of these elements that make the story complete, interesting, and considered good writing.  Too much of one or not enough of another can affect the readers ability to connect with the story. So, what are the major elements of a story?

The Major Elements of a Story

1.    Protagonist
2.    Setting
3.    Plot
4.    Point of view
5.    Theme

Let’s break them down:

The Protagonist: Introduce the main character. Using your imagination you can make him unique. He can have particular mannerisms or quirks, or even distinct physical attributes. You can also make him likeable or unsavory, but remember you will need the reader to be able to create a connection to him. It’s this connection that will prompt the reader to continue reading on. Your protagonist needs to be real…believable.

The Setting: This will establish the time and place the story takes place. The setting can create a feeling and mood – if you’re writing about swashbuckling pirates, your reader will be in a certain mind set. The same holds true for any other setting you choose. It will be intrinsic to the plot/conflict and will help establish vivid imagery for the reader.

The Plot: This is the meat of the story – the forward movement, the conflict or struggle that drives the protagonist toward his goal. This involves any danger, suspense, romance, or other reader grabbing occurrence. The conflict can be emotional (an internal struggle – a tormented soul) or physical (from an external/outside force – good against evil).

Point of View: This establishes whose point of view the story is being told. It’s important to make this clear. Even if you have two main characters, there needs to be one who is primary in order to keep clarity within the story.

The Theme: This establishes what is important to the story. It usually evolves along with the story and the protagonist’s progression. If Jesus is your protagonist, establishing and promoting Christianity might be the theme. It might be the story’s view on life and the people/characters the protagonist encounters. It is the idea the author wants the reader to take away with him/her.

Utilizing each of these elements can create a unique, fascinating, and memorable story.

Just like the ingredients in a cooking recipe, writing has its own set of ingredients that produce a wonderful end product. A pinch here, a dab there – you hold the unique recipe to your story.

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Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

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

Nov 13

How to Write a Story

Writing a storyToday I have a guest post by a successful writer and writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance. She talks about what it takes to ‘write a story.’

How to Write a Story
By Suzanne Lieurance

Do you long to write stories but just can’t seem to get started?

That’s probably because you don’t understand the elements needed for any good story. Learn these elements and the writing process will be much easier.

Every good story needs:

1. An interesting main character with a problem to solve. Your main character needs to want something and want it so much he is willing to overcome all sorts of obstacles to get it. This character is your protagonist; the person readers will root for as he faces conflicts and complications.

2. An interesting setting. A good story needs to be set in a definite time and place and readers need to feel they are right there in this time and place with your characters. Use a variety of vivid sensory details to transport your readers to the time and place you’ve chosen as the setting for your story. But weave these details into the action as much as possible.

3. Conflict. Something or someone who gets in the way of the main character in his quest to get what he wants. The main character who creates this conflict is your antagonist. Keep in mind that this person shouldn’t be ALL bad. He should be flawed, of course, but if he’s all bad he won’t seem like a real person, he’ll be more like a caricature.

4. A series of complications. Things should keep getting worse and worse for the main character in his quest to get what he wants. These complications will create the dramatic tension and rising action for your story so readers will want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

5. A culminating event that creates change. Something dramatic needs to occur that will change everything for your main chararacter. This event is the climax of your story or the solution. Your main character will either finally get what he is after or he will understand why it is not possible to get what he wants and he will have to make some sort of peace with that. Either way, your main character will no longer be the same person he was at the beginning of the story. He will have changed or grown somehow as a result of the conflicts and complications he faced. This change (or changes) will lead to a natural resolution as the ending for your tale.

Now, before you get started writing your own story, take some time to examine a few simple stories more closely for each of these elements. Fairy tales are good stories to use for this purpose.

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.

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Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

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

Oct 02

Fiction Writing – 5 Top No-Nos

Fiction writing mistakes to avoid.Fiction writers who are good at what they do, enjoy what they do. They like creating something from nothing . . . well from an idea. They enjoy the craft and the process.

But, with that said, there are 4 top mistakes these writers make.

1. You make the beginning of your story all roses.

While we’d all love to live in a peaceful, happy land, readers need something to sink their teeth into, especially at the beginning of the story.

The beginning of your story is the hook. It’s where you GRAB the reader and make her have to turn the page and want to know what’s going to happen to the protagonist.

Here are a couple of examples of ‘hooking’ beginnings:

“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 away.”
“The Talented Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker.

“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
“Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo

These two examples of children’s writing give you a good idea of what it takes to ‘hook’ the reader.

2. The dialog is weak, fluffy.

Having weak dialog can kill your story. You need your characters to have passion . . . to have life.

You want dialog that is strong and tight. You want the emotion (the conflict, the tension, the passion) to come through the words. And, you want to say it in as few words and as realistically as possible.

You want the reader to feel what the character is feeling at that moment.

If Bob is angry in the story, show it through his dialog:

“WHAT! Who said you could take that?!”
“Hey! What are you doing?!”
“No! You can’t. Now get lost.”
“Get your hands off of me!”

The tight, strong dialog goes for exchanges also:

“Hey! What are you doing?!” Bob yelled.

Gia spun around. “Oh, ugh, nothing.” Her eyes darted to the door then back to Bob.

3. The story is predictable.

You’ve got to have some surprises in the story. If you don’t, it will make for a rather dull, predictable story.

For this aspect of your story, think questions.

– Why is the character in that situation?
– How did he get there?
– What must she be feeling, seeing?
– How can see get out of it?
– What might happen next?

Try to come up with four or five options as to what might happen next.

In an article at Writer’s Digest, the author advises to “Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.” (1)

Let your imagination run wild.

4. Your characters are one-dimensional.

For readers to become engaged in a story, they have to develop a connection with the protagonist and other characters. In order for this to happen, the characters must be multi-dimensional.

Characters need to be believable and unique. You don’t want them to be predictable or a stereotype.

According to “Breathing Life into Your Characters” by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D., “The essential components for creating successful characters with emotional and psychological depth—feelings, passion, desires, psychology, and vision—reside within [the writer].”

So, think about it. What conditions or characteristics does your character have?

– Does he have a personality disorder?
– Does he have phobias?
– Is she dysfunctional?
– Is she a troublemaker or bully?
– Is he anxious?
– Does she have an eating disorder?
– Is she fearful?
– Is she a risk taker, fearless?

And, keep in mind that the more stressful an ‘inciting incident’ or event, the more reaction and/or adjustment there will be.

For example: If a child lost a pet, it wouldn’t be as severe as losing a parent.
If a woman became separated from her husband, it wouldn’t be as severe as having her husband suddenly die.

So, using your experiences and innate characteristics, along with research, you can create multi-faceted characters.

5. You dump information into the story.

This is more of a mistake that new writers may make. I had a client who created the entire first paragraph of her middle-grade story with ‘information dump.’

She had the protagonist talking to a stuffed animal, in a pretend interview. She gave backstory and other details she wanted to convey to the reader through the interview. She didn’t realize that this information needed to be layered or weaved into the story, not dumped in one big truck load.

You might also use a prologue to give backstory.

While there are other things to watch for in fiction writing, these are five of the top no-nos.

Reference:
(1) 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes and Fixes

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Jul 31

Writing – Trimming The Fat

Writing tips on writing tightGuest Post by Penny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz)

If you check market resources both for printed and on-line publications [picture books], you’ll find a number whose word limit is below 1,000 words. How do you trim the fat from your manuscript to fit within the tight confines of those word limits?

First, check your manuscript for “weak” modifiers. These are the words which writers hoping to strengthen another word. The two most commonly used words are “very” and “really.” Removing these words from your sentences will give them more impact.

Other weak, modifying words to watch for are: some, just, so, such, even, certainly, definitely, exactly, and that (when overused).

Second, check your manuscript for “wishy-washy” words. You’ll recognize them by their lack of clear definition. Words which fall into this category are: somewhat, sort of, rather, a little, perhaps, seem, and words with “ish” on the end, such as “shortish,” “tallish,” and “brownish.”

In an effort to create realistic dialogue, some writers insert “well” and “oh” into their sentences. Be sure to eliminate these from your manuscript. If a writer were to capture true dialogue, there would be pages and pages of “um,” “uh,” “well,” and “er.” Fortunately, as writers, that’s not our job. We need to create an illusion of reality, not play back word-for-word a “real” conversation. An occasional spattering of the interjections “oh,” “well,” and “um,” is sufficient.

Although adjectives and adverbs have a clear place in our writing, there isn’t an adjective or adverb that can strengthen a weak noun or verb. If you’re looking for variety in your writing, use a thesaurus instead. Go through your manuscript and highlight where you’ve used these modifiers to fatten up and strengthen ineffective words. Go back to the highlighted areas and replace those weak words with strong, descriptive nouns and verbs.

It’s not easy to trim the fat whether eliminating those yummy chocolate truffles from our diets or cutting out the weak modifiers, “wishy-washy” words, extra “wells,” “ums,” “ers,” and “ohs” from our dialogues, and replacing adjectives and adverbs with strong nouns and verbs. But if we want our human body or our body of work to be fit and desirable, we must trim the fat to achieve tight, firm writing or a lean physique.

While working on my latest release Ghostly Visions, I had a lot of help from my editors in trimming back the “fat.” This middle grade novel is comprised of two books published as one: Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch.

Children's middle grade book

In Ghost for Rent, Wendy Wiles attracts ghosts when her parents separate and she, her brother, and mother move into a haunted house. The story begins in Portland, Oregon and quickly moves to small town, Scappoose, Oregon. Miserable at leaving her friends and beloved Portland behind, Wendy meets her neighbor Jennifer who tells her the house Wendy’s mom rented is haunted. After two of them appear to Wendy, the girls find themselves tracking down the mystery of who the ghosts are and why they “live” in the Wiles’ home.

In Ghost for Lunch, Wendy’s friend, Jennifer, moves away, leaving Wendy sad until new neighbors and their restaurant in St. Helens bring ghosts back into Wendy’s life. She, her brother, and their new friend discover the two cases are connected. Once again, the young sleuths use clues and lots of brainstorming to figure out who is haunting the restaurant.

While on the surface, these two stories appear to be about ghosts and the mystery of solving them, they are also about the importance of family and friends and working together to solve a problem.

Ghostly Visions is available direct from the publisher 4RV Publishing LLC for $15.99 including shipping and handling. It can also be ordered from your local bookstore with the following ISBN numbers: ISBN-10: 0982642326, ISBN-13: 978-0982642320, or through Amazon.

About the Author

Author of Ghostly VisionsPenny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz) has published over 100 articles, 75 stories, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications, and non fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications. She is a former editor for MuseItUp Publishing, 4RV Publishing, and Damnation Books. Visit her web site at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com and her writing blog at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/.

4RV Publishing has joined her two middle grade novels (Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch) as Ghostly Visions. She recently released Boo’s Bad Day with 4RV Publishing and has one other children’s picture book under contract with them: Many Colored Coats. She has three romances published by MuseItUp Publishing: Love Delivery, Lady in Waiting, and Mirror, Mirror. Her short story collection, A Past and A Future, is available through Alban Lake Publishing and Smashwords.

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May 29

Want to Self-Publish a Rhyming Children’s Book? Read This First

Children's writing and rhyming.As a ghostwriter I deal with lots of new ‘authors.’ One scenario I come across now and then is when someone sends me a story with rhyme in it.

When this happens, it’s never done right and it’s my job to guide these authors to the path of ‘doing it right.’

A recent manuscript I received had rhyming here and there throughout the story. And, some of the rhyming words were forced. What this means is to make two words rhyme, the sentence is put together awkwardly (unnaturally) or one of the rhyming words is used unnaturally just to make it rhyme.

Two examples of awkward rhyme:

Whenever I go to the park,
I run around and sing like a lark.

The forced rhyme below is from The Turtles’ “Happy Together” (1967):
“So happy together. And how is the weather?”

Notice the unnatural way these sentences sound.  They don’t make sense. It’s easy to see that they’re put together simply to rhyme the last two words. This causes the reader to pause. Pausing is never a good thing, especially in children’s books.

One of the important things that happens when a story’s rhyme is off is it causes the reader to pause. It can even cause confusion. When a child gets the rhyme hook, she will be anticipating that rhythm and pattern throughout the story. At the first spot when it’s not there, you’ve caused a PAUSE. And, if you’ve got rhyme awkwardly here and there, you’ve lost the focus of the story. You’ve lost the message you were trying to convey.

You never-ever want to cause a pause or confusion in a story, especially a children’s story.

But, if you REALLY want to rhyme.

Below is a slightly more natural way to do this:

“Now it’s time to close your eyes my dear. (8 syllables)
Beside you lies your favorite bear.” (8 syllables if you if you say favorite as fav-rite)
(From “Day’s End Lullaby.”)

Keep in mind that even this verse has its problems. For one thing, ‘favorite’ is used with two syllables in that verse: fav rit. Technically, ‘favorite’ has three syllables: fav or ite.

So, you can see that while getting two words to rhyme isn’t that difficult, there’s lots more involved in rhyming ‘right.’

The bare-bottom elements of children’s rhyme:

•    Each sentence needs to be relevant to the story and move the story forward.
•    There needs to be a continuing rhythm or beat to the sentences. This has to do with the stressed and unstressed syllables of each word used.
•    There needs to be a pattern throughout the story.
•    It should be written without forcing words – without using unnatural sounding sentences or unnatural meanings.
•    And, it should all be wrapped up in a great story.

Bottom line.

Taking all this into account, if you’re thinking of writing a rhyming children’s book, read lots and lots of traditionally published rhyming books. And, read those from the major publishers. Analyze how they’re written. Break them down.

You might even take an offline or online course on rhyming for children.

You can also check out Dori Chaconas’ website. She has an example of a syllable template you can use. Find it at: Icing the Cake (it’s at the bottom of the page).

Rhyming can be fun and kids LOVE it, but please take care to do it right.

Sources:
http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/pop-shop/6214232/20-most-forced-rhymes-music-ariana-grande-break-free
http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-rhyme.html

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Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

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.

Feb 07

Writing Fiction for Children – 4 Simple Tips

Children's writing tipsWriting fiction for children has a number of rules and tricks, the very basics of which are creating believable characters and adding conflict. But, there are many other elements that go into creating an effective and engaging story. Below are four simple tips to help you navigate the children’s writing waters.

1. Show the way to success

While description and a bit of telling have their place, today’s publishers want you to show the story. The technique for ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ is to use your character’s five senses, along with dialogue.

The days of, “See Dick and Jane walk down the lane,” are far gone.
Showing allows the reader to connect with the protagonist. The reader is able to feel the protagonist’s pain, joy, fear, or excitement. This creates a connection and prompts the reader to continue reading.
If you’re stuck, and can’t seem to be able to ‘show’ a particular scene, try acting it out. You can also draw on your own experiences, TV, or the movies. Study scenes that convey the ‘showing’ you need to depict.

2. Create synergy

Joining the story together in a seamless fashion is probably the trickiest part of writing fiction. The characters, conflict, plot, theme, setting and other details all need to blend together to create something grander than their individual parts; like the ingredients of a cake. This is called synergy.

It doesn’t matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, all the elements need to weave together smoothly to create the desired affect you are going for: humor, mystery, action, fantasy, or other.

If you have an action packed plot driven story, but it lacks believable and sympathetic characters, you’re story will be lacking. The same holds true if you have a believable and sympathetic character, but the story lacks movement, it will usually also fall short.

All this must be done in an engaging manner, along with easy to understand content.

3. Keep it lean

According to multi-published children’s writer Margot Finke, today’s children’s publishing world is looking for tight writing. Choose your words for their ability to convey strong and distinct actions, create imagery, and move the story forward.

The publishing costs for picture books over 32 pages is beyond what most publishers are willing to spend, so word counts should be well under 1000, and be sure to make each word count. Keep in mind that the illustrations will add another layer to the story and fill in the blanks.

When writing fiction for young children, the younger the children, the leaner the writing. This means if you’re writing for toddlers or preschoolers, you should limit your word count to a range of 100 to 250 words.

4. Be part of a critique group

This is a must for all writers, but especially for children’s writers. There are so many additional tricks of the trade that you need to be aware of when writing for children, you’ll need the extra sets of eyes.

Your critique partners will no doubt be able to see what you missed. This is because you are too close to your own work. They will also be helpful in providing suggestions and guidance. Just be sure your critique group has experienced, as well as new writers.

Belonging to a ‘writing fiction for children’ critique group will also help you hone your craft.

Use these four tips to help create a ‘synergized’ story.

What strategies do you use to take your story up a notch?

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Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Jan 31

Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

Writing for ChildrenWriting in general is a tough craft, although many may not think so. The writer has to take individual words and craft them together to create: interest, suspense, romance, humor, grief, fantasy, other worlds . . . the list goes on and on. And, it must be done with clarity.

While there is an abundance of information about writing and writing for children, it can easily become overwhelming, and even confusing. But, getting down to the nitty-gritty, there are two basic elements or rules to writing fiction for children you need to be aware of: creating believable characters and having conflict.

Writing Fiction for Children – Your Characters Need Believability

1. Your Characters Need Believability

Your characters, especially your protagonist, need to create a bond or connection with the reader. In order to create that connection you will need to care about your characters. If you don’t, you’ll never get a reader to care. Make your characters believable and interesting.

In addition to this, you need to know your characters and remember their traits, physical characteristics, temperament, and so on. I’m sure there are instances, if you’re writing by the seat-of-your-pants rather than from an outline, where your character may do something you didn’t plan, but usually it’s a good idea to know what makes him tick.

Even the choices your protagonist makes will help define him, and create a deeper bond with the reader. Does he take the high road to reach his goals, or does he sneak in under the wire? Does he create options to choose from, or is he sweep along by the current of the story, grabbing at lifelines for survival? Are his choices a struggle?

You can keep track of your characters’ quirky telltale marks, expressions, behavior patterns, and physical features by noting them on a page as they become unveiled.

2. Conflict is a must

A story’s conflict is like a detour or obstacle in the road from point A to point B. The protagonist must figure out a way over, around, under, or through it.

Conflict will drive your story forward and give the reader a reason to stay involved. Conflict is basically an obstacle between your protagonist and what she wants or needs. It may be a crisis, a desire, a relationship, a move, or other. It can be caused by internal or external factors. Does overcoming one obstacle/conflict lead to another? Does she have help, or are others thwarting her efforts?

Along with this, there should be more than one conflict. For children’s writing, there may be two or three conflicts; as one is overcome another takes its place. A good rule is to think in threes: three characters, three problems, and three solutions.

This is only the beginning and most basic of the tips that new writers of children’s fiction should be aware of. There are many more that I’ll touch on in other articles.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Rewriting a Folktale – Walking Through Walls
The Outline Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)
Submitting Manuscript Queries – Be Specific and Professional

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line)

Jan 25

Rewriting a Folktale – Walking Through Walls

Middle-grade fantasy adventure storyWhen a writer’s muse seems to be on vacation, she may be at a loss for story ideas. While there are a number of sites and tools online to help get the creative juices flowing, one tool that writers might overlook is studying folktales.

Reading folktales is a great way to spin a new yarn, especially for children’s writing. I recently did a review of a children’s picture book published by Sylvan Dell that was based on an American Indian folktale. This shows they are publishable.

Folktales, also known as tall tales, and folklore, are stories specific to a country or region. They are usually short stories dealing with everyday life that come from oral tradition that is passed from generation to generation. Most often these tales involve animals, heavenly objects, and other non-human entities that possess human characteristics.

There is Mexican folklore, Irish folklore, Chinese folklore, as well as folklore from many other countries that have tales unique to their area. There is also American folklore that encompasses stories from each of the 50 states. There is a huge supply of stories to spin and weave.

In addition to reviewing a couple of published children’s books that were based on folktales, I wrote a children’s fantasy story based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Interestingly, prior to receiving an outline of the tale from a Chinese nonfiction writer I knew from one of my writing groups, I never thought of rewriting folktales. But, once given the outline, I loved the story and the message it presented. The outline itself was very rough and written with an adult as the main character (MC), which is often the case with very old folktales.

After reading the story I knew the MC would need to become a child. I think every children’s writer is aware that children want to read about children, not adults. And, the MC needs to be a couple of years older than the target audience the author is writing for.

Based on this, I decided to make my MC a 12-year-old boy. And, since I liked the ancient Chinese flavor of the story, I kept it and made the story take place in the 16th century China. After this was set, I needed to come up with a title and the MC’s name.

When choosing a title for your book, it’s important to keep it in line with the story and make it something that will be marketable to the age group you’re targeting. I chose Walking Through Walls, and it is scheduled to be available March 2011(published through 4RV Publishing).

As far as the character’s name, you will need to base it on the time period and geographic location of the story, unless the character is out of his element. Since my story was to take place in China, I used a Chinese name, Wang.

To keep the flavor of your story consistent, you will also need to give it a feeling of authenticity. This will involve some research. How did the people dress during the time of your story? What names were used? What did they eat? What type of work or schooling was available? What locations might you mention? What type of crops and vegetation would be present? What types of homes did they live in? There are many aspects of the story that you will want to make as authentic as possible. And, it does matter, even in fiction stories; it will add richness to your story.

The next time you’re in the library, ask the librarian to show you a few folktales. Then imagine how you might rewrite one or more of them for today’s children’s book market.

Walking Through Walls was honored with a Children’s Literary Classics 2012 Silver Award! Get your copy today at Amazon.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components
Learn to Write for Children – 3 Basic Tools
Children’s Writing and Publishing Jargon – 11 of the Basics

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