January 7, 2013

Creating Believable Characters



Today, Cheryl Carpinello guest blogs about knowing your reader for believable characters:  


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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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, and 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.

Cheryl Carpinello
author/speaker
http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com                                                                


The King's Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table), 2012 CLC Silver Award for YA Fiction, 2012 USA Best Book Awards Finalist for E-Book Children's Fiction





Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, 2011 Global E-book Finalist

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11 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting me, Randi. I love getting to know about new sites devoted to children's literature.

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    1. I enjoyed your guest blog and hope you'll contribute again!

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    2. I would love to, Randi.

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  2. A wonderful post packed with great advice, Cheryl. Thanks for putting this info together. Good luck with your blog hop!

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    1. Thank you, Pat. Glad you stopped by!

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  3. Thanks for sharing Cheryl and for hosting her Randi.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Virginia.

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  4. I will have to check out Bloom’s Taxonomy. I will also need to find more high school level books for more kissing stories. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Shelly. You should be able to just google Bloom's Taxonomy.

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  5. I could not agree more with what Cheryl is saying. You absolutely have to target a particular demographic and learn everything you can so that you can really connect with your intended audience. We are finding this to be so critical on our website where I review books with my 6 year-old son and my 9 year-old daughter. When my kids don't like a book, 80% of the time it's because they could not identify with the main character. They just couldn't place themselves in their shoes and consequently were not interested in the story. How the characters are developed is so critical and really thinking through who your target audience is seems critical. Great advice Cheryl! :)

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    1. Thanks, Renee. One of the advantages of teaching school!

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