Writing Tips from Author Chris Eboch

"If it's a good book, anyone will read it. I'm totally
unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood."
                                                     J.K. Rowling
Chris Eboch, author of over 60 books for children and author of novels of suspense and romance for adults, as Kris Bock, presented a workshop recently, "You Can Write for Children: Share your Stories with Young People." Chris’s books for children include, The Well of Sacrifice, Jesse Owens: Young Record Breaker (Childhood of Famous Americans), and The Eyes of Pharaoh. She is also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

Our New Mexico Regional chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, is fortunate that Chris stays active, currently leading monthly ShopTalk informational meetings, and shares her expertise in many other ways. Treat yourself for a look at www.chriseboch.com and Chris’s Amazon page.

Chris geared the workshop to people in our community who have thought about writing for children and would like to learn how to go about it. And though I’ve published articles for children, a handful of short stories, and have middle grade stories and novels in various stages of completion, I bought her book, You Can Write for Children; her book coupled with the workshop provided me with invaluable nuggets to help me in my work.

Want to Write for Children? Begin at the Beginning . . .

  • Think up a Catchy Title: The Genie’s Gift, Chris Eboch
  • The Dead Man’s Treasure, Kris Bock
  • Whispers in the Dark, Kris Bock

Make the Beginning Dramatic
  • Introduce the main character, MC, with a problem and a goal which your character wishes to achieve.
  • Grab your reader’s attention with action, dialogue, or a hint of drama to come.
  • Set the scene
  • Indicate the genre and tone (in fiction)
  • Each scene needs to have a goal; MC works toward achieving that goal.
  • Start in the middle of something happening.
  • Establish the time and place; hint of the “world” in your story early on.
  • Immediately establish the type of story: humorous, mystery, adventure . . .
  • The beginning reflects what the story is about.
Move Story Forward with a Solid Middle
  • The plot involves the MC working to solve the problem/reach the goal.
  • Builds to a climax—a do or die situation.
  • MC must change due to what he or she has learned; something they didn’t expect.
  • Theme becomes apparent, though it is not stated. As MC learns the lesson of the story, change comes from this. Trust your readers to discover the theme: example can be that your novel helped your reader to never give up.
Wrap up the Story with a Satisfying Ending
  • The ending can circle back to the beginning, not that it necessarily has to. 
Chris’s Tips that I’ve Found Most Helpful

  • GMC each chapter:
  •  Goal: What does your MC want or need?
  • Motivation: Why is it important?
  • Conflict: Why is it difficult?

Stories that begin with PLOT:

  • Come up with a challenge; a difficult situation for someone.
  • What kind of person would have the most trouble in that situation?
  • The problem must be difficult, as in The Genie’s Gift: A shy girl, not adventurous; has never left the family circle; wants to be strong; needs to learn how to deal with people; in the end, she doesn’t need the Genie’s gift, she found what she needed from her own journey.          

  Stories that begin with CHARACTER:

  • Write a brief character sketch: what your character likes, dislikes, fears, what                               would challenge them the most.
  • Chris’s brother has a fear of heights, but he went on a difficult hike.
  • Chris has a fear of suffocating because she has asthma.
  • Indiana Jones hates snakes, yet gets dumped into an underground chamber                                  filled with snakes.
  • What are you afraid of? Me? Speaking in front of people. Playing the piano in front of people.  What are the sensory details that happen to you physically when faced with                                your fears?

Write this on a Card and Prop it on your Desk
Chris's book, You Can Write for Children, offers a thorough explanation of her approach, much more than she could squeeze into a workshop. I highly recommend it. Here's an example:
  • In Chapter 11 on Dialogue and Thoughts, Chris mentions a suggested pattern, from Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon: stimulus (thing happens)--reaction/emotion (physical reaction)--thoughts (thought reaction)--action (what MC does next). This simple pattern has helped me flesh out areas that I found missing in my manuscripts.
While writing one of Chris’s HAUNTED series, The Ghost on the Stairs, The Riverboat Phantom, The Knight in the Shadows, and The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, Chris came up with the question: Why should MC help the ghost? What’s the penalty if she doesn’t help him? The MC’s sister had died. If she were to meet her ghost, she would want to help her. That gave her the desire to help the ghost in the story. And for Chris, while writing the book, that revelation made all the difference.

My experience is as an elementary teacher, and like so many of us, I fell in love with children’s literature while teaching. I’ve taken courses on writing for children and learned most of what I know from those courses. I found Chris’s approach on helping up-and-coming authors understand how to write for children refreshing and down-to-earth, and very helpful. She is a delight to know, and look out. She will make you fall in love with the spectacular sunsets, azure skies and diversity of people in New Mexico. To quote part of her bio on Amazon: “Her BFA in photography is used mainly to show Facebook friends how lovely the Southwest is.”
Image courtesty of: www.clipart-library.com

One of my writing buddies
loves to hear stories

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.


Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, great tips on writing for children. Attending all those workshops is sure to boost your writing skills. And even better, you share what you learn with us!

Linda Wilson said...

Thanks, Karen. I constantly thank my lucky stars that I can be associated with such a terrific SCBWI chapter.

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