Friday, August 14, 2020

Create Believable Characters and Conflict In Your Children's Story


Writing 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 and engagment.

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.

Characters Need to be Believable
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 character sheet as these traits become unveiled.

You can also create a character interview for each character. The answers to the questions will help unveil each character’s personality, traits, history, family, and so on.

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 her 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. In writing fiction for children, 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 we touch on at Writers on the Move.




Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at:
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Check out Karen's newly revised How to Write a Children's Fiction Book.



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4 comments:

Terry Whalin said...

Karen,

Thank you for this post and insights about writing for children. Many writers wrongly believe that writing for children is simple and easy--and anyone can do it. These are total myths. I know firsthand children's books are demanding of skill and require a lot of work--especially if they are going to get published--and do more than writing it for themselves.

Terry

deborah lyn said...

Karen thanks for this post: believable characters and the protagonist who must figure out a way over, around, under, or through obstacles in his/her way!
So glad I got your book!

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, it seems a lot of new authors don't realize this. Self-publishing makes it so easy to publish a book that they don't have gatekeepers to let them know children's writing is a skill.

Karen Cioffi said...

Deborah, glad the post was helpful. With all the information online, I still get clients who don't realize that the parent characters can't be in control of the story. And so glad you liked my book, How to Write a Children's Fiction Book!

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