Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Writers: Fine Tune your Characters' Friendships

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small.
We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O'Keeffe
Friendship, I think it's safe to say, is an issue in most if not all children's books. Now that my MG mystery is finished and in the hands of editors, I realize a subconscious exploration of friendship had been going on during the writing, some good, some bad.
Friendships are important - if not crucial - for our well-being.

An Aha Moment

The book was done. Fini. Caput. Honest. Time away, in its wisdom, has continued to fine-tune unexpected areas that felt complete only days ago. The questions began to rise like the broth in vegetable soup: Did I cover enough ground in my portrayals of my characters' interactions? Can I make their growing friendships more meaningful?
There are four major friendships-in-the-making:
mc + sidekick
mc + grandpa
mc + dog
mc + cat and her kittens
The antagonist isn't having it:

antag - bullies mc
antag - is jealous of mc
antag - is mean and cruel - a bully
antag - her egotism blocks any hope of friendship unless she changes
The antagonist's problem? The eleven-year-old mc and her sidekick compliment each other. Friendship blooms. She doesn't know how to be friends.
Nothing can replace the value of a close friendship.

Example of a friendship-in-the-making:

Sidekick:                                                                     mc:

not in tune with subtleties of others                           empathetic to the extreme

athletic                                                                        not athletic at first

cautious, not wanting to get in trouble                       is willing to take chances, curious,                                                                                         adventuresome

entrenched in her immediate surroundings                 thinks outside of the box

outdoors type                                                              artistic, prone to indoor activities

By the end of the book, the characters learn from each other and share their qualities. The master plan is to expand this book into a series. The characters will grow. Their friendships will deepen. That's the goal.

Develop Positive Traits of Friendship

As I wade through this partial list of how my characters can become better at being friends, think of the portrayal of your characters' friendships. Do they need fine tuning?

Making and retaining friendships isn't easy.

Choose your friends wisely.

Believe in yourself.

Be introduced.

Be loyal.

Be positive.

Be reliable.

Be respectful.

Be trustworthy.

Be careful not to be hurtful.

Be a good listener.

Be truthful.

Be confident but not egotistical.

Have fun.

Have the shoulder a friend can cry on.

Keep in touch.

Make eye contact and smile.

Remember birthdays and special occasions.

Show interest.

For more information, check out the entire articles that contributed to this article:
Photo: By Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 7-11 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it and moving on to new writing projects. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Writers Helping Writers: On the Value of Literary Friendships

As the Editor-in-Chief for the website The Compulsive Reader, I get about a hundred review requests a week.  Of these, maybe one will be accepted.  Not because ninety nine of those aren’t good books, but because we simply don’t have the people power to read and review everything out there.  And there is so much out there.  How do we filter?

For me, I try to filter on quality.  If a book strikes me as being, in some way, extraordinary, I’ll try to take it on, even if I’m already overloaded (and I am; I am).  All writers are my ‘fellow writers’.  We are all plying our trade, and most of us doing it in conjunction with a day job, families, and a ton of other commitments.

 I want to help everyone.  But I can’t.  Every now and then, someone I “bump into” online will strike a personal chord with me.  We’ll ‘bond’ in a virtual sense, and keep up the conversation, continuing to support each other’s work, and communicate our triumphs and losses.  I think you could call it friendship, though perhaps not quite in the conventional sense.

When the time comes when one of my friends needs a review, back cover quote, some advice, or help with promotion, I’ll be there.  Why?  Isn’t this a kind of literary favouritism?  Does it really help?  I believe it does.  Here’s why:
  •  A healthy concern for those who have similar talents, ethics or who are members of our family/social circle is part of what it means to be a human.  We can’t help everyone.  But we can, and should, help those that we care about.  It’s the bedrock of our social existence. Some might call it nepotism, especially if family is involved (and I have a rather artistic family – we all support one another), but I agree with author Adam Bellow (In Praise of Nepotism, Doubleday, 2003) that nepotism, when combined with meritocratic principles, can be a positive force.  
  • According to Bowker, over one million (1,052,803) books were published in the U.S. in 2009.  Of these books, a large number of titles won’t sell more than 100 copies.  There are many more books on the market than book buyers.  Most book buyers will purchase books based on familiar names.  Emerging authors need all the help they can get to simply get their titles noticed amongst the hype and names that dwarf them, but few of us can afford the publicity powerhouse that big names get as part of their publishing packages.  Supporting one another is one way to help redress the already negatively skewed balance.

  • As professional writers, we treat what we review professionally, regardless of whether it was written by someone we know or a stranger.  So when I review a book by a friend, I review it in the same objective (as objective as any book review can be – we always bring in our tastes, biases, and perspectives) way that I would review any book.  I don’t always give my friends glowing reviews.  It isn’t easy, but I have occasionally had to refuse a review, or have had to publish a review which is negative.  That happens.  Friendship doesn’t mean I compromise my integrity, otherwise my review or support would have no value.  What it does mean is that I’m willing to give your book some priority in my crowded stack. 
  • Writing can be a solitary occupation, but promoting a book isn’t.  Being in a position to help someone whose work is superb is inherently gratifying.  We are all disciples at the altar of the well written word, and promoting excellence wherever you find it is a privilege.  That said, the production of my first novel, Sleep Before Evening, found me in a position where lots of people were needed to help me get the word out.  I got a tremendous amount of support, and in this dog-eat-dog world where money and celebrity often rules over quality, that support helped me as much emotionally as it did in terms of my book’s success. 
Writing novels is a mug’s game, at least in the beginning.  It can be immensely gratifying, but it is also painful, hard work. Helping one another is also part of the game. Without the support and community of like-minded authors, there’s simply no way to get one’s foot in that tiny crack of the promotional door.  The more we help others, the more we help ourselves.  Social networking is the hottest buzz around for writers, and the kinds of networks we develop, with people whose work we admire, helps define who we are.  

So why not offer your writerly support to someone today.  Offer to do a review, host their guest blog, go out and buy the book of someone whose writing you admire, or just mention their work in your blog.  It’s the kind of good deed
that will come back to you.  

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader.She isthe author of the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future.She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at

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