Monday, April 16, 2012

Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

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.

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

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 they 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.

Writing Fiction for Children - 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 I’ll touch on in other articles.



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How to Write Tight: Self-Editing Tips to Make Your Manuscript Ready for Publication
6 Tips to Make the Most out of Writing Workshops Part 1
Use Characteristics to Create a Believable Protagonist

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Karen Cioffi
Author-Writer Online Platform Instructor
Helping Authors Increase Visibility, Authority, and Sales



Martha Ramirez said...

Great tips, Karen!

elysabeth said...

My karma must be flying right or the planets are totally aligned. Twice today something has come to my attention that have been tied in to something else.

I do a virtual class visit with a 6th grade group of students in Utah pretty much every day (they have half days on Fridays so we don't meet then) and the techer is using the book "Writing Whizardry" for the mini lessions and today's lesson was "Get Real". Although this lesson is geared towards dialogue and making your characters' personality come out in the way they speak, this kind of goes along with the writing lesson. I forwarded the email to the teacher. We definitely have to keep all our characters separate, giving them each their own personality so as to make them believable and in so doing, we need to make sure their dialogue matches their personality. We need to "Get Real" with our characters. Thanks for posting this.

(The other one didn't have anything to do with writing but hopefully some good results come from it.) - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Martha. I'm so glad you found the post helpful.

Elysabeth, isn't it funny how things can come to us? Glad you liked the article. And, thanks for Sharing!

cleemckenzie said...

It's always great to find bloggers who share ideas and techniques about the craft of writing.

Thanks for the visit at the Write Game. Appreciated your taking the time to leave a comment.

Karen Cioffi said...


Thanks for stopping by.