Monday, August 27, 2012

Developing young characters?

Developing young characters can present special challenges, as most of us, by the time we are writing children's books or writing about children, are no longer children.  Author Julia White offers her advice: 

Get to know your character and make him original. According to young-adult author Ellen Wittlinger, "The most important thing about building a character is to start on the inside... and layer on all the different qualities that make the person unique." Try writing out a list of questions and answering them for your character. The list can include basic questions, like age and music tastes, or more complex ones, such as your character's deepest fear. It is crucial to make the character real in your head, so that he will be convincing to a reader.
Local writers Lily and Danny (who requested we publish only their first names) came up with some great questions to help Lily develop main characters for a children's book she is planning.
1. What would this person do if confronted by a bear in the woods?

2. If this person saw or heard about an abandoned house where the lights inexplicably go off and on, what would he or she do?

3. If this person heard about treasure hidden somewhere she is not allowed to go, would she go look for it?

4. If this person had homework to do and her friend wanted to see a movie, what would she do?

5. If there was a meteor shower, would this person want to go see it? Why or why not?

6. Does this person go for walks in the woods? Why or why not?

7. If not, does this person go for walks elsewhere? Why or why not?

8. Does this person have a pet? If so, how does he or she react to it?

9. Would this person go to the store in the rain after dark to get orange juice for his or her sick brother?

10. When this kid misbehaves, what do the parents threaten to take away?

11. Pick five kids’ TV shows. Which show would this child be most likely to watch? 

How would you answer these questions if you were writing a children's book?  Are there other questions you would ask?

For more ideas on developing characters for children's books, see

1 comment:

  1. I love thinking about questions like these. For my kids' book (, I needed to know specific things like

    What were my main character's hopes and aspirations?
    What would make my character really angry?
    What would my character look like when he got angry?
    What would my character do when he got angry?
    How about when he was sad? What would he look like and do?
    What would help my character settle down?
    What would he look like once he was no longer angry or sad?
    What was my character's typical disposition when he wasn't angry or sad?
    What would make my character happy?
    What would my character look like when he was happy?
    What were my character's favorite activities?