This past Saturday, Northern Colorado Writers hosted a workshop with author/editor Laura Backes. It was an amazing three-hour session and everyone seemed to learn a lot. Laura is the editor for Children's Book Insider, frequent contributor to The Writer and Writers Digest Magazine and the author of Best Books for Kids Who Think They Hate to Read.
The workshop was focused on children's writing, but the techniques she shared would work with any kind of fiction. Here are some of the tips she shared with us.
1. Know your main character
- Many of the character traits you come up will not be used in your story, but they help determine how he/she will behave and react in different circumstances.
- Know his/her dreams, fears, proudest accomplishments, best friend, worst enemy, biggest strength, biggest flaw...
- Describe your character from the feet up. Pay attention to detail, explore pockets, describe clothing...
- Interview your character
- Put your character into different situations and write down or imagine how he/she would react. What if he/she was lost in a store? What if he/she had something special stolen?
- Fill in the blanks of this story line:
- This is a story about _____________(protagonist) who wants more than anything to________________(goal) but can't because _________________(obstacle)
- This will help you get a clear understanding of your story line. Make it specific.
- Your catalyst should happen in the first 10% of the book. This is the point in the story when your character's life goes from ordinary to extraordinary. The point where the character can't go back until the problem is solved.
- Start with action or dialog
- Introduce protagonist early
- Create a sense of place
- Set the tone
- Your character must experience some complications along the way. (Remember you do have the power to get them out of the situation you put them in)
- Think about what might prevent your character from getting what he/she wants.
- What is the worst thing that could happen to your character.
Leave a comment sharing one of your main characters biggest pet peeves.