Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Author Kevin Emerson - How to Make Your Characters Sparkle

It's Kevin Emerson week! Don't miss the giveaway for his latest novel- Oliver Nocturne #6

If you haven't already heard of Kevin, let me give you the scoop. He has published seven middle grade novels: Carlos Is Gonna Get It (Arthur A Levine Books, 2008) and the Oliver Nocturne books 1-5 ( Scholastic 2008-2009). His latest book, the last in the series, Oliver Nocturne #6, was just released by Corey's Room Press.
His next two novels, The Fellowship For Alien Detection, a middle grade novel and the YA, Atlanteans trilogy book 1 will be published by HarperCollins in 2012.

At this Spring's SCBWI WWA conference Kevin presented a class on making your kidlit characters sparkle. He shared five tips to help writers. First, put your characters in tipping points of action. For example, your character is about to push open the door to her first middle school dance. This is a prime place to slow down time, show your character's emotions and give them personal time to think. Let your readers relate to similar experiences in their own lives. Also, it is a good place to cut things up, use fragmented sentences, bold statements, a different rhythm. Sometimes just changing your delivery will liven up your character and writing.

Second, mix up your character introductions. Do you always describe your character as if they're looking in a mirror? Try something new, introduce them in the dark, using other senses besides sight.

Third, expand on kid's relationship with their parents. Many readers will relate to strange family relationships, so take the time to observe parents through their children's eyes.

Fourth, make secondary character's shine by getting into their thoughts. For example, show what happened to them in the past by having them explain it to the main character. Use their emotions to make them seem real, to make them wonder what if? (My example, not Kevin's- Suppose my main character is Tom and my secondary is Matt. Matt is relating a troubling experience from his past, "When I came over the hill," Matt paused, his eyes starring off into the distance. "He was just there, lying on the ground." Matt rubbed his hands down his thighs. "I was too late." Matt looked Tom straight in the eye, "If only I'd run a little faster." Sometimes secondary characters are hard to flesh out, use their thoughts and dialogue with the main character to make them more real to the reader.

Last, let your character's surprise you. Don't lock your characters in place, sometimes they can do something different than what you've already plotted. Do something else and see what happens.

Check out Kevin at

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