Do you ever read a book and wonder how the writer made you fall in love with their characters so well? Being able to build strong characters takes a lot of pre-planning and TONS of practice, but it is a skill you can learn.
It all starts with knowing who’s in the cast of your story . . .
How to Build Strong Characters for Your Children’s Book:
We all want to create characters that make us bawl our eyes out, like Auggie from Wonder. Or feel empowered, like Katniss in the Hunger Games. Or we’d like to create characters that readers fall in love with, like Edward in Twilight. (ALL of my friends and I had a crush on him at 16.)
To do this, we have to imagine our characters as real as our best friends. They should feel like humans to us. (No matter if they’re animals or aliens.) Here’s how you do that. 👇
Start by Creating a Character Card.
Sometimes called a character profile, this is written documentation about your character. And it includes more than just their name and what they look like.
It’s about outlining every part of their personality, including, their hopes, dreams, fears, etc. All of which you’ll use to build strong characters that will manipulate your plot and keep the reader reading.
Basic Questions to Know About Your Characters:
- What is their name?
- What is their family dynamic?
- What do they look like?
- Who are their friends?
- What are their favorite things?
- What do they dislike?
- What matters most to them?
This is a great list to start with. However, if you’d like a complete character profile card, get the Kidlit Writer’s Starter Kit. It has 3-pages of questions you can ask depending on which type of story you’re writing.
**One Big Note: You need to know the character profile for ALL of your characters. Not just your main character. This will be a way to build strong characters for your whole story who will all interact with each other.
Choose to Think Like Your Character.
After you create your character cards, it’s time to start writing.
I like to sit and visualize the action of my characters as I’m typing out my scenes –And sometimes I have to adjust whole plot outlines because of my character’s reactions 🙈.
Each time you move through a scene, you need to know: how would your character react? Is that how your character would respond? How does that affect your next step?
Then, be sure to read through your story to check for character consistency.
Areas to Make Your Character’s Voice Consistent:
- Dialogue: Does everything they say, sound like your character?
- Thoughts: Do they think the same way they should act and feel according to the character you crafted?
- Actions: Do they act the same way they should every time?
- Internal motive: Is there an internal motivator present throughout the story? Did you make sure to give them one?
What to do when your character isn’t working:
Sometimes a character is dead weight in a story. (Remember – if they don’t have a purpose, they shouldn’t be there.) When this happens, you need to analyze four changes to the character in your manuscript:
- Check their internal motive- A lot of times, we forget to give our secondary characters a reason to be there. But think about your own life, everyone you know has a reason for living and a belief that is their reason for doing everything. If you want to keep your character, give them a purpose.
- Increase the stakes- If you have an internal motive, but it’s pretty vague or weak, then your story might benefit if you increased the result. They can’t just want to win the race, they HAVE to win or else.
- Play with
a genderor description swap-If there’s a signifying characteristic about them that’s coming across too stereotypical or doesn’t balance your story, consider swapping it. Stories are good when there’s a balance.
- Consider cutting them out completely- Sometimes we add too many characters to our story and it drags down our pacing. If you have a character, and they don’t serve a purpose, it would be best to eliminate them. Everyone needs to move the story forward.
Characters are just people you can’t see. Remember that when you’re telling your story. They should feel real to you and the readers!
Here are your key takeaways to remember when building strong
For more information on writing, check out these articles:
- Plotting Your Novel
- Plotting Your Picture Book
- Best Exercises for Checking Plot
- Why you need to Read Comp Books