Creating Characters: FRIENDS

Although Frank, in my story FROM THE GRAVE, is a misfit, he has a number of friends. Unfortunately, they are all considered misfits also.


Frank’s best friend Oliver is a half-wrapped mummy who is more interested in reading than staying bundled up. Georgina is a dragon who is quite good at flying, but she can’t shoot fire at all. In fact, all she can do is snort out a blast of water when she sneezes. Stan & Dan are the two heads of one goofy gargoyle. They love to tell jokes—only monsters should NOT be funny.


Frank has an enemy too—Malcolm McNastee. He’s a sinister troll who hates misfits and does everything he can to destroy Frank. How will Frank ever stand up to him???


Does your monster character have friends? Enemies? What are they like? How do they help or hinder your main character (protagonist)?


You can use the Character Chart from Part 3 to explore these supporting characters in your story. Make a separate chart for each one. The more you know about your supporting characters, the more you’ll know how they will interact with your protagonist.

*TIP: Often for me, it is through the writing process itself that I come to know my characters better. Do some planning and research, but don’t wait too long to jump into your writing! Exciting, amazing things will happen when you let your characters out on the page. 🙂

Below is a circle graphic of Frank’s friends. Who are the characters surrounding your protagonist?



Monster Writing Prompts: Part 3

Creating CHARACTERS: Family


In FROM THE GRAVE, monster families care for each other. How does a writer create characters readers care about?


In FROM THE GRAVE, the main character, Frankenstein Frightface Gordon, has a rather typical family, very comparable to a human family. A mom, a dad, and an older brother who likes to torment him. His dad and brother, unlike Frank, are green and gruesome—just as Frankensteins should be. His dad works at the Haunted House Factory. His brother Ghoulbert, is rather slow at school but excels at mischief. Frank’s mom is a classic monster as well—a shrieking siren, floating here and there and everywhere. Poor Frank, with his pale blue skin and neatnik ways is the only oddbat in the family.

Does your main character (protagonist) have a family? What are they like? How does your protagonist fit in—or not? Supporting characters (the semi-important characters like family & friends) can have a big impact on the protagonist. They can be fun and interesting foils –characters that contrast another character, highlighting the differences. Make sure you know your characters well. Then when you write your story, you’ll make them come alive (or as alive as a zombie can be) for your reader too!

A good way to find out everything you need to know about your character is to create a Character Chart. Here’s an example below.

  1. NAME
  2. AGE
  8. FEARS
  9. GOALS

Does your monster have a mummy–or daddy???        


Monster Writing Prompts: Part 2




Creating MONSTER CHARACTERS: Appearance

For the month of January, I’ll post some pointers on Creating Your Own Monster Characters. Be sure to come back next week for another quick writing tip, courtesy of  FROM THE GRAVE (Book 1 of the MONSTER OR DIE trilogy, from Jolly Fish Press, coming October 18, 2016)


Monsters consider their ultimate job is to scare the socks off humans. They want to keep humans living in terror, always wondering when the next attack might be. Humans are forever dreading dark corners, listening for stealthy footfalls and grumbly growls, keen to the scent of unwashed monster fur. It is extremely important for monsters to look (and smell) the part.


For example, they might be green and gruesome, or have wild hair, long claws, sharp teeth, or perhaps lumpy orange skin with warts galore, a shock of purple hair, and some serious B.O.


However, in FROM THE GRAVE, many of the misfit monsters don’t look or act like monsters at all. That leads to big trouble for them.


What does the monster(s) in your story look like?



Sometimes it helps me to look for pictures or draw a picture of one of my characters. Seeing your monster will aid in bringing him/her to life! Go ahead–I dare you! Create monster characters that will scare your own socks off. 🙂

If you want to try drawing your monster (as well as describing it), check out this step-by-step lesson on creating a creepy (but fun) monster.


Or visit your local library and find books on drawing monsters there. Here are a few I found at my library!


Several pictures in the Lee J. Ames books helped me bring to life characters. Like this rendition that I did for the evil school principal in FROM THE GRAVE.

FullSizeRender    I’d love to see some of your monster drawings!



Monster Writing Prompts: Part 1

Creating MONSTER CHARACTERS: Likes & Dislikes!

For the month of January, I’ll post some pointers on Creating Your Own Monster Characters. Be sure to come back next week for another quick writing tip!

When I started writing FROM THE GRAVE (Book 1 of the MONSTER OR DIE trilogy, from Jolly Fish Press, coming October 18, 2016), I thought it would be fun to make the monsters basically the opposites of humans. For example:

Monsters hate: sugar, neatness & cleanliness.

Monsters love: sludge noodles & the smell of rotting anything.


But as I began to know my monsters more, I realized that monsters truly love ORDER and RULES. They only allow “mayhem when appropriate.” Hmmm, being a monster isn’t as easy as it looks—which is a very good problem for a writer to have with her characters. Never make it too easy for them. It’s much more fun and exciting to provide plenty of problems.


Now, if you were writing a monster story, what would your characters like and dislike? Make a Word Web to jot down your ideas. Write your character’s name in the center and some LIKES above and DISLIKES below.

Here is a link to a Word Web you can print out if you need one.

For a list of FRIGHTFUL READS, visit my website. What’s your favorite scary story?

Monster on!!!



Conflict and Tension

Today we had a break from the cold winter temps, so my dog Holly and I enjoyed a long walk.
But we’d barely made it back inside, when it started pouring rain.

Now if I’d been writing a story, this would have been much too easy a course for my characters. They took a nice walk and escaped the drenching rain without batting an eye. Absolutely no TENSION or CONFLICT.

In a real story, poor Holly and I would have been bent over double, battling the high winds. The thunder would have rumbled around us, lightening sparked. And of course, we would have scrambled and scraped to make it back in time–only to have been walloped with a downpour mere steps from safety.

A good story needs plenty of TENSION and CONFLICT. Here’s some examples in books I’ve been reading:

DIRTY GERT by Tedd Arnold. A young child adores dirt, so much so that she finally starts to sprout.

THE DARK by Lemony Snicket. A young boy is terribly scared of the dark, and one night it invites him into the basement.

FOG ISLAND by Tomi Ungerer. A boy and girl become lost in their boat during the fog. When they land on Fog Island, they climb the slippery stairs and meet an enchanted wizard.

Can you find examples of TENSION and CONFLICT in one of your favorite stories?
Can you write a story filled with TENSION and CONFLICT?

I think it’s quite fun to amp up wattage in a story. Give it a try. It’s nice for your characters to arrive eventually at a happy ending–but don’t make it too easy for them.

Holiday Poetry

A fun way to celebrate the holiday season for children of all ages is to create poetry. The poetry could be part of a Christmas card greeting, or a decoration to hang on the tree, or just a celebration of the winter season.

For young children, the poem can be a simple free verse phrase or two.
For older children, rhyme and rhythm can be incorporated.
For all, the choice of subjects abounds from wintery scenes, to well-known Christmas themes, or  even end of year reminiscing.

A simple poem exploring a winter scene is Winter Treats, found on my website. Use this poem to encourage children to look outside and describe a scene they see. Can they bring the scene to life with their words?

An example of a Santa poem at Essential Learning Products is Hip! Hip! Hooray! by Beverly McLoughland. This poem could be used with children to jump start their poetry writing. It also could be used as a geography lesson, traveling the globe with Santa.

For a more spiritual poem, read Christmas Day, also found on my website. Have the child find a Christmas card picture or perhaps an ornament that he likes. Then have the child use this image to create a poem in rhyme, free verse, or haiku.

Poetry should be a fun and creative process. There are no rights or wrongs–only writes!

More on Helping Kids Become Readers and Writers

Sorry I don’t have photos yet to share of my school visit at Point Elementary last Friday, but the Mehlville School District has posted a press release of the event with a photo. Click on the link to read all about it.

I’m nearly finished reading all the great stories the Point students wrote and shared with me. They showed what great imaginations they have–so much creativity! And lots of the stories have great humor as well.

Today I read a second grade writer’s story. All the main writing points I’d shared with the students on Friday, she’d woven into her brief story.

She had a story arc: beginning, middle, and end.
Her dog character had a problem and found a way to solve it.
With dialog and some descriptive words, she quickly revealed her characters to the reader.
It was clever. It was fun. It was truly amazing!

Students usually need little encouragement to create their own stories. The earlier they begin to put their own ideas into words the better. They will become more accomplished in both their reading and writing. They’ll master spelling, grammar, and punctuation more easily. And they’ll have so much fun bringing their imagination to life to share with others.

Below is a list of websites with information/opportunities for encouraging children writers.

Guardian Angel Publishing Contest for School Children

Poetry for Kids

Giggle Poetry for Kids

Graphic Organizers

Publishing Students’ Work

Young Authors and Artists Group

Writing By Children (ALA)

List of Children’s Authors & Illustrators Websites (ALA)

Favorite Children’s Stories (ALA)

Children’s Authors Who Teach Children How to Write (Blog) Workout

Helping Children Write

Today I read a short article by author, Anastasia Suen, about “Teaching Sentence Fluency with Wordless Books.” She suggests using wordless picture books and letting the students write the story based on the pictures.

We did much the same technique when I worked in an elementary school library. Each year we would have the three second grade classes put into words the wonderful wordless classic, THE SNOWMAN by Raymond Briggs.
With each different class we had them decide as a group what the name of the characters in the story were to be. Then 2-3 students would be given one page of the story to tell. We would gather each group’s page, put them in order, and post the entire story on the wall outside the library. The students loved this activity. They enjoyed reading the other two classes’ stories as well–because even using the same illustrations, the three classes’ stories differed. A wonderful way to emphasize the unlimited creativity we each possess–how we each see the world a bit differently.
What a great way to encourage young writers and readers. This activity could easily be used at home as well. The simple truth is the better a child can read and write the better he will do in school. Help your child(ren) become great readers and writers and have fun while doing it.

More Bird Stories

Normally when I think of winter birds, I picture cardinals and blue jays and sparrows. But what about seabirds–like the gulls and pelicans and terns. They hang out at the beaches even when the temperature drops.

What do these birds like to eat?
What do they sound like?
Where do they build their nests?
FEEDING THE GULLS by Deanna Calvert might be a fun to read.
Or A DAY AT SEAGULL BEACH by Karen Wallace.
Or SEEING SEABIRDS by Allan Fowler.
Did you know Herring Gulls will eat most anything? They are the ones who will steal your snacks at the beach if you’re not careful.
Could you write a story about a gull who ate too much junk food at the beach and couldn’t fly?
One day when it’s too cold to go outside this winter, pretend you’re the snack-loving gull and write about your misadventures.

Hands Up to Start a Story

The new year is a great time to start writing–a story a week would be a great goal.

All you need to start your next story is your hand.

That’s right.
Place your hand flat on a piece of paper.
Trace around it.
In the center of your hand, write one sentence about the story you want to write.
A story about bringing my dog home for the first time.
Above the little finger, write “WHO.”
Then above the next finger, write “WHAT.”
Above the next finger, write “WHY.”
Above the next finger, write “WHEN.”
Above the next finger, write “WHERE.”
Now fill in the information on each finger.
WHO: my dog Patches and me
WHAT: bringing Patches home from the animal shelter
WHY: to show how scared Patches was at first
WHEN: last summer for my birthday
WHERE: at my dad’s house

Now, using your handy outline,
start at the beginning–
and tell your story.
Don’t forget to give your story a fun title, like “A Place for Patches.”
You can even add illustrations or photos.
Get ready, set, write!