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 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!!!



National Novel Writing Month

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve checked in here. November was a busy month. I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and finished the rough draft of a middle grade historical fiction story. So I was quite busy.

I’ve been asked, “Now what do you do?” Well, a rough draft is just that–rough. It still needs lots of work. I’ve already started to analyze the plot for weak spots, as well as the characters. Since this is historical fiction, I also need to do much more research to insure the accuracy of the time period.

But the initial readings of the story by some of my writer colleagues has been favorable. In the next few months, I hope to get feedback from a few industry professionals at Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators events I’ll be attending.

Darcy Pattison has a great website offering writerly advice. She sent out updates throughout the month of November with plot tips. They were wonderful. You can sign up to receive her weekly updates. Plus, she has a great book on revising a story, Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise. I’ll be referring to that for help with improving my new story.

Now back to my writing…

Tips for Writing Free Verse Poetry

I’ve been in a poetic frame of mind lately–partly due to my poem, “Reaching for the Stars” in this month’s HIGHLIGHTS magazine, but also because I’ve been working on a classroom project to help some 5th graders explore poetry.

“Reaching for the Stars” is written in Free Verse Poetry. This is one of the easiest types of poetry to write. Why?
  • It sounds more like regular speech.
  • There is no set length to lines.
  • There is no rhyme or meter or counting of syllables.
  • It lends itself to any subject matter–serious or silly.

Tips for Writing Free Verse Poetry:

  • Remember to use rich words (juicy nouns, powerful verbs, original phrases)
  • Create unique similes and metaphors that make an instant connection with your readers
  • Appeal to all five senses
  • Orchestrate a lyrical flow to your poem with your word choices and placement
  • Speed it up or slow it down with the length of your lines and of your words
  • Use line breaks to punctuate your poem
  • Evoke a mood with your poem
  • Stop when you’re stuck. Take a walk, shoot some hoops, let your mind float free and that’s when you’ll discover just the word or the idea you needed.                                                 

One of my favorite poetry how-to books is from Scholastic publishers. It’s called HOW TO WRITE POETRY by Paul B. Janeczko. You can find this book at your independent bookstore or library. 

I hope these tips for writing Free Verse Poetry make you want to grab your pen and give it a try. 

WOW Words!

Today author A. LaFaye took us through an exercise on WOW Words. What is a WOW Word, you ask? Words that appeal to the senses. They should be concrete and have a unique quality.

Like pifflesquat. Or acrobat. Or rhinoceros. Or fluttered. Or mesmerized.

WOW Words energize writing. They are great to use in poetry and wonderful for prose. Writers, of course, need to surround themselves with WOW Words. To collect them like dazzling jewels to make their stories sparkle.

Teachers in the classroom can help students recognize and utilize WOW Words. Ms. LaFaye suggested creating a funky jar of WOW Words which the students can draw from. She recommended introducing this topic over a five day period. At the start of the instruction, have students select 5 WOW Words and then use them in a poem or a short story. On the next day, the students may only draw out 4 WOW Words and must provide the additional word themselves. On the third day, they select 3 words and provide 2 of their own. On the fourth day, they select 2 words and provide 3 of their own. And on the fifth day, they can only select one WOW Word or perhaps even challenge them to provide all 5 WOW Words themselves.

After each day’s session, the teacher can collect the new WOW Words—written on index cards—then discuss with the class some of the new words and why they work. The teacher can add these words to the WOW jar for future writing exercises.

Here are a few highlights from Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s presentation on writing nonfiction.

It doesn’t have to be written in chronological order.
It needs to have rising and falling action just as fiction does.
Too much information shouldn’t be given at once.

Ms. Bartoletti showed us a page from her book, BLACK POTATOES: THE STORY OF THE GREAT IRISH FAMINE. She pointed out the 8 literary devices she used to make the material more appealing:

SETTING (quickly established)
SCENE (a specific instance)
CHARACTERS (quickly drawn so the reader can identify)
DIALOG (which can NEVER be made up in nonfiction)
PLOT (rising and falling action)
NARRATION (mixed in with the showing)
VIVID WRITING (active verbs, sensory words)

Be sure to tune back in here because Nikki Grimes comes tomorrow to share her expertise with us. I can’t wait!

A Wonderful Website for Children’s Authors

Robyn Opie–Author, Children’s Books (an Australian author with more than 70 books to her credit) has a great website for children’s authors. She offers numerous how-to articles on writing children’s stories from picture books to YA. In her online Writing Tips, she shows all the ways to “make your story sparkle.” I especially liked her article, “How to Edit Your Children’s Book.” She explained all the ingredients for writing a winning story– pace, word choice, transitions, endings, and more. And in her presentation on “Plotting a Children’s Book,” she provides a plot map–a visual on how she plots her stories. Another of my favorites was her article, “Creating Ideas for Children’s Books.” Ms. Opie explains the way to never run out of story ideas is to be always on the lookout for them–open to new possibilities at every turn in your everyday life. It means “thinking and behaving as a writer” in every moment.

Ms. Opie’s site was chosen as one of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for 2008. You can learn more about her at this YouTube interview. She offers online writing courses, as well.

And for more writing helps, visit my TIPS FOR WRITERS.