Creating a Poetic Character

Monster Building Made Easy


Every good story needs good characters. Let’s take a closer look at getting to know your characters. That way you can better know how each will act and react in your story.

That’s how stories work—

  • characters acting and reacting to each other
  • or to a problem (like a storm or a pop quiz)
  • or even sometimes to their own internal conflicts (like fear or jealously)When I start developing a story, I begin by exploring my characters—especially my MAIN CHARACTERS. In my book, FROM THE GRAVE , there are two main characters telling the story, from very different Points of View.Originally Frankenstein Frightface Gordon was my only main character—a monster misfit who wanted to prove he was monster enough. But as I started peeking into the dark corners of my monster world, Malcolm McNastee quickly emerged and demanded equal billing. He was a troll on a mission to rid Uggarland (the monster world) of misfits like Frank.

Frank, Malcolm, Vanya, and the bat—Scarlett— from Book 2.

As it turned out, Malcolm was right. His voice helped make my store more well-rounded, more complex, and more exciting!

Interviewing a Monster

How do you get to know your monster? You ask a lot of questions.You put it in different situations. You let your mind open up to all the possibilities.

One time I pretended to take Frank and Malcolm on a plane ride to see how each one would react. Frank at least stayed in his seat, buckled in, excited to look out the window. Malcolm, however, grabbed clawsful of snacks off the food cart and wrapped up one of the flight attendants with toilet paper before the captain locked him into the restroom.

Turns out Malcolm was afraid of heights and resorted to his distracting monster maneuvers in order to hide his fear. How would I have known if I didn’t take him for a ride?

Now you might ask, are there any plane rides in my MONSTER OR DIE books? No, but there are some high- flying adventures via broomsticks and dragons. So I had good insights into how Malcolm and Frank would react to those situations.

One of the author’s office buddies.

Interview Questions

A great way to begin learning about your monster (or other character) is to ask questions like I mentioned above. Here are some basic ones to get started:

Where does she live?
What does he like/dislike most? What does she want most of all? What is he afraid of?

What is her biggest problem?

Creating a Poetic Character

Now to have some fun with this whole character-building process.

Fill in the lines below. When you’re finished, you’ll have created a free verse poem! I’ll show you an example I did as well, although I did use some rhyme on that one. It’s totally up to you.

Here’s the form.

(Monster’s FIRST name)


(Four adjectives that describe the creature)

Sibling of

(or Son or Daughter of)

Lover of

Three foods or things your monster loves

Who feels

(Three feelings your monster has and when they are felt)

Who gives

(Three things the creature gives—good or bad)

Who fears

(Three things your monster fears)

Who would like to see Who lives

(The town or a brief description of the setting where your monster lives)

(Monster’s LAST name)

Monster Character Poem

Malcolm McNastee by Cynthia Reeg

Malcolm is the orange, warty, leather-clad, tail-scrunching
Son of Roary and Wanda.
He’s a lover of Sludge Noodles & Gravy and Crud Crumb Pie.
He feels warm and fuzzy when his little sister Nelly hugs him tight.
He feels totally trollish when he growls with all his might.
He feels monstrously content when he sits on Cemetery Hill in the deep, dark night! Malcolm gives loud burps when celebrating tasty treats.
He gives scowls to most everyone he meets and indigestion to all he greets.
He fears nothing—except himself sometimes—and poetry (like this) that badly rhymes. He’d like to see NO more Exxillium sun or misfit Fiendful Fiends fun or Shadowlands excursions! He lives in Monster City, Uggarland’s capital with a skeleton tree view.
As you can see, Malcolm is a McNastee through and through!

Now It’s Your Turn

Go ahead! Give it a try. Explore your character and create a fun poem. Like I said, no rhyming needed. Just corral your character with a few questions, and you’ll have your monster under wraps in no time.

I hope you’ll share some of your monster poems! Happy reading and writing!

Scary on!

For more info: visit


Claire Fayers newest fantasy adventure is set in the misty and magical world of Victorian England, where the Fair Folk have gone into the UnWorld—specifically a placed called UnWyse. Humans have been left with only a few magic mirrors as portals between the two worlds. In the real world, eleven-year-old Ava Harcourt—whose parents have recently died—and her older brother Matthew find themselves alone and in dire straits. Their father had been a conjurer at one time, but for some unknown reason sold his mirror and quit magicing. Ava and her brother were warned by their father to avoid Lord Skinner, the mysterious yet all-controlling leader of Wyse, the last human town where magic works. But with nowhere else to go, Ava and Matthew return to Wyse, forced to trust Lord Skinner for the jobs and lodging he offers them.

In the UnWorld, apprentice Howell Fletcher works at the House of Forgotten Mirrors. Howell is a Fair Folk without any magic, but he soon finds himself approached by the intimidating and all-powerful Mr. Bones. The mission thrust upon Howell only leads to more confusion. It introduces him to a strange new magical friend who may easily lead him astray.

And so begins their journey into danger, intrigue, and surprising disclosures as the protagonists of THE BOOK OF UNWYSE MAGIC are thrust into the clash between the two worlds. Ava and Howell must rely on her own initiatives and bravery, as well as the help of a few new friends, to discover the truths that will set things right in the World and the UnWorld.

A brief selection from The Book—the covenant between the worlds—begins each chapter. These cheeky lines were some of my favorites parts of the story because The Book can predict the future. For example: “By the way, you might want to close your eyes in a page or two. Things are about to get unpleasant.” The Book plays a vital role in the story’s outcome as well—but I won’t spoil the fun by revealing any more. THE BOOK OF UNWYSE MAGIC is a totally entertaining tale for middle grade readers who enjoy fantasies, quirky characters, mysteries, and satisfying endings. The story is told through the eyes of both Ava and Howell for an effective contrast—highlighting the importance of each individual’s uniqueness as something to be valued.

So beware! The next time you look into a mirror, take caution that it’s not a magical one. Or better yet, read THE BOOK OF UNWYSE MAGIC and share in all the enchanted fun!

COMING March 26, 2019 from Henry Holt.

  • ISBN-13: 978-1627794220

Happy Book Birthday–INTO THE SHADOWLANDS!!!

Monster or Die!–Book 2

It’s here!

Come celebrate with me at The Novel Neighbor in St. Louis on October 14 from 4-6pm.

Or a week later, October 21, at Main Street Books in St. Charles from 2-4pm.

School Library Journal

There is something for everyone: suspense, adventure, a blossoming romance, and some truly corny humor from a two-headed gargoyle.


Patrick SamphireEmperor of Mars

Charming, scary, and imaginative. Perfect for the little ghoul in your life.


Wendy MacKnight, It’s a Mystery Pig-Face

A wonderful sequel! I am Team Frank all the way, and there were so many twists and turns in this plot that it would strike fear into the heart of any self-respectful monster! Kids will devour this! Scary on!


Cynthia Surrisi  Vampires on the Run

There has never been a finer collection of monsters, ghouls, and other assorted creatures of creepiness in one volume. And never have they struggled against type with such pathos to do what they believe is the right thing in the face of condemnation. Hurrah!


Caroline Larsen, editor JFP

This is a lovely sequel to FROM THE GRAVE and is part of a great middle grade series about “monstering,” inclusivity, fitting in, friendship, loyalty, and fighting for what you believe in. I was surprised by how touched I was by Malcolm’s transformation in this story. Read the first book, FROM THE GRAVE, this summer just in time for INTO THE SHADOWLANDS to come out at Halloween!


Last day to win a signed copy of both




Goodreads Giveaway 


The MONSTERS Are ONE Day Away!!!

I really can’t believe it.

The monsters have certainly snuck up on me–or as they like to say, “Time waits for no monster!

Tomorrow, October 10, is THE day!!!

Into the Shadowlands


Monster mayhem will be unleashed on the world for a second time. It will be time for more Bunion Baloney and Crud Crumb Pie. Time for more bad jokes from Stan and Dan. Time for more Fiendful Fiends Academy drama. Time again to hang out with old friends like Frank & Oliver and to meet new Uggarland characters as well.

Don’t wait!

Come and “See what can’t be seen. Then nothing can stay hidden.”

Don’t be too afraid.

Face the unknown without fear. Fake it when necessary.”

Finally, always remember:

Don’t complain. No one likes a whiny monster!








Tomorrow is also the LAST day for the GOODREADS Giveaway. Win a signed copy of both FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS!!! Don’t delay–enter today!

For every monster knows: “A victim in the claw is worth two in the bush!


School Library Journal Review–Something for Everyone!

With permission from SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL I’m printing a copy of their review of INTO THE SHADOWLANDS. The review is in their current August issue.


“There’s a little something for everyone here; suspense, adventure, a blossoming romance, and some truly corny humor from a two-headed gargoyle.”


REEG, Cynthia. Into the Shadowlands. 200p. (Monster or Die: Bk. 2). Jolly Fish Pr. Oct. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781631631344.

Gr 3-5–Being a misfit monster is a serious problem in Uggarland and can eventually lead to exile or even death. Fortunately for Frankenstein (Frank) Gordon and his nonconformist friends, there is an “Odd Monsters Out” class at Fiendful Fiends Academy, where the eccentricities range from a dragon who can’t breathe fire to a vampire who drinks milk. In this second installment of the series, Frank and his friends have just returned from a daring rescue of two misfits from exile but soon find themselves in another deadly situation. Their class is sent on a scavenger hunt to the Shadowlands, the treacherous divide between Uggarland and the human world, which is full of dangerous animals and malevolent spirits. To make matters worse, Frank’s nemesis, the troll Malcolm McNastee, has been assigned to chaperone the group. Malcolm reviles all misfits and has a very personal reason for hating Frank above all others. There’s a little something for everyone here; suspense, adventure, a blossoming romance, and some truly corny humor from a two-headed gargoyle. VERDICT An approachable read for fans of adventure/fantasy and humor in a school setting. While feasible as a stand-alone, it is optimal to have read the first installment.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

FROM THE GRAVE–ZIA Award Winner!!!

On Saturday, April 22 in Las Cruces, New Mexico

I was thrilled to accept the 2017 New Mexico Press Women’s ZIA Book Award for my debut

Sharing some monster magic and thanks

middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE published by Jolly Fish Press.

Receiving the 2017 ZIA Book Award from New Mexico Press Women

Thank you to Jessica Savage, the Zia Award Chairperson, and to all the committee members who took such interest in my monsters. The Zia symbol is ancient to the people of New Mexico. It represents the sun and is found on the New Mexico flag. The rays of the sun can also represent the four directions–north, east, south, and west or the seasons of the year. The Zia symbol can also relate to life stages–childhood, young adult, adult, and seniors. Thanks again for this awesome honor!

Below is a copy of my acceptance speech.

Thank you so much for honoring my middle grade novel, FROM THE GRAVE as the 2017 Zia Award winner. I’m thrilled and flattered that I was included among such wonderful authors as Joan Livingston and Caroline Starr Rose. And now, if I may, I’d like to share with you some post-truth era insights from my monster tale that I have entitled:


Make Way for Monsters and Alternative Facts


Sometimes fact (and I do not mean alternative fact) is surprisingly close to fiction—or as stated by the publication, Business Standard News: “reality is so strange nowadays it could be true.” Such is the surprising example with my debut fantasy– FROM THE GRAVE, in which Frank—a misfit Frankenstein and Malcolm, an intimidating troll—try to prove they are monster enough. I created this juvenile parody, combining horror, humor, and heart, to focus on issues of bullying and diversity. Why then do I say that this fantasy—complete with quirky monsters of every kind—so remarkably mirrors aspects in our current world?


You see, in Uggarland there is a newly elected president named Vladimir (even in the monster world there are possible Russian ties it seems). Vladimir is intent on laying down the law as he decrees it. In order to be elected, President Vladimir has played on the fears of the masses—and I quote: “Misfits suck the life from our failing economy. I will put them out of their misery before they make each of our lives a misery, too.” The president has found the latest scapegoats to abuse—young misfit monsters slow to change their unacceptable behavior or appearance. With swift action, he’s implementing a new law to banish them all.


And there’s another surprising mirror character, Principal Snaggle, the leader of Fiendful Fiends Academy. With each flick of his furry tail, he’s ready to hide any number of sinister secrets. He’s intent only in adding to his own renown—as can be noted by his coveted Principal of the Year trophy prominently displayed on his desk. The principal aims to make every situation resolve in his favor no matter the fallout along the way. He’s also quick to spin the facts to meet his vision. Let me read you an excerpt of the principal and Malcolm plotting the end of Frank and his friends, as a terrible storm—a Run For Your Lives HORRORCane is coming to the Shadowlands. Malcolm, who tells this segment of the story, has also recently learned that his long-lost father is—of all things—a misfit. :


At last, under the principal’s hypnotic stare, my monster wiles kicked into gear. I leapt from the chair. “I’ve thought of it!”

“Have you now,” said Principal Snaggle, arching his back. “Do tell.”

Leaning close I whispered, “A scavenger hunt for the misfits into the Shadowlands during the storm!”

“My, my, my. Such wonderfully wily ways, McNastee. A young monster any father would be proud of.”

I gulped. Even the principal’s praise couldn’t stop me from smarting at the mention of my father.

Principal Snaggle’s lips slid up toward his slitted eyes. “You and I can see how silly the weather warning is. Blazing bunions! What’s to become of this current generation if we don’t put them in harm’s way? It’s only a bit of debris and havoc—which, of course, may last for days. It’s such a mega storm that even the most seasoned of scavengers wouldn’t blunder into it. Why, of course, it’s a perfect opportunity to test my struggling students.”

I snorted. “To uh, prove they’ve, uh, changed.”

“Truly changed,” said Snaggle.

“And that they can follow orders,” I added grinning. “Monster or die.”

“Exactly,” agreed Snaggle. “Either they brave a turbulent Shadowlands experience and show they are monsters. Or they run away, proving they’re miserable mutants.”

“Um, sir, a cautious monster isn’t always a mutant,” I mumbled, remembering my barricade last night inside the mausoleum.

“Pfft.” Principal Snaggle waved his claw in the air. “Monster is as monster does, McNastee. We are drawn to mayhem like sloth beetles to the flames. Retreating misfits will certainly reveal their mutant natures amid the chaos. We’ll be able to ship them to Exxillium ahead of schedule.”

“If they make it back, sir.” My tail twitched uncontrollably. My words sounded jittery as well. “I’ve heard whole houses can blow through sometimes. They say once a witch had a house land on her.”

“Monster tales. Just monster tales for little tykes. We’ve all heard them.” Principal Snaggle waved a sharp nail close to my snout. “Don’t believe everything you hear. A tale or the truth. Monsters tend to mix the two up so frequently. But even if the witch did meet her end crushed beneath a bit of timber, what a gallant death. Don’t you think?”

“Yes, sir.” My head nodded so vigorously that my hair tuft bobbed down over my eyes. I envisioned Frank flattened beneath a house. My grin grew wider. “It sounds like a perfect plan.”



Honestly (no alternative fact), I started writing this story a number of years ago, long before the present real life political characters stepped onto the stage. Ironically though, my fantasy was published only a few weeks before the 2016 November election, which set this startling parallel into motion. My story is meant to be a satirical, adventure tale not a thinly veiled caricature of current events. Yet I hope that my monsters can serve as a talking point about the current politics and can open up dialogue about bullying, diversity, inclusion, and cooperation across boundaries—as well as the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction. Otherwise, I fear that Monster Rule #19 will continue to prevail; it says: When the truth compromises monstering, it’s best to lie. If we humans can’t find our way back to the truth, we may all be forced to “scary on!”


Thank you again for honoring my monsters and me with the Zia Award!

ALMOST PARADISE by Corabel Shofner

A fun contemporary middle grade (9-12-year-old) story coming July 2017!


I had the privilege to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this entertaining and endearing novel. The story opens with Ruby Cylde Henderson being spirited away (on her twelfth birthday) on a road trip by her mother’s awful boyfriend, Carl—or as Ruby refers to him, Catfish. Her mother is along for the ride as well. Ruby’s sentiments toward her mom can be summed up as, “Mother was no help at all, but don’t hold that against her.” She’s a loving but ineffective mother, which means Ruby often needs to step in to run the show.


When the troop rolls into Little Rock, Arkansas, Ruby and her mother try to rescue a performing pig, Bunny, from the IQ Zoo. Catfish fires rounds from his new gun to implement Bunny’s breakout. As they approach Austin, Texas—and a reunion with her mother’s estranged twin sister, an Episcopalian nun—the trio stops at a gas station. Unbeknownst to the mother and daughter, Catfish proceeds to rob the store at gunpoint. Her mother is waiting in the car while Ruby is walking Bunny, when “Sirens whipped around, churning my heart so hard I grabbed my chest to hold it in.”


Catfish is caught and Ruby’s mom is arrested as well. Ruby manages to stay hidden and proceeds to search for her aunt. With some help from friendly locals, Ruby finds Aunt Eleanor, a mostly reclusive and silent nun, living at Paradise Ranch and growing peaches. After a number of weeks living together, Aunt Eleanor and Ruby begin to communicate. Ruby has finally found stability in her life. She no longer must function as the adult. Even though Ruby misses her mother, she and her pig Bunny have truly found paradise.


But soon Ruby discovers that her aunt is battling cancer. Her aunt takes Ruby to Austin to visit her mother and the lawyer representing her. On this trip Aunt Eleanor faints and must be hospitalized then undergo surgery. An anxious Ruby waits by her beloved aunt’s bedside in the hospital. “Time keeps moving regardless of how you feel about it,” she notes. Ruby feels “as wiggly as a snake on hot rocks.” As she contemplates her circumstances, Ruby gains some perspective on her bittersweet life. “You have to love what you get.”


Aunt Eleanor recovers from the surgery and, with her benefactor’s help, bails Ruby’s mom out of jail. Aunt Eleanor decides to “un-nun” in order to better help Ruby’s mom know how to mother. Ruby watches as her mother learns how to cook and drive and better care for her. The two adult sisters, distanced by time and circumstances, come to a new understanding and a renewed love. “Sometimes we are faced with impossible choices and that is life.”


I don’t want to spoil the surprising ending, so I won’t divulge it here. But I will say how much I loved twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde, who’s “as flat as a pancake” and looks like a boy and hates to wear dresses. I loved her determination and her outlook on life. “Love begets love, even if it is in small flawed pieces.” The author mixes a cast of quirky characters with an engaging plot and colorful prose to create a stunning contemporary middle grade debut novel. The characters and tone remind me a bit of one of my favorite contemporary authors, Kate DiCamillo. So now I’ve added Ms. Shofner to my favorites list as well. Although this is her debut novel, I’m sure she will be penning many more awesome reads in the years to come, and middle grade readers will truly be in “paradise.” This would be a great read aloud for classes or at home. Don’t miss it!

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

Working on MONSTER OR DIE: Book Two


The monsters are back for more misfit adventures in the second installment of my fantasy trilogy. I’ve been busy writing new scenes– creating new troubles and more mysteries for the crew. Plus, there are even some new monsters dying to join the tale as well.


Book Two premiers October 2017!

The second printing of FROM THE GRAVE is expected in just a few weeks. Please be patient to receive your copy.

Until then, you can read a bit more about me in The Penman Review.


Smack Dab in the Middle

Terrifying Tales

Here is a FROM THE GRAVE clip featured on Smack Dab in the Middle:

Frank’s Tale

Three larger piranhas leaped from the water below. Their sharp teeth snapped at the back of my neck. I tried to dodge but lost more ground, drawing another inch closer to my watery grave.

“You wouldn’t really let that happen,” I cried, digging my neatly trimmed nails into the rickety bridge. My fingers were quickly losing their grip. “I mean, what would you tell my parents?”

Principal Snaggle’s lips curled up. “The truth, of course. ‘Your son had an accident at school.’ And you can guess what they would say, ‘It’s probably for the best.’”


Thanks to Holly Schindler and the other authors at Smack Dab in the Middle for hosting me on Monday on their middle grade blog spot.

Please stop by.

You’ll discover several more scary  FROM THE GRAVE clips, as well as a reminder about National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.