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


Emmie Enchanted featured FROM THE GRAVE on her book review blog this week.

I am pleased to share the link to this well-read nine-year-old reviewer’s look at Book 1 of MONSTER OR DIE. It was thrilling to see that Emmie was swept up into the monsters’ world and greatly enjoyed her time there. In fact, she’s informed me that she is busy reading Book 2, INTO THE SHADOWLANDS, right now!

These are the type of reviews I truly love–from my target audience. It pleases me beyond words to know that my story has entertained this reader and encouraged her to want more with the second book.

Miss Enchanted has a wide range of books reviewed on her site, Fantastic Books & Where to Find Them. I am thrilled to see my book on the same page as such greats like Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I hope you’ll check them out and show these and other book recommendations found on the site to middle grade readers you know. A good review from a student reviewer means so much more to a young reader since it comes from one of their own.

Here’s what Emmie had to say about FROM THE GRAVE:

Reading & WRITING

Emmie has also written a book of her own–THE MAGIC MYSTERY! This also thrills me. I love sharing writing tips with students–getting them excited not only about reading but about writing their own stories. For it is in sharing our words, our thoughts, and our ideas that we draw closer to each other. Reading and writing are the keys to success on so many levels.

Summer is almost ready to start. Check out Emmie’s list for some great books for your summer reading!



Happy Holidays!

The Monsters Have Been on the Move

Frank, Malcolm and all the crew have continued to entertain classrooms. This week I shared the mayhem with 5th graders at Marian Middle School in St. Louis. The students had a fun time brainstorming sensory words and discussing story: beginning, middle, and end. It was wonderful to return to this awesome school, “educating girls for life!”

Looking Ahead

I will be taking part in the World Read Aloud Day (February 1, 2018) free Skype visits to classrooms. I’m already signing up schools. If you’d like to have me “come visit” your students, please contact me here on my website or visit Kate Messner’s blog for a list of other authors as well.


February will also find me at the Write to Learn Conference (February 15-17) in Osage Beach, MO, for K-12 Language Arts teachers. Reading and writing are fundamental skills for student success. I take great pleasure in doing whatever I can to help kids love literature–whether it’s through the stories I write for them or the author visits I do to share my joy in language.


For Now

Happy Holidays!

Now is the time to grab a monster gift for someone special. Books always make the best gifts! You can save 20% right now on FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS.

North Star Editions    promo code: social

If you’d like a signed bookplate for your Monster or Die book, please contact me and I’ll mail you one!

I hope you all have a wonderful season shared with family & friends–and maybe a few monsters too!

The Monsters Were a Hit in Orlando!

Educators Were Eager for Their Own Copies

It was an awesome experience signing books on Saturday at the International Literacy Association 2017 Conference in Orlando. What an awesome opportunity to meet these individuals who are making such a profound impact on young lives.

One special experience was meeting a teacher who told me that one of her students recommended my book, FROM THE GRAVE, to her. How cool is that! He told her she had to grab a copy of Book 2, INTO THE SHADOWLANDS How I love knowing that readers are connecting with my stories!

Another thrill was meeting closing keynote speaker for the conference, Bryan V. Garrett, in line for my books! Mr. Garrett has been called “One of the most compelling voices of our times.” He is the Chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance and former CEO of the National PTA. He is also author of “The A B C’s of Life” published by Scholastic. It was an honor to meet him and to share my stories with him.

I encouraged all the teachers I spoke with to contact me if they would be interested in setting up a Skype visit with me for their classes. As I said above, I love connecting with students and sharing my joy for reading and writing with them!

Marion Middle School Adventures

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with the fifth graders at Marion Middle School in St. Louis today. The girls were all eager to learn about my monsters and how to create some stories of their own. With only a week left of school, it was the perfect time to help them to connect with reading and writing. Summer awaits with so many awesome stories to read–and new stories of their own to write!

Click on the link for some suggestions for other Frightful Reads. And to see one of the writing activities I shared with the Marion School fifth graders today, check out this Monster Character Poem activity!

Thanks for inviting me to stop by today and best wishes for a truly FUN summer!!!

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.



Inside an Author’s Mind


(A Morning at the Dentist’s Office)


An exclusive look into the mind of one middle grade author. Read her ramblings as she faces terror! (i.e: sits in the dentist office, having her six-month cleaning and check-up—hoping that no new cavities have emerged in the interim.)


An author’s work is not limited to time spent before the computer or with a pen clutched in hand. No, some of my most productive creative time is down time, when I’m able to let my mind wander. It’s then that I often find answers to nagging plot problems or discover a new twist or—like today—uncover the truth about Monster Dentists!


In my upcoming middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE (October 18, 2016), I do not have a monster dentist as a character. However, I do mention one ancient vampire improving his bite with a set of new false teeth, so therefore, I know that monster dentists do exist in Uggarland—my monster world.


Today, as I sat in the infamous adjustable chair listening to drills and teeth scraping and moans (okay, maybe the moans were only mine and had nothing to do with pain but only with totally unjustified apprehension), I pondered a monster dentist’s workday. The following is what I envisioned:


The dentist’s name would be something like Dr. A. G. Ony or Dr. Lotta Payne


He would look like a cross between a mad scientist and a mangy dog, or she might be a skeleton in blood-crusted scrubs with a necklace of teeth dangling from her neck.


Tools would include a hammer, chisel, pliers, and a knockout punch, although most procedures would be administered with no pain relief. The louder the howling—the better.


The dentist would also have a file to sharpen teeth for better biting. Every Moanday, there would be a special two for one price on sharpenings. (always popular with the financially fiscal monsters like werewolves and trolls)


Cosmetic dentistry would include the application of teeth tarnishing gel, multiple tooth extractions for that gap-toothed growl, and a take home kit for halitosis—bad breath to the max.


Okay, there you have it. A writer’s mind at work—all while wearing a paper bib and drooling most profusely.


Now it’s your turn! (No, not to drool—to write!)

Open the door, if you dare, and let your imagination out for a bit of fun. I’ve shown you ways a dentist might “operate” in the goofy monster world that I’ve created for my #MonsterOrDieBooks.




  1. Choose a setting for your story. (Feel free to use my monster world if you’d like.)
  2. Create a character.
  3. Fill in the blanks on how he/she looks and acts.
  4. Now write a story with this character. Keep thinking until you discover a problem. Such as: What if the monster dentist had to extract teeth from a crazed werewolf during a full moon? (Check out the classic picture book Dr. DeSoto by William Steig to read how this author wrote a similar story.)
  5. Finally, tell how the character tries to solve the problem. Does she do it—or not?


Presto! You’ve written a story! That’s how you make magic happen—one word at a time!

I’d love to hear about some of your characters. 🙂

Here’s to monstrous reading & writing!!!

Watch Out! Monsters Happen Here!

Today I’m offering a glimpse of my writing space—a small office area in my bedroom. Be it ever so humble, this is where monsters are created!


My Desk

There is my usually cluttered desk. I never seem to keep it as neat as I’d like. If I do straighten things up, then I usually lose track of where I’ve put something. So it’s probably better if it stays a bit messy. Monsters like mess anyway—perhaps that’s why so many have moved in.


My Bookshelves

There are a few bookshelves. A whole room full of shelves would not be enough for I could fill them quickly. I’ve had to size-down my book collection to stay within my space. There are books on writing, reference books, files, folders, photos and such. My shelves for favorite books stands in the hallway, a few steps away. Right now Jonathan Stroud’s book, THE HOLLOW BOY, sits on my desk though. He is such a master of fantasy adventure. I’m hoping the close proximity to one of his works will bring good mojo my way.


My Poem

There is a framed copy of my poem, “Reaching for the Stars,” which was published in HIGHLIGHTS magazine some years back. I love the colorful illustration by artist Melanie Hall. And I love the poem’s ongoing words of encouragement, “Go ahead. Try it. You’ll see—stars aren’t really so far away.” That’s the sentiment I keep focusing on in my writing career. Believing that the impossible is possible when you give it your all.



My View

There is classical music playing in the background. The masterful notes soothe my soul and inspire my muse. Periodically a train passes behind me. The rumble reminds me of powerful forces at work both within and without. Sometimes the sound pulls me out of a scene I’m writing and brings me back to the here and now, but more often it simply blends into the world I’ve created. I hear too the soft whirl of wheels on the street down below as cars slow at the corner stop sign. The vehicles pause and move on—my story too slows and accelerates with each new scene, setting, and the cast of characters. Today’s view through my office window is a gloomy one, following a morning thunderstorm. A perfect view for monsters—and this monster writer.


Follow me on Twitter for more monster updates! @cynthiareeg

or Facebook at Cynthia Reeg, Author


Oftentimes When I Start Writing a Story…

There will be a good guy versus a bad guy. My fantasy FROM THE GRAVE seemed pretty straightforward in this respect with Frankenstein Frightface Gordon—a less-than-monsterly monster—as the good guy. Malcolm McNastee—a true blood troll on a mission to end misfits—seemed the obvious bad guy. But then, as I dug deep (please forgive the obvious cemetery allusion) into the story, my characters started revealing who they really are. Their quirks and shortcomings. Their fears and failings. And of course, I love them all the more for it.


Looking Deeper

While Frank maintains his good guy persona, he’s not without his numerous shortcomings. He has a quick temper that he’s tried to put under wraps, which sometimes causes him to be too cautious. He doesn’t initially lead the charge to stand up for exiled misfits. Rather he must be convinced by Georgina—a dragon without a trace of fire—and by his dear, departed granny—from the grave!


Malcolm, on the other claw, isn’t a totally tough creature. He has a big soft spot for his little sister, Nelly, who exhibits some disturbing misfit traits. Plus, Malcolm has his own secrets to hide—secrets that would destroy his perfectly gruesome image. One of Malcolm’s favorite sayings is “Less thinking and more monstering.” But that is not always easy to do. In fact, being a monster is far from easy but wonderfully entertaining, as I hope you’ll discover in FROM THE GRAVE coming October 18 from Jolly Fish Press.


 More Monsters!from-the-grave

For more information on creating characters and details on FROM THE GRAVE, visit these What’s New blog posts:

Monster Writing Prompts: Creating Characters

1/29 Friends

1/21 Family

1/17 Appearance

1/8 Likes & Dislikes

The BFG and Monster Food


Roald Dahl’s fantasy THE BFG is coming to the theaters on July 1. This is one of my favorite Dahl stories. I remember reading it to my two sons many years ago when they were in early elementary school. We would all laugh-out-loud at the antics of Sophie and her big, friendly giant. This was the type of story I wanted to write for children—one that would entertain and delight them.


Fast forward many years later, as I was brainstorming during a long car trip. An entertaining fantasy story started jelling in my mind. I scribbled down some notes about a world of monsters where a group of misfits was struggling to fit in. Originally, I intended to write FROM THE GRAVE as a beginning chapter book, but very quickly the characters informed me I was wrong. Their story was much too involved. These monsters needed a lot more pages to show off their stuff.


As an author, I knew better than to say “no” to monsters. Instead, I wrote their escapades into a middle grade story with humor, adventure, a fair share of gross-out factor—and plenty of heart as well. Plus, there’s more than a few monster curses thrown in, just to warn you.


I must say that I totally enjoyed the gross-out parts, particularly the monster food. The monster world in FROM THE GRAVE parallels the human world in many ways. But monsters have totally different palates than humans. Creating disgusting monster chow became a daily challenge as I wrote and rewrote the story. “Peppered innards” is one of my favorites.




What cooking in your monster kitchen???


Now it’s your turn to create some delectable (for monsters anyway) food. Pretend you are inviting all your favorite frightening friends for dinner. What will you serve? Perhaps Toasted Eyeballs for an appetizer. Chopped Lizard Gizzards with Gravy for the entry. And Bubbling Brains for dessert!


*Bonus: Write out the recipe for how to make your monster food.


*Bonus: Write a story that has monster food in it. Who’s making and eating the food? Throw in a problem to make it interesting. Remember a story needs:


  1. a Beginning (introduce us to your characters & setting)
  2. a Middle (things become worse instead of better)
  3. an End (wrap things up/solve the problem)

Watch the STIR UP A STORY slide show on my website for more help.


Starter Idea: Maybe a witch is throwing a party and she can’t get the fire going under her cauldron. What will she do? How do things go from bad to worse for her? Does anyone help her? (Remember: it’s good to have the main character solve her problem as much as possible.)


If you don’t like the starter idea, think up your very own story!

Have fun. Be creative. Don’t worry about spelling and punctuation too much on the first round. But if you want to earn a SUPER WRITER badge, try to correct as much as you can when you read your story over the second time.

Send me your BEST suggestions for monster food @CynthiaReegAuthor on Facebook or @cynthiaReeg on Twitter or comment below!


Be sure to find out what food is bubbling in the pot in FROM THE GRAVE by Cynthia Reeg. Coming to a cemetery near you October 18!