Thanks to Elizabeth George

I finished reading Write Away, Elizabeth George’s take on novel writing. She writes mysteries and her approach is totally different than mine. I’m one of those people who writes and then sorts it all out later. But, being between projects at the moment, and seeing as how I wanted to try my hand at a kids book, I thought I’d try something totally different–you know, as an exercise.

One of the things George recommends before jumping into the novel writing is a character sketch…a heavily detailed character sketch. Her argument is that if you know who your characters are before you start, then the story will basically tell itself because “character is plot”. So she says to sit down with your notebook and write out, in present tense, everything you know or think you know about your main character. When you’re done, proceed with the secondary characters.

I did just this and wow! It was actually fun. I took the main character for my kid book and put him through his paces. When I finished, I knew his motivations and drives and his friends. Not only did I get enough for this first book in the series, I pretty much saw the whole series (six books in all) laid out in front of me. Who knew?

The only flaw: Generally I figure this stuff out as I go anyway, and I’m worried that the actual writing (when I get there) will feel less like I’m discovering something…seeing as how I did all the discovering pretty early on. Of course, the only way to know that is to do the writing…but I’m still working out the supporting cast…see my difficulty?

But, if you’re feeling like you’re stuck and you’re a little more left-brained than me, then I would recommend this exercise. It is fun.

Kid's Series Writing Thoughts

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I love doing character sketches. Go figure. Character tends to be where I start, but they always need fleshing out. And it really helps with the secondary characters. For me, it also helps me recognize with I have six characters with black hair and green eyes or they are all tall or everyone has a visible scar. Not that I’d ever do that.

  2. Bah, I say to your worries. No matter how well you imagine you think you might possibly know a character before you start, once you get going and you apply stimulus to character-in-question guy, sparks will go “kablooie”.I’m having that same experience…

  3. I outline AND do detailed character sketches. And still they surprise me. Things happen that I hadn’t planned. Don’t worry about it. It actually frees you up to just write without worrying that you’re not going in the right direction.

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