Creating Characters Kids Will Love

Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin (

Published by Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio. 2000.

Cvr Creating Characters“Kids read because a magical closeness springs up between them and the characters in books and stories…They read because a writer has brought a character to life on the page for them.”     (Introduction to Creating Characters Kids Will Love)

This book makes a promise to inform me with specifics and techniques of creating characters I want my readers to identify with. And it DELIVERS!

I give it 5 out of 5 highlighters!   MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1

Each section of each chapter of each unit contains numerous recommendations for me to “Read the Pros” who have succeeded in using the principle or technique Alphin explained in that section. Reading just a few of the recommended books kept my library card white hot for months.

Each section also contains several writing exercises (dubbed “Try it Yourself”) specific to that principle or technique. I actually DID some of them and they helped.

Alphin divides her book into four sections:

  • Characters: How to explore and use memories to create well-rounded characters
  • Plots: How to create plots worthy of those characters
  • How to create heroes and villains; useful secondary characters; animals, aliens and other special characters; and the place of grown-up characters in children’s literature
  • How to bring nonfiction to life for readers

I believe that ug what I learned in Creating Characters has elevated my skills at creating, developing and revealing memorable characters.

Two big things that I have applied to my writing are:

  • In exploring my own childhood memories I must capture the EMOTIONS attached to the incidents I recall. The specific places, events, etc. of my childhood memories will not work for a new generation of kids. But, tapping into the emotions I experienced WILL resonate with today’s kids. I need to show my readers the deeper truth of what my memory taught me. I need to be willing to change the details of the event that actually happened to me while holding on to the emotions I experienced.
  • What readers want to see in a picture book character is what Alphin calls potency –  “personal power resulting in growth.” Without that the main character will not appeal to the child reader or listener. Also, I must first show the reader the main character’s frustration and determination.  Then, I have to show the main character drawing on inner strength and resources that the young reader (listener) can identify with. A picture book character that kids love has to establish potency by dealing with the story situation in a way that grows out of his/her character.

Though I am nowhere near perfecting these two skills, Creating Characters explained and detailed them in a way that I could put them to work in my own manuscripts.


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