Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Most children's writers know that it is important that the main character solve the problem or answer the central question....

...not another character....

...and especially, heaven forbid, not an ADULT.

And the problem should not be solved by happenstance.

The main character must actively DO something to solve the problem.


....it's easy to forget something else that is just as important:


The main character should have motivation to solve the problem.

Why is the character doing what he is doing?

AND - that motivation must be clear.

Lack of character motivation = a problem.

Personal experience:

TAKING CARE OF MOSES is about a boy who knows who left a baby on the steps of a church - but he keeps it a secret.

In the first draft, there was no motivation for Randall to keep the secret. He just wanted to keep it a secret. But the whole story revolves around that - so with no motivation, the story had no tension and just fell flat.

My writer's group (God bless 'em) kept asking me why Randall was keeping his secret.

Why, why, why?

And I kept stubbornly telling them, "Just because he wants to, okay?"

But, of course, I knew in my heart that it wasn't working.

Randall needed motivation.

In the revised (and final) draft, a new story element is introduced that provides motivation for Randall's secret. I won't bore you with the details (hey - you could read the book) - but it has to do with Queenie Avery having Alzheimer's and wandering at night and folks wanting to put her in a home, blah blah blah - but out of that came Randall's MOTIVATION.

After that, everything made sense and the story fell into place.

So - ask yourself, WHY does my main character want what she wants and/or do what she does?

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