Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Use a Character Chart?

Have you ever gone back and read a story you wrote and thought, I don't know these people. Not only that but I don't even care about them. Story killer. That's when it's time to get into the heads of your characters. If you don't care about your characters, your reader certainly won't. One thing that I have found to be helpful when writing about your characters is to do a write up about each one of them. Anita Stansfield makes a file about each character. She even picks a face from a magazine or a Hollywood icon to be the face she writes about. Now that's dedication. I have a chart that I can use to learn more about my characters. I may never use some of the information in the story, but it gives me a feel for who they are and what their motivation is.
Character chart
Date of birth:
Color of hair:
Color of eyes:
Scars, handicaps:
Sense of humor and type:
Basic nature:
Philosophy of life:
Music, art, reading preferred:
Style of dressing:
Favorite colors:
What is in her purse or his wallet:
Educational background:
Work experience/occupation:
Best friend:
Men/women friends:
Enemies and why:
Description of home:
Strongest character trait:
Weakest character trait:
Sees self as:
Seen by others as:
Present problem:
How it will get worse:
Most important thing to know about character:
One-line characterization:
Character's paradox:
Character's deepest fear:
Character's goal:
Character's motivation:
Character's conflict:
How character will change:
Depending on what time period or setting your story is in, some of the questions may not apply, so adjust the chart according to your needs. This has been a useful tool for me, I hope that it can be beneficial for those of you who find yourself with a lifeless character in need of some animation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why join SCBWI?

Yesterday I joined SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Why did I take so long to do it? I guess because I never really felt like I was an illustrator before, and now that I am actually working as one every month, it fits.
What are the benefits of belonging to SCBWI? Well, there are many it seems. You should go to their website and take a gander, and it just so happens that there is a link on my blog, how handy. SCBWI has about 19,000 members worldwide and each of those members belongs to their own regional chapters, one of which is here in Utah. Our regional rep. is Sydney Husseman. Her e-mail address appears on the site if you would like to contact her about chapter information.
SCBWI holds two regional conferences per year, or you can attend the bigwig conferences in Los Angeles in August and New York in February if you have the time and the funds. All the conferences include great networking opportunities to meet with people in the children’s book industry. There are also in-depth classes taught on subjects that are well worth the time and the travel.
When you join SCBWI you will receive a bi- monthly newsletter with updates about the children’s book market, articles about writing and illustrating and a guide to SCBWI events.
Check out the Links section of the website and you will find Helpful Research Links, Industry Related Sites, Member Web Pages, and a site devoted to School Visits. Another website section informs you of awards and grants that are available to children’s writers and illustrators. There is even a section where you can log on for discussions with other SCBWI members.
Not only does SCBWI benefit its members, but it looks good on your cover letter. Apparently being a member means something. I think it means commitment to your craft. So go ahead, get committed. Join SCBWI and see what they can do for you.
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