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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Overview Character Development: Part Three: Internal Heart

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“The victory, however, comes only very gradually, for it relates directly to the slow and difficult process of accepting one’s self-knowledge and coming to peaceful terms with it.” Mollie Hunter


A story grows from the character’s emotional core. What? Why? The issue is not the event itself but how the character perceives and reacts to it. Makes his judgment and does this based on his own feelings.

So to dive deep into your character it’s important to know his motives, values, psychological profiles, and temperament. Tension builds as the barriers you put up against these four categories creates conflict and stretches your character from the inside out.

They don’t need to be dramatic or threatening but they must be real to their inner character and the immediate situation they are in. It’s a major decision for a two year old to decide to share his favorite toy with a playmate. It’s a major decision for a teen to be at a party that has gotten out of control.

So how do you get to know their hearts and what choices they will make. Get to know them. Here are some possibilities depending on what age you are writing for.

Write a short monologue for your character, whether they are talking to themselves or another. Do the conversation two ways; first showing something they care about, and then showing a negative side of themselves. What kind of words do they pick for either? For example, if your character has disrespect for lawyers they might use adjectives such as, he’s like a fox or a shark, instead of saying she has a sharp mind.

Write journal entries for them for a day or a week or a month.
Give your character a chronology and then from your character’s POV write a memory for each event: 1st day of kindergarten, 1st day of high school. Notice if any changes have occurred personality wise. Has a shy, quiet boy become a profane bully?

What do they dream about? What nightmares do they have?

When they have to pack their backpack for a day or a short trip what do they want inside?


The key to find internal patterns as plots is to find the ones that honestly take root in personal experience. F.A. Rockwell lists potential plot seeds from jokes, news, quotations, irritations, crisis, values, Bible stories, Cinderella, Faust, classics, and values. She recommends starting with clashing goals and then crisscrossing plots.

1.     Make a list of contrasting values:
Hope vs despair
Brotherly love vs bigotry
Courage vs Cowardice

2.     Once you choose the combination that interest you, then work it out in different ways, such as the four Davis versus Goliath possibilities. Will it end in tragedy or comedy? Depending on your mood, material, market, and purpose, Rockwell suggests four ways to develop a David and Goliath conflict, using real and fictional characters:

1. David conquers Goliath.            Erin Brockovich
2. David is conquered by Goliath. Billy Budd
3. David conquers Goliath but eventually becomes a new Goliath who threatens a new David. The Godfather
4. David is physically conquered by Goliath, but is undefeated morally and spiritually. Nelson Mandela

So look at your character’s situation or dilemma and ask what is their Goliath and what personality traits and heart values will help them overcome. In The Wild Things, temper tantrum Max remembers love and is able to be sorry for his behavior. In Shadow Spinner, Marjan’s compassion and gift of storytelling combine to save her mistress.

Action Steps:

            Below are some general “What if?” questions to get you started.

Share: What makes your character laugh?

Read deep, marcy

What If Questions

Who is the main Character?

Who or what is the antagonist?

Who are the other people in the story?

What does the main character want?

How important is it for him to get it?

What does the antagonist want?

How does he/it prevent the protagonist?

Results-initial action

Struggles lead to (crisis)

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