Thursday, May 21, 2015

BUDDING WRITERS PROJECT / Lesson #1: How to create an awesome character for your story

Note: We’re launching this series of articles to share story writing advice and also help you use your imagination in fun and clever ways.

Lesson #1: How to create an awesome character for your story
Lesson #2: How to write a truly Singaporean bestseller
Lesson #3: How to excite readers and keep them hooked
Lesson #4: How to boost your imagination and get really creative

You’ll find a link to this year’s Budding Writers Project by Marshall Cavendish Education at the end of this post. Happy writing! 

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by Don Bosco

Splendid salutations to you, dear Budding Writer. May your talent and imagination bring great joy to everyone you encounter.

If you’re writing a story for the first time, you might feel a little lost. Where should you start? What can you focus on? How will you know if your story idea is any good?

So here’s today’s tip: the heart of any good story is the MAIN CHARACTER. Someone that we will enjoy reading about, and even hope that we can meet in real life. Someone who perhaps reminds us of a friend or family member. Or even someone who reminds you of yourself, in a nice way.

Why is this important? Well, human beings are curious creatures, and we have a natural desire to connect with people and find out more about them. So if there’s a cool character in your story, your readers will want to follow her around and find out if she ends up okay.

On the other hand, if the main character in your story is dull and does nothing remarkable, this would make your readers yawn and quickly put your story away. They’ll go look at someone else’s story instead, hoping to find a character that can fascinate them.

Now that you understand this, here are some ideas to help you develop a great character for your own story. Have fun!

TIP #1: Someone who makes us curious
When we’re curious about someone, we want to know more about them. We can’t bear to look away from them. We’ll watch them closely and try to look for any information that will satisfy our curiosity.

So find ways to get us curious about your character. That’s a great start.

An example:

Gemina looked around to make sure that there was nobody else in the room, and then she quickly hid the box behind the cupboard. She could feel something small fluttering inside. “I’m sorry about this!” Gemina whispered. She was trembling. “I can’t let them see you!”

What’s in her box? Why must she hide it away? What would happen if someone else found the box?

Suddenly, we’re curious. Gemina seems like a special person caught in an interesting situation. We want to follow the story and find out what happens next.

Try this: Pick someone you know, perhaps a classmate or sibling or cousin. Is there anything unusual about her? Write a short paragraph about her, making her sound all cool and mysterious.

You can also practise writing about yourself, and make other people curious about you. This is one way to become more interesting and popular.

TIP #2: A helpful person who also needs help 
Stories are full of heroes. These are basically people who are nice and go out of their way to help others. But while we admire them for this, we might not really care about them.

On the other hand, if the hero also has problems of his own, perhaps due to a bad habit or some past mistake, this actually makes us sympathetic. We begin to feel emotionally involved. And we want to find out how he deals with his situation.

Try this: Let’s go back to the paragraph you just wrote for the first tip. Change the name and personal details, so that it’s no longer about anyone you know. It’s now a character that you can have fun developing.

Then, add one sentence explaining how he or she is helpful or heroic in certain situations. Perhaps because of a secret power, or an unusual talent, or a very special hobby.

And after that, add another sentence showing how he or she also constantly needs help. Too untidy? Always getting lost? Forgetful? Scared of crowds? Also: how does this become a problem?

You could do this exercise with a friend. Brainstorm different ideas and see how interesting you can make this character.

TIP #3: Friends, family and favourite animals
Sometimes a character’s uniqueness comes from her relationships at home, in school, or with animals. Perhaps she’s a very normal girl, but her mother is the Chief Magical Officer of a big bank. Or he’s a rather ordinary boy, but he has a pet iguana that is so clever, it’s actually able to play Minecraft.

Try this: Think about the character you created. Add an interesting friend, family member or favourite animal. At this point, you should have enough information to start making sketches, so you can visualise your character better.

Next week: How to write a truly Singaporean bestseller

Lesson #1: How to create an awesome character for your story
Lesson #2: How to write a truly Singaporean bestseller
Lesson #3: How to excite readers and keep them hooked
Lesson #4: How to boost your imagination and get really creative

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Sign up for the 14th Budding Writers Project here.

Join this year's Creative Camp at Bishan Public Library.
2 to 5 June 2015
For Primary 3 to 6 only
Free registration. Limited spaces available.
Click on images to enlarge. Or sign up at

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Don Bosco is the author of LION CITY ADVENTURES, published by Marshall Cavendish Editions. It's a Singapore exploration book with fiction segments where you help to solve mini-mysteries. It'll be in bookstores in June 2015. Come join the Lion City Adventuring Club and have fun discovering the marvels of Singapore! More information here