Beginner Basic Training: The WHO of Writing KidLit
Today, we kick off the six-part series titled Beginner Basic Training with the first question on our list of building blocks to good writing of children’s fiction: Who?
Each question on the list seems quite simple, but really there is more depth than you might first imagine.
In this case, there are three parts to focus on when you ask the question Who?
I. WHO are you as the author?
Writing children’s fiction is addictive. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop, and you’ll get ideas and want to run with them. But, before you embark on this journey, you need to ask yourself a very important question: Who am I as an Author?
Are you playful, energized, creative? Do you see the world in primary colors? Did you love or hate middle school or high school? Do you have beautiful or painful childhood memories? Do you find joy in the simple concepts or in deep emotions? Which authors or books for kids do you relate to, embrace, favor?
As a writer for kids, you take on a responsibility to your readers. From elementary boys and girls to high school athletes, choir students and science brains, depending on your story, your characters, and your setting, they will want to meet you, they will look up to you, they will follow you. You must take inventory of who YOU are as an author, who you want to be known as, and who you want them to meet.
II. WHO is your audience?
When I speak with authors I ask this question regularly because if you don’t know who you are trying to reach you will lose site of how to reach them, and while we all want to believe that writing a children’s book is about education and imagination, it is still also a business. You need to ask yourself the following questions.
- Who do you want to buy your books?
- Who is your target age group?
- Who do you envision reading this book?
- Who will be doing the actual reading of your book?
- Who is going to be impacted by your message, theme, or conflict resolution?
- Who will be sharing your book with their family, friends, colleagues, etc?
You must know Who your audience is in order for you to know whether or not your story will find a purchased, will find a home, and will be loved.
III. WHO is the focal point of your story?
When we refer to the Who in your story, your referring to a boy or girl, an animal, a mom or dad, a villain, a superhero, a teacher, a plane, train or automobile. Basically, the WHO is the main character or group of characters that your story focuses on throughout its pages, whether it’s a 32-page picture book or a 300-word young adult novel. Here are some sample questions you should ask yourself as you begin your manuscript.
- Who is your story about?
- Who is involved in the main plot or conflict?
- Who’s the protagonist or antagonist?
- Who lives, changes, or dies?
- Who are their friends? Enemies?
- Who do they love or hate?
- Who is going to stand-out to your audience?
- Who will be the favorite versus the least-favorite character?
- Whose point of view are your writing from?
Whether your writing a picture book about a lost honey bee trying to find its way home or a middle grader trying to maneuver their way through eighth grade or a teen hero fighting the villain of a new world, the WHO of you as an author, of your audience, and of your book’s characters should be discovered and solidified. As you work on your manuscript, use these questions as a springboard to help you develop your foundation and move forward.
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at the next question: What?