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 on: Today at 08:39:46 AM 
Started by jfields - Last post by jfields
Children's Writers eNews
March 5, 2015
"The Write Words to Read"
The Institute of Children's Literature
Editor: Jan Fields --

"To develop a believable adult character who can interact with your youngsters, show how a grown-up can treat a child with respect, acknowledging his abilities and potential, and giving him rom to grow into it rather than pushing him into it."  -- Elaine Marie Alphin
1. News
2. Online in Rx
3. At the Writer's Retreat
4. What's New at Kristi's?
5. Market
6. Cool Site
7. Essay
8. Good News
1. For an archive of past eNews issues, check out
2. In the Rx
Ever wonder if there's a real difference between a short story for young children and a picture book? This may help you understand.
3. Are You On The Writer's Retreat?
We're about to jump into March, and the discussion of the month will be "Tips and Tricks" -- we'll be just talking about a potpourri of little things we do to make our writing better.

Also in March -- TWO special speakers will be joining us on the Writer's Retreat board. Be sure to catch the last day, today, of the amazing Chris Eboch will be there to answer questions about "Voice and Style."

Chris Eboch <>  is a popular writing teacher who gives workshops around the country. Her book Advanced Plotting <>  is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer. If you struggle with plot or suspect your plotting needs work, this book can help.

4. What's New at Kristi's?

Friday, Feb. 27: "Key #5: Balance Between Opposites"
You can't relax and "write in flow" until you find the balance between seemingly opposite pieces of advice--and embrace both. Here's how in the last post of this series.

Tuesday, March 3: "The Dynamics of Change"
How do we make changes that stick? How can you be among the 10-15% who repeatedly accomplishes his or her writing goals? Join us for this new series.

5. Educational Market Links Update
Evelyn Christensen's fantastic educational market links have been updated. This is a fantastic area to break into book publishing so check out the help she offers.
6. Writing For Children's Magazines
The March Issue is up with two great articles AND Evelyn's terrific market tidbits. Also, be sure to scroll down the main page and check out the links -- you may find magazine markets you never considered.
7. Where'd You Get That Subplot?
[Borrowed from a Writer's Retreat Discussion]

For me, I find my subplots develop as I make all my characters more "real" for me -- as I think they through more and get to know them as people with separate quirks and motivations. And that comes (for me) both early (in the planning stages) and as I move along (by asking myself questions). For instance, suppose I create a small group of kids who (for one reason or another) have to figure out a way to solve a big problem or everyone dies (because I write action/adventure, this isn't as unusual as it sounds). Now the story is boring if everyone works together efficiently and cooperatively. So, I'm going to throw in a few monkey wrenches and those are going to create subplots simply by existing in a smooth way.

The MAIN PLOT is "how do we solve this huge problem and not die" but let's suppose two of my characters aren't working well together. They pick at one another and slow things down. Why do they do that? It cannot just be because it makes things more interesting -- that's MY reason but it cannot be THEIR reason. I have to create some reason that makes sense to them (because they're people) and it cannot just be because they're siblings and siblings fight -- I need a real reason why this particular pair of siblings are fighting RIGHT NOW when fighting is making everything worse. And I need to establish that reason and let it thread throughout the book so that the fighting makes perfect sense when it pops up on the spot I need for it to pop up. That weaving in will be a subplot. So, by doing that I have my hero AND I have my fighting siblings (one subplot) but I decide I need someone who is actually working totally against the hero, but doing it subtly -- so I decide to make some kind of saboteur. Why would anyone do that when the result is going to be soooooo bad? The reason cannot be just because it makes the book more interesting. It has to be for a reason that makes sense to that kid -- something he/she is terrified of (since fear will make us act irrationally). And again, I have to weave it through the whole story, thus creating another subplot.

So, at the beginning, as I'm creating the character, I might think -- I want some squabbling siblings who really do care for one another and I want someone who is so afraid of something that he/she actually acts against the successful accomplishment of the main plot. So in the planning stage, I'm focused on MY reason. I want these things because they'll make for a more interesting story with twists and turns and surprises. BUT then as I'm beginning the writing, I have to integrate these ideas in a way that makes total sense in terms of character. That is almost always a process of subtly weaving in hints and clues to the behavior of these characters. I really work on the subplot and make it sensible, because I want the kids to act in ways that make total sense to them. Why are the siblings not controlling themselves? Why is their conflict so big this time, that they don't seem able to set it aside? Or for my saboteur subplot, what could make a good person do something very bad? What could keep you from speaking up and seeking the help of your friends instead of doing this bad thing? As I ask myself questions, the answers will build my subplots and deepen my story. As I write, I'm constantly asking myself questions. I'll jot them down on a piece of paper beside my keyboard so that (by the end of the book) I can point to the spot in the story that answers every question.

8. Good News

Anne E. Johnson - My geological mystery, "The Thieving Rain," is now available for private and classroom use (there's a teacher's guide about alluvial fans!) from ISSUES IN EARTH SCIENCE.

Trine Grillo: Keys for Kids is going to include my story in their devotional magazine this year. “Leah’s Eyes”  is about a boy whose baby sister is born blind. He questions why God would give a baby eyes that don’t work and comes up with a solution to help her see God with her “heart eyes.”

Donna Marie West: I have an article called, “Stories of Women in Horror” on the HALLOWEENFOREVERMORE web site this week.

Marion Tickner: Kids Ark Magazine has just accepted my short story, "A Light Unto My Path." Working Writers, an online magazine for writers is always looking for articles, especially reprints. "To Tell The Story" is now posted in the March/April issue of Working Writers." (A reprint of  "Whose Story Is This?" posted in the ICL newsletter on 11/5/05 and again 5/5/06.).  Prairie Times, a small newspaper, has accepted "A Laugh A Day" for their March issue and "Runaway Girl" for their May issue. In 2014 I submitted to Dancing With Bear Publishing's call for stories for anthologies.. To Love Deeply came out in time for Valentines Day in Kindle only. Blizzard Adventure was also published in Kindle only in time for Christmas. I had three stories in Blizzard Adventure - "Blizzard Adventure," " Left Waiting at the Church," and "My Christmas Shopping Husband." Prairie Times published "What's In The Attic," "Get Out of Jail Free," and "Stories From Way Back When." And Evelyn Christensen (Writing for Children's Magazines) has accepted "Do I Have The Right Address?" - a reprint of "Ouchy Rejections" posted in ICL newsletter 3/18/05.

What's Your Good News? Send to -- be sure to put "good news" in the subject line since I get a lot of book announcements due to the review work I do. So I don't want your good news to slip through the cracks.

9. For All Subscribers

Many of our Nnews issues are being blocked from getting to all of our subscribers. It can be difficult to convince your email provider that you truly want to receive this eNews. Therefore we've created a list of directions to make it easier for you find the exact steps to ensure the eNews always makes it to your inbox.

Please, check out this link for specific directions to ensure you get every issue of the Children's Writers eNews.

To Unsubscribe from the email version of Children's Writers eNews, go to
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 on: Today at 08:36:16 AM 
Started by ColoradoKate - Last post by judyr
Oh, I'm intrigued by this business of how self-aware a character is, and how that would affect POV and voice (and the author's choices)... because yes, of course it must, but I'd never thought about that!

Well said, Kate... Now I wonder if I should try first person for my MC.

 on: Today at 07:22:41 AM 
Started by chriseboch - Last post by jojocookie
So why not just use one word?

Why not just say style all the time or voice all the time. Why use two words to decribe the same thing?

I do think I'm starting to get it.

Thank you!

 on: Today at 07:18:23 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by jojocookie
The Elements Of Style was all about mechanics. I couldn't see the correlation in fiction writing. What you said makes sense. Voice=Style. Thank you, Chris and Jan.

 on: Today at 07:14:25 AM 
Started by jojocookie - Last post by jojocookie
Thank you for answering my question.

I guess I thought that a voice driven story was one in which the MC did a lot of internalizing. Or, as I put it to myself, a lot of inner voicing.

The MC had a quirky personality and that came through in the way she spoke and reasoned with herself. Her inner thoughts stood out a tad bit more. Just a tad.

So, I guess it is the same as a character driven story.

 on: March 04, 2015, 10:24:16 PM 
Started by Okami - Last post by chriseboch
Lots of good points. As adults, we bring a greater understanding to a variety of people. We have more experiences and more education. We can hopefully look at situations and say, Ah, now I understand why that person behaved that way. Understanding why someone is a bully can help to make your bully character more real, even if your main character doesn't have the same understanding.

 on: March 04, 2015, 09:09:52 PM 
Started by Okami - Last post by Okami
I don't recall hearing that advice, but it definitely sounds like something that could be woefully misinterpreted. I expect "Write As You Talk" is a response to people who tend to go formal and academic in their writing. In other words, don't write like you were taught to write essays in school – when you are writing fiction, or popular nonfiction, have a casual, natural voice, more like people in conversation.

I don't think it necessarily means that you should only write in the way that you personally would actually talk…but I could be wrong, since I'm only guessing at the intent of the people who said it.

First, thanks for replying, Chris.

I did hear that advice sometimes with respect to fiction and that's what I speaking toward.

I think it can be tricky because sometimes writers can worry so much about vocabulary, word choice and sentence length for readers UNDER MG, we confuse being in the voice of the character with ease of reading.

Similar to why writers are wary of dialect because while people legitimately talk in dialect, it's more difficult to read than it is to hear it spoken in films or television.

I've also read manuscripts by writer colleagues who are
(understandably) OBSESSED with sounding "like a kid"
it effects the ease of reading on a technical level for similar reasons to writers.

Granted, picture books and early readers have a lot to consider, but even in middle grade novels (barring noteworthy exceptions) that pull for technical accessibility versus voice is hard sometimes because they don't always blend at first.

Jan once told me I "naturally have the YA worldview", even though I don't read much YA, and I never clicked with most teens in books, even when I was one, so I still struggle with getting why I project a worldview I never felt part of-even when I was biologically in it.

I think writers who struggle with that push-pull of voice versus accessibility face this.

I do a lot of what you suggest for the reasons you bring up. Not all my characters are derived from my life, and I think part of the debate comes from confusing "Not patronizing kids and teens" with "Our adult selves are a burden to relating to kids."

That's not always the case. Like with most things it's HOW we do it.

If we talk down, of course we'll annoy kids and teens, and frankly other adults for that matter (especially common in dialogues with parents and non-parents), BUT we can take our adult POV and experiences to help inform and create a more real character, even if your characters are rats. (like Gabriel and Rum are Grin Wink)

I couldn't empathize and round out Rum's character until I allowed my adult mindset to inform and in some areas overtake my "victim" mindset of being tormented and bullied like Gabriel is in the story.

So, in that respect I'm glad it took as long as it did to get GABRIEL to a publishable state (at least enough to sell it, and working with my editor's been great) because it gave the opportunity to give Rum the depth and substance he wouldn't otherwise have because my "kid victim" mindset was getting in the way.

The core story was the same as what I first wrote at 16 almost a decade ago, but it's better now because I was able to see Rum beyond my victim mindset having been bullied, and saw I could only see that from the adult I'm striving to become versus the sad and angry child I was having been bullied.

That didn't make Rum "sound middle-aged." it allowed me to make him empathetic to me as the writer, and not present a two-dimensional character to the reader.

That's why I think we sometimes devalue our adult selves because we think it will make us unrelated or boring to kids and teens. But it's really HOW we use it, not simply that we use it.

Maybe because my childhood wasn't as free and positive as others, yet it wasn't traumatic as seeing people murdered or having a fatal medical issue, I just felt more comfortable with myself after getting older.

That was my experience. For other writers milage will vary.

 on: March 04, 2015, 08:13:33 PM 
Started by Okami - Last post by chriseboch
I don't recall hearing that advice, but it definitely sounds like something that could be woefully misinterpreted. I expect "Write As You Talk" is a response to people who tend to go formal and academic in their writing. In other words, don't write like you were taught to write essays in school – when you are writing fiction, or popular nonfiction, have a casual, natural voice, more like people in conversation. I don't think it necessarily means that you should only write in the way that you personally would actually talk… but I could be wrong, since I'm only guessing at the intent of the people who said it.

Readers definitely don't want every character sound like the author. We want variety in characters, especially within one book! How boring would it be if every character sounded the same? And of course, if you are a middle-aged woman writing about a preteen boy, you don't want that boy to sound like a middle-aged woman. (I've heard editors/agents complain about that). And characters like your "big oaf" who has hidden depths can be the most fun to read about, as their true character is revealed over time.

Besides, isn't the fun of writing getting to "be" different characters? It sounds like you're having a great time exploring different characters. I've noticed in my writing for adults, my romantic suspense heroines tend to be rather cautious thinkers. In my new project, I'm trying to go for a more tough, in-your-face type for variety. It's fun to think What would she do/say?, rather than What would I do/say?

So what should an author do? A few random ideas off the top of my head –

Some authors like to figure out which celebrity they would want to play their character in a movie. Or they cut out pictures from magazines of people who look like their characters. That might be a way to remind yourself that your character is different from you. If you are on Pinterest, you can have boards for your characters (and keep it private if you want), pinning things that they would find interesting.

It can be helpful to go through a manuscript reading only one character's dialogue (and thoughts if you include them). That can help you check if the voice is consistent throughout. Then try another character and make sure their voice is both consistent, and different from the first character.

If you have a critique group or people who are familiar with the manuscript, you can try quoting lines of dialogue without identifying the character. See if your listeners can figure out from the language who it might be.

For awhile in LA I was in a script writing critique group. We often read scenes aloud, with people taking on different characters. That can help you tell if your voices are working, and the person who reads a character could let you know if they felt their dialogue was natural and consistent. It would work best for passages with a lot of dialogue though.

I also think it's helpful to learn about other people, however you can do that. Spending time with people, observing, asking questions, etc. is one way. But you can also do research. I found Steve Harvey's book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man helpful when starting to write adult romantic heroes, because it helped me understand how a man might think (or might behave without thinking about why he was behaving that way). There are lots of resources for parents/teachers etc. on understanding child development.

I hope this helps.

 on: March 04, 2015, 07:46:54 PM 
Started by snow4winter - Last post by chriseboch
You definitely don't want to read too much into one editor or agent's comments, since personal taste is such a strong factor. If you start hearing from three or more agents that they like your idea, but they are not responding to the writing, that's a sign that you may need to spend more time polishing your technique before you submit.

Good luck!

 on: March 04, 2015, 07:18:58 PM 
Started by Okami - Last post by Okami
Hi Chris, here's a question I've long had-

When is "Write as You Talk" not good advice?

I know writers (agents/editors too) often advise "Write as you talk" and I feel that can cause as many problems as they may solve.

I think that advice is often misinterpreted as "If you wouldn't say it, none of your characters should."

BUT sometimes that's not always possible. Grin

In my upcoming middle grade novel "GABRIEL" my antagonist Rum is a good example of what I mean.

While it's true our characters can share some similarities with us, they're not going to manifest them EXACT same way as us, like
Rum I don't always handle change well, we're both opinionated and we have short tempers. But how they manifest is unique to us.

I don't talk like Rum when I'm upset, and he doesn't over-analyze his actions like I would, and he's fearless when it comes to taking bold action (be it bad or good) and I'm more apt to hesitate.

I made character videos for Gabriel and Rum which I think better shows what I'm talking about-



Rum and I are both stubborn to a fault, but I'm not above being proven wrong, Rum's a tough sell on new ideas.

Gabriel may not be extroverted in the traditional sense, but he's not a shy hermit who's timid to the max, either. He takes pride in being smart, but doesn't talk down to others at a different level than him.

He's not an assertive dynamo like Rum is, but isn't afraid to say what he feels, and unlike Rum is able to be openly vulnerable in that healthy "non-victim" way we all want to better access.

Rum by contrast is more externally outgoing, but has hard time being introspective, and doesn't open up emotionally as readily as Gabriel.

Part of the story is about Gabriel and Rum learning from each other the best of the other's strengths to work through their weaknesses.
Gabriel getting more of a backbone. (without going on an over-assertive power trip Grin)

Rum being more open to sharing his deepest feelings and fears, and solving his problems through his words in conjunction with non-violent actions. Cool

I think in trying avoid our characters being perceived as "boring" or too introspective writers sometimes overdo playing up our characters flaws and quirks.

But as you shared in the post about "Too Over The Top Voices" it can do more harm than good. Cool

I'm also doing videos about a streetwise pig named Swinebert, and he's probably the most challenging character I've done as he's far from me voice-wise that I could get without being a turn off to me if I "met" him, if you know what I mean. Undecided

I love writing and exploring this character because it's a big shift from what I've done in the past, and it's helped me learned to be more at home with a more informal mindset than I or other characters I've written think in.

The tricky part is I don't want to misinterpret Swinebert as being simple-minded, but he expresses his intelligence in a far more causal way than I would, or someone with a more "cultured" background.

For example, unlike me, Swinebert's less afraid to ask questions, and while that leads to trouble sometimes, it's a strength to his character not coming off an arrogant know-it-all, and he isn't afraid to do something bold, even if a bit dumb, but has enough self-worth and healthy sense of pride to not get easily embarrassed.

The thing I do have to be careful about is watch my grammar usage and tense with Swinebert so he doesn't sound dumb, which he isn't, but his voice is naturally more informal and direct than mine is, if he sounded more like me (following the "Write as you talk" credo), he wouldn't be him.

Going back to my novel "GABRIEL" a moment, one of the characters in Rum's gang might look to the reader (at first) as a "big oaf" who's just the muscle, but he's actually the kindest, wisest, and most thoughtful in the group, but he's subtle about how he shows it, not out of shyness, but because he's humble and doesn't see his way as the only way.

At the same time, he's not afraid to have and express his opinion.

While like Swinebert he has street smarts, he shows it in a more gentile way, not as in your face as say "Rocky."

Again, this video I made last year shows what I mean-
(Note the tone in voice shifting from the first character to Swinebert)

What things should writers look out for when trying to assess our character's voices are separate from not only our author voice, but how we would communicate in a similar situation our characters find themselves in?

I would think those would all be different, even if they share overlap, right?

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