Favorite Characters

In my reading experience I find most often I enjoy the main character (MC), but a sidekick is usually my favorite in the book. It could be because I plant myself into the spot of MC and notice his friends more. Or it’s because the MC has something happen to them. Yes, technically they have a choice to act or not. If they choose to do nothing we don’t have a story. So I know what the MC will do most times. However, the side characters have a bigger choice. At any point they can walk away, yet so many stay and put their lives in jeopardy. That to me is braver than the person of whom the problem is inflicted on. Side characters like Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter, who never, ever (even Ron left) left Harry’s side. In The Hunger Games Series, Peeta Mellark, who instead of covering his own rear end, decided to do everything, even sacrifice himself (if he had to) for Katniss. Elena Vilkas, Lina’s mother in In Between Shades of Gray, not only gives/protects her own children, but goes out of her way to help everyone she meets (Even a guard keeping them). Writing Irresistible Kidlit, by Mary Kole suggests that the best MCs are the ones we fanatically love or love to hate. I love characters with heart. This heart seems to mostly shine in the selflessness of sidekicks, but sometimes I find it in a main character. Shawn Spencer from the T.V. series Pysch. Shawn is highly observant, but doesn’t wish to hold a job as a detective. Instead he poses as a psychic and his antics often get him and his best friend, Gus into trouble. He is obnoxious, petty, and hides his emotion behind jokes. He takes advantage of Gus and his father all the time, yet we love him. Although Shawn can be very selfish, when it really matters, he is selfless. He puts the safety and lives of others in front of his own. Sara Pennypacker’s middle grade novel, Clementine, Clementine is an eight year old who is artistic and impulsive. Her intentions are good, but misunderstood. She finds herself in the Principal’s office quite a bit. Clementine feels sorry for her friend, Margaret who gets glue in her hair. To fix the problem she suggests Margaret let her cut the glue out. Then her misadventures throughout the book are her attempts at repairing her friendship with... read more

Villains Have Feelings Too

Why do some villains make us stick the book in the freezer and others fall flat? Do they even matter? Yes, you better believe our villains matter. As writers we don’t want our audience to close the book and be done with the experience. We want them to carry it with them. Even villains need to haunt us off the page. As a writer, I want my reader to be passionate about the main character. They need to love them. It isn’t enough to like them. The same goes for the villain. I need to inspire passion. The reader needs to despise/hate the villain. So what makes that hate so strong or that villain so scary that you can’t even have the book in your sight? It’s familiarity, a villain the reader can relate to, a disturbing bond. This happens when the reader meets this unbelievably awful person and sees themselves reflected in them. My favorite examples include Jack Frost from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Bellatrix Lestrange from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. In the opening scene of The Graveyard Book, Jack Frost sneaks into the main character, Bod’s house while everyone is sleeping and kills his whole family with a knife. Bod a baby, escapes, and Jack tries to find him and kill him. The whole idea that someone could kill a baby is very disturbing and the fact that he treats it as business as usual is even worse. Then he has a name that symbolizes a happy childhood character that just intensifies his creepiness. As the book progresses we learn that Jack dresses like a respectable gentleman, does good deeds (more likely pretends), lives with his grandma, and is part of a topic secret brotherhood: Jacks of All Trades. Then bam we find out that it was prophesized that Bod would destroy the Jacks, Jack’s family. Wouldn’t you do anything to prevent the destruction of your own family? There are plenty of reasons to fear Bellatrix Lestrange: pure blood witch, Death Eater, tortured the Longbottoms to insanity, escaped the unescapable prison, killed her family both Nymphadora Tonks and Sirius Black, and Voldemort’s most loyal servant (Respected by him too). Like Jack, she comes from a respectable family. She is described as tall, dark and beautiful and is even named: Bella. Prison has taken a toll on her, but if she is anything, she is a woman of values: loyal and honest. She is extremely... read more

What’s Write About Conferences!

The 2015 Oklahoma SCBWI Conference is approaching on March 28th. WWAT is very excited to travel to Tulsa to “Ignite the Spark.” We thought it’d be fun to discuss our expectations and our favorite conference experiences with our readers. For our WWAT readers we suggest you take advantage of conferences in your area and if you are near Tulsa we highly recommend SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) Oklahoma’s Spring Conference. At the bottom of this post check out the guest speakers and the website for conference information. M.M. Cox: There are many great reasons to attend an SCBWI conference, but for me the main ones are FRIENDSHIP, KNOWLEDGE, and RESULTS. Just so you know, I actually tried to come up with three reason that would make a cool acronym, but I kept getting combinations that sounded like my mouth was full. Oh well. First, I cannot put a price tag on the friendships I have developed through SCBWI conferences. Spending a day with a group of talented, creative individuals who are as passionate as I am about writing for children and teens has given me supportive relationships in this industry to keep going no matter what! Secondly, I have gained so much industry and craft knowledge from these conferences. Two years ago, at the Tulsa SCBWI spring conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with Claire Evans from Dial Books, and she addressed a few things in my first pages that have completely altered the way I open my story and develop my characters. Also, literary agent Karen Grencik’s speech and handout helped me think differently about the way I wanted to write a query letter and propose my book. And finally, the “results”?  I connected with a literary agent by the end of the year and currently have my manuscript under consideration with some of my dream publishers. I am returning this year because I know each and every SCBWI conference improves my craft, introduces me to amazing people, and gets me inspired. So what are you waiting for? Will you be there? Jessica Lyn Toman: My first conference was in the spring of 2014 in Oklahoma City (SCBWI). I was in awe of all the feedback I received from the editors and agents (Can submit ten page manuscript for critique, sign up for pitches, and then open submission to all the speakers). The biggest lesson I learned from my experience was the importance of voice. Killing... read more

My Own Worst Enemy

By Linda Fry Sometimes our enemy isn’t the Big Bad Wolf, or The Wicked Witch of the West, or Voldemort. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I’ve recently read three books that demonstrate how a character can sabotage themselves by remaining silent – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. In Speak, Melinda Sordino suffers in silence after being raped. Obviously, the real enemy in the story is Andy Evans, her rapist. However, how would things be different had she been able to speak up? She spends her entire ninth grade year tormented, exiled, and confused by her experience. Her friends turn their back on her. Her parents don’t understand her. Her teachers judge her. If only she had told someone the truth about the party during the summer, then she could have gotten help. Luckily, by the end of the book she finds her voice, saves a friend, and begins to heal. Looking for Alaska is a very different kind of story. My focus for this blog is actually the secondary character named Alaska. She’s a wild, carefree girl with deep seeded issues. Alaska spends her entire life feeling guilty over her mother’s death and never getting the help she needs. Her tragic death wreaks havoc on the main character, Pudge. After a night of drinking, she freaks out and ends up in a car crash. Her friends are left to wonder if it was intentional or a horrific accident. Lastly, Thirteen Reasons Why is about Hannah Baker’s postmortem revenge against her bullies. Again we have a story of a troubled girl, who never spoke up. Rumors spread about her, friends turn on her, and bullies descend on her, but she never stands up for herself. Instead she waits until after she commits suicide to speak out. These stories cleverly use the characters faults as the antagonist. By doing so, they up the stakes and force the characters to overcome their own demons. These authors raise the question: How do I defeat the enemy, when I am the enemy? It is our job as writers to ask these kinds of questions and raise the stakes in our own manuscripts. I recommend reading all three. Villains aren’t always monsters. *On a side note, if you are the victim of abuse, bullying, or tragedy, please speak up and get help. You’re not... read more