Our Wordsmiths theme for this month has been Strategies for Character Development. The Wordie-Girls have given some wonderful insight and just about covered it all. I asked myself, what’s left for me to say? So, I thought I’d try something different. I’d like to tell you about what great character development meant to one little girl.
I recently asked myself this question—Why, as a young girl, did I love those characters? They were so different from each other and (so I thought) from me.
I’m thinking especially of two characters, Pippi Longstocking, and a Native American girl named Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins.
This is what I loved about Pippi Longstocking:
* She was daring, funny, and confident in the person that she was. Pippi loved her flaming-red braids. Her freckles were her glory. She was adventurous and free-spirited. Adults did not run her life and she did just fine on her own, in a crazy sort of way! Pippi was whom I wanted to be like at that time in my life. I even drew big, brown freckles on my nose and cheeks with my mother’s eyebrow pencil! My braids weren’t red but I made them stick out with bobby pins when I pretended to be the magical Pippi—a girl who accepted herself in all her uniqueness and made amazing things happen. I wanted to accept my own uniqueness. Pippi helped.
This is what I loved about Karana:
* She was incredibly courageous in spite of living in fear, and constant danger. Karana suffered horrible loss and yet she rose above it through her intense will to survive. She used her brainpower to be creative, and overcame enormous obstacles without an adult to help her. Karana discovered her own inner strength. This character amazed me and made me want to be smart and creative. I especially longed to be courageous, even with an occasional bully in elementary school. Karana helped me.
The authors of these books obviously had great strategies for character development, or little girls who grew up wouldn’t be talking about them today.
As I write my picture book manuscripts and magazine stories, I like to remember what drew me to characters I loved, as well as characters I enjoy in newer books for children.
Wouldn’t it be spectacular to know that a special character YOU created would be remembered and even loved by children for years to come? What if one of your characters helped a timid young reader dare to take steps toward being courageous? What if your character helped a self-conscious little freckle-faced, redheaded girl decide to love her hair and perfectly placed freckles? Silly characters. Serious characters. Everything-in-between characters. Just develop them so your reader identifies, latches on, and doesn’t want to let go.
Sherri (one little girl)