How to Help Your Kids Write Better Characters in Stories
Children have incredible imaginations. They’ve retained their sense of wonder that we adults often lose in the throws of life. And that sometimes means children have better stories, something we should nurture for as long as possible.
But one thing children lack that we adults may be able to help them with is how to write better, more realistic characters while teaching them more about how real people react and respond in different situations.
While your child’s stories may be strong and wild in imagination, what will make their stories even better, and more powerful, are strong, realistic characters. Here are some valuable tips to help your kids write better characters, strengthening their stories and writing talents.
1. Fill out a character worksheet with them
One of the best ways to understand a character is to give them real traits. Oftentimes, you’ll see character development worksheets which make great tools for character development. These character bios are often comprised of a list of questions you have to answer about your character in order to get to know them. While not all of them will apply to your child’s characters, it’s a really good starting point to help them understand that good characters have real-life traits that shape who they are.
2. Develop a background for their character
This can often be done in the step above but is a little different in the sense that your character’s history will shape the way they act in the story. Teaching children this is important for helping them understand the qualities that make for a realistic character. We all have a background. It has shaped who we are significantly. This can also be a really fun activity to perform with the kids, too!
Here are some questions you can ask them about their character:
- Who’s their best friend?
- Do they have any siblings?
- If they do, do they like their sibling/s?
- What are their parents like?
- Do they go to school?
- Did they struggle with anything when they were even younger than they are?
- Do they like bedtime or do they like to stay up late?
You can get really creative with these questions to help your child craft a realistic background for their character.
3. Teach them the value of diversity
It’s no secret that there’s a severe lack of representation in literature. While changes are being made, it’s not enough to rely on adults right now to make changes in their own writing.
Children are the future.
That’s why it’s most valuable to teach our future best-selling authors the importance of including characters of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and even disabilities in order to not only craft realistic characters but to also represent those who never get the chance to see themselves in fiction. Push your children to get creative with what your characters look like, but not just that. While people of colour should be represented (and done so well), you also don’t want to isolate those with disabilities or mental illness, either.
It’s just as important for those children to have a place in stories. It can be easy to say, “they’re just kids, let them write who they want!” but by pushing your kids to think harder about what makes the world more diverse, and therefore special, they’ll be able to include a wider range of character types, which makes the story and their writing better. Not to mention that these lessons will carry into their personal lives, as well as their future writing.
4. Teach them what a character arc is
This term might not marinate long with your children. They won’t care so much when you hear the term “character arc,” but they will listen if you tell them that your characters can grow and change in the story. And in fact, they should grow and change. While children usually opt for short stories instead of writing novels, character arcs are still important for bringing life to any theme or message within their works. And it just makes for a natural character.
Here’s how you can help children write better character arcs:
- Challenge them to create flaws in their characters, because nobody is perfect
- Prompt them to give your character a lesson to learn within their story
- Ask them what their character will be like at the end of the story
- Teach them that it’s okay for their character to fail at some point, in fact, they should!
5. Have them act out the character
Discovering who the character really is tough, especially when you want to discover their voice. For adults, there are a ton of methods to do this, some involving writing a letter from your protagonist’s point of view. But for kids, it’s often easier to have them “act out” a scene their character is in. Not only can this help them discover how the character will act and speak, but it will help you get an idea of who they are too. That way, you can assist in developing this character with them. Not only is this a fun game, but children often learn best through activities and writing exercises that they can look back on with joy.
6. Always encourage them to keep going!
Writing is a process. Learning how to tell a good story can take a lot of time. What children need the most, especially in the creative fields, is encouragement. Let them know how great they’re doing. Provide feedback and remain positive when they bring their work to you or ask for help. They’re still learning and by being their guide, you can help them write better, more realistic, and diverse characters. Be there to answer their questions. Tell them how you think they could improve. Challenge them to think more creatively without squashing their hope or original ideas. The one thing I wished I had more of growing up, telling my stories and writing my new worlds, was someone to tell me to keep going.
You might also find this online character challenge resource useful in helping your child develop characters. Every day a new character picture is generated. The user can then write their own description to go with that picture.
What tips do you have for teaching children how to write great characters?
In time, these children will grow to become the bestselling authors who pave the narrative of what good writing—and good characters—are. How else do you think we can help make that happen?