Friday, May 20, 2011

Writing, Part III: Adventures in Sun and Sin

The sun is out!

Birdy is crawling!

Our adventures begin.

Or do they?

Why do fictional characters need flaws?

Author Roseanne Parry expounded on this at my SCBWI writing conference last month.
She said that children's book writers are generally nice, decent people
who write about nice, decent kids.

But stories are about ADVENTURES,
and nice, decent kids don't have ADVENTURES.

ADVENTURES happen to characters who are familiar with the


To get a better idea of how this works in fiction, we looked at well-known literary characters and tried to pin down their outstanding sins: Harry Potter, Ian Falconer's OliviaHamlet, The Three Little Pigs, The Little Red Hen.  

Think about a favorite book. Which sins most tempt its main characters?

How nice, decent kids say "KEEP OUT!":

Before hearing Roseanne Parry speak, I didn't allow my main characters to deal with real, flesh and blood sins. I wanted them to be good role models. 

Now I get it. 

We don't love Harry Potter because he obeys the rules 
and keeps his temper and makes everybody happy.

We love him because he's flawed. Like us. 
Tempted by anger and vanity, envy and sloth. Like us. 
 What sins do your main characters struggle with?

Books by Roseanne Parry:


Enjoy your adventures, my friends! 


Stacy Post said...

This makes me think of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Max was sent to his room without his supper, to tame his wildness. I loved that story as a kid and still love it today. We all can be a little wild sometimes, even if we're still fundamentally decent at heart. No? Great post, Faith!

Kristin said...

Oh my word! Beautiful pictures, Faith. And I'm going to think on this because I have one scene with my MC where he could do something mean, and I've been shying away from it. I'll give it more consideration. Good food for thought.

Faith Pray said...

Max and the Wild Things says it all. I love that he has cake waiting for him when he gets back from the adventure. Stacy, thank you for your encouragement!

Kristin, I tried hard *not* to break the rules as a kid, and now I'm a writer. There won't be much excitement if all my characters sit around being polite and behaving. Funny. Thanks for popping in!

Kjersten said...

Seems like an important thing to think about with illustrations too. How can I make a drawn character more 3-dimensional, not just a smiling fill-in. I like the idea of thinking of their flaws as I draw them. Very helpful.


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