by Bryan Patrick Avery
Well, Spring is finally upon us. As the flowers begin to bloom in our gardens and parks, this is a good time for our stories to bloom as well. This month, I’d like to walk you through an exercise that might help get your creative juices flowing and, hopefully, plant a few seeds for stories that can grow in the coming months.
1. Find three books that you have easy access to, have read previously, and remember. These can be on your bookshelf at home, at the library, or anywhere. I chose James Ponti’s CITY SPIES, Stuart Gibbs’ TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, and John Dickson Carr’s THE THREE COFFINS.
2. Scan through the three books quickly and re-familiarize yourself with the story and the characters.
3. Choose three characters from the books they resonate with you and make you think “I could write about a character like this”. Try to make sure that they come from at least two of the three books. I choose Dr. Fell from THE THREE COFFINS, Summer McCracken from TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, and Rio from CITY SPIES.
4. Take the three characters and make them your own. For example, I choose Dr. Fell because he’s a brilliant logician. He is however, an adult, and in a the middle grade novel I’m planning, a brilliant adult would stifle the kids (who are the main characters). Let’s rename Dr. Fell. I love a good locked room mystery, so I’d love to pay homage to Dr. Fell. How about “Professor Pitched”? It works for now. I can always change it later. In addition to a new name, let’s change him slightly. Instead of being brilliant, Professor Pitched will be a little less than sharp. Like Dr. Fell, he’ll still pontificate endlessly but will often be wrong and even more often forget what he was talking about in the first place. Do this for all three characters.
5. Think about how and why these characters would interact. Why would my middle grade characters need to talk to Professor Pitched? In my case, I decided Professor Pitched is a physics professor and a neighbor of one of the kids. When they need information on what the multiverse theory is, and how it works, they seek him out, not realizing that he’s not a very good physicist. This will introduce conflict when they can’t get the information they need from him, but also can’t get him to stop talking. Maybe I’ll even have him stop by one of the kids’ houses putting a secret they’re keeping from their parents in jeopardy.
It’s that simple. This short exercise can be done in about 30 minutes but you’ll end up with three characters, a little bit a conflict, and (hopefully) some seeds for a new story or two.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy reading (and writing) and have a magical month.
Bryan Patrick Avery writes picture books, chapter books, middle grade and graphic novels. His middle grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, was published in June 2020 in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, an anthology from HarperCollins and the Mystery Writers of America. His debut picture book, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, will be published in April 2021 by Clearfork Publishing/Spork.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays feature funny Aussie author Sharon Giltrow sharing awesome Aussie books.
And 5th Mondays will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.