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April Henry’s Advice on Writing Good Characters

By May 8, 2019 June 22nd, 2019 No Comments

Hello Writers and Readers, and welcome to the sixth edition of what we learned from Teen Author Boot Camp. This week we will be looking at the awesome author, April Henry. April Henry has written such books as the Claire Montrose series, the Triple Threat series, and Girl, Stolen. All of these books can be purchased online by clicking one of the links at the bottom of the article. She was great to hear from at the conference, she had us do a few fun activities, but also taught us a lot on how to write good characters, and hopefully we can pass on that knowledge. Alright then on with the article!

She started off with helping us understand what to do when you want to start writing. She told us that the basic plot of every story can be broken down into a character wanting something, but someone/something else preventing the character from reaching that thing. A good way to start coming up with ideas is going, “What if?” and then proceeding with some strange scenario that could be interesting to write (For example: What if hippos invaded the world?”). After finding your idea you need to expand it beyond what it is, an idea, into a story. You need to make the idea bigger, and as you proceed to expand your idea start finding what you need to research, and find out what you can use that you’ve already learned. And as soon as you think you have enough to start, write an awesome first-chapter. April Henry said that your first chapter should be puzzling, mysterious, scary, new, or interesting.

One of the most well-known advices is to show not tell in writing, and April Henry agrees with this, particularly with emotions. Show the reader how your character feels at any certain moment, don’t just tell them. For example “Jim was sad in his bed.” is much less interesting than, “Jim was holding back tears as he sat broken in his bed.” Doing stuff like this can help your reader feel more emotions towards your character rather than just going along with what is written.

She gave us some advice on how to name our characters, and what a character’s name can do. You can start by either searching the web for names, or brainstorming a few of your own and finding out which ones work. Then you have to imagine this character with that name, and find out if it works well given their personality, quirks, or even their role in the story. The first time your reader is exposed to your character’s name, they will start making some notions and trying to find out who this person is, in other words they will form their first, and lasting, impression of your character. April Henry gave the advice of when naming multiple characters don’t give them the same initials, we have heard this a few places, though we do think that if you are able to make characters completely different to each other that you can do it, such as Harry, Hagrid, and Hermione.

But the name only supplies a little bit of context to who your character really is, you need to use some other writing devices to reveal your character for who they really are. April Henry gave us a list of ways to reveal a characters and so we will share that list.

Ways to Reveal Your Characters:

  • Authorial Interpretation, this includes you, the writer, showing the character outright to be what they are
  • Others Interpretation, this is when you try to get your reader to find out by themselves through subtle hints you give them that this person is really like this
  • Show your character through their appearance
  • How the character acts
  • How the character reacts to other characters
  • What they say
  • What they think
  • Gestures and body language

You need to find out your characters weaknesses, strengths, fears, and motivations both external and internal. When trying to come up with these you can, as April Henry said, “Steal from yourself.” What this means is that you have most likely experienced the stuff needed for a good character. We suspect that you have strengths and weaknesses, and fears, and maybe you have even experienced emotions (*shivers*). That means you can take what you learned and know from those situations and use them in your writing. You even have motivations to do things, like lifting the Brand-O-Chip up to your mouth because you like the flavor, or reading this to help you get gooder at the writing stuffs, and things (and yeah). Also giving your character a secret that they are either hiding from the reader of everyone else in the story can help create a more interesting person. April Henry likes to use the power of 10 trick, where you list the top 10 things for a situation, she suggested we do this for finding out what would bring up the greatest emotion in your character, so go write your, Top 10 Things That Make My Characters Feel Emotions, #1: String Cheese.

As you write you need to find out how your character will change through the conflict of your story, because it would be unrealistic to have a static character. Also your character can’t be all good or all bad, there has to be some gray areas. Also have a proactive not reactive character, where the character is influencing the environment around them rather than just letting something happen then reacting.

April Henry finished off by answering questions, we will write some of the answers she gave us. When writing you have to make sure that you finish your book before moving on, don’t just leave because it’s a steaming pile of garbage, you have to shift it around until itsĀ  finally something you can be proud of, yes you can take breaks, but never just quit on something that you really want to write. One thing to always remember is that you can fix it later, just go through your project and get it done, then read through and find out what can be improved. The more you write a character, the more you develop a character, meaning that as you write specific characters you can increase their role as you write along.

Well that’s all we got, and we hope that this was helpful for you. We would like to thank April Henry for teaching us at Teen Author Boot Camp, and we will suggest you click on some of the links down below to support April Henry.

Click here to go to April Henry’s website.

Click here to go to April Henry’s Amazon and buy some of her books.

Alright hope you Writers and Readers enjoyed, and see you next week!