Friday, July 5, 2013



Conflict, conflict, conflict. That's what makes a memorable story. A great way to bring conflict into your story is to give your character something to worry about.

Kids don't worry about the same things as adults. A six year old girl doesn't worry about the same things as a seventeen year old boy. But everyone worries, and as a reader we identify with and root for the character who is worried

When I taught a class for the Summer School of Arts in Wells, B.C., we made a chart. . . . .
                             WHAT KIDS WORRY ABOUT
PRESCHOOL                  ELEMENTARY                     HIGH SCHOOL

Robin worries that her cousin April
won't like living with her.
We thought about our own children, our friends' children, kids we had worked with and memories of when we were children
A sample of what we came up with:


-separation from parents

-doctor and dentist

-mean dogs

-learning to tie shoes

-monsters in closet



Melissa worries that her mother will
 start drinking again.
-summer camp

- getting invited to a birthday party

-being picked for a team

-liking your teacher


- having a boyfriend/girlfriend

-sexual orientation

-grades and scholarships

-peer pressure


Of course, there's lot of overlap. Kids of all ages might worry about their parents getting divorced or losing a best friend. 

Tip: Make your own chart. Talk to as many kids as you can.  Listen for the unusual. . .   A young figure skater who worries that her skate laces will break in a competition (it's happened!)  Jot down ideas as they come to you. You never know which one will spark a great story!

Some advice from Donald Maass in Writing the Breakout Novel . . .

In a novel, struggle is far more compelling than satisfaction. Conflict is the first principle of plot construction and it is also the underlying secret of great characters.

Mama's Going to Buy You a Mockingbird by Jean Little

Jeremy and Sarah learn to cope with their grief as their father battles cancer. It's sad but beautifully written and my favourite of all of Jean Little's books.


What if . . . you found an old fashioned key in a junk store? Who did it belong to? What does it open?





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