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Characters Profile Fruits Basket

Whether you write for children or adults, characters are the driving forces of your stories. What happens to your characters and how they solve their problems are the outlines of plot. A plot can be summarized in three simple questions.

1. What does my character want?
2. What is getting in his/her way?
3. How will my character solve or deal with what is getting in the way?

That's it.

In order to answer these questions in a way that is compelling and leads to an interesting story, however, you need to know your characters well. Once you have an intimate knowledge and understanding of your characters, you can create interesting roadblocks for them while knowing how they are most likely to respond.

How writers choose to learn about their characters varies greatly. Authors' personalities are as varied as the characters they write about. Here are some of tools and exercises that writers use.

The Profile A character profile is exactly as it sounds. It profiles everything you know about your character. Not all of this information ends up in the story, but the more you know about your character, the more authentic he or she will come through in the story. A profile can and should contain as many details as possible, such as:

* Physical description, including age
* Where he or she lives
* Favorites and preferences (favorite color, food, chocolate or vanilla, etc.)
* Likes and dislikes
* Hobbies
* Sports
* Occupation
* Family and marital status

A profile is similar to those email questionnaires that circulate among your friends every now and then. If you've ever received one of those emails, consider answering the questions about your character instead (whether or not you reply with those answers is up to you!).

The Interview This is similar to the profile, but conducted more like an interview than simply writing a profile. Consider it a "getting to know you" interview. You can talk aloud with your character (yes, many writers do this), or you can write the questions and then answer them as your character rather than yourself.

Write from the Character's Point of View Get into "character mode" and have your character write about him or her. Invite the character to include as many details as possible. Include the types of information that are listed in the profile or conducted in a "getting to know you" interview. What your character writes may surprise you!

Talk to Your Characters Many writers do this. Yes, it means talking aloud, first as yourself, and then as your character. Allow yourself to "channel" the character so that his or her voice can come through as authentically as possible. If this process inhibits you, consider talking to your characters in places such as your car when you're driving alone, or turn up some music in your room and hold a quiet conversation. The process can be surprisingly fun, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you learn.

Maurene J. Hinds is a children's author with five published books and two forthcoming. Additionally, she writes educational materials for students, teachers, and parents. Her educational work includes books, lesson plans, learning activities, and leveled readers for students of all ages. She is an experienced teacher who has taught creative and technical writing and literature at the high school and college levels, and teaches online writing workshops and offers manuscript critiques through her website. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Teenagers from Vermont College. She is completing a young adult novel, "Bruised," under the name Maurene Janiece. Visit her website at