In the previous article, we mentioned how characters can be written in a more 3-dimensional way and made to come alive to readers. In this second article of the series on writing characters for primary compositions, we share more tips on how to develop characters even further for your primary-schooler. Again, these skills are covered in our popular Writing Jump Start Programmes every holiday.
A story is driven by plot, and the plot is driven by characters. Characters do things and see things and feel things that transcend the page to the reader, so it is important that the reader can identify with and understand what motivates a particular character.
Thoughts and feelings
We can’t stress enough how vital thoughts and feelings are when it comes to writing characters. It not only creates tension and sets the mood, but including a character’s thoughts and feelings are also an excellent way to convey internal and external conflict, as well as for readers to get a glimpse of what a character’s motivations and desires are.
There are several ways to include a character’s thoughts and feelings in your child’s writing. Encourage your child to use adjectives when it comes to describing how his character is feeling in a particular situation, or to describe in detail any conflict that the character might face.
When it comes to secondary characters, try using adjectives attached to the character’s actions to convey what they may be feeling.
For example: Susan’s eyes darted nervously to her hands.
This signals to the reader that Susan is feeling uncomfortable, unsettled, or afraid. It adds colour to your child’s writing, and helps him net a higher language score.
Another good way to write characters would be to include character actions. Actions are often overlooked when your child gets all excited about his or her story and is focused on bringing it to the climax and then the conclusion. But your child has to remember that characters are actual people, who will be doing actual things, in their story, and thus will need to have actions written for them.
Verbs and adverbs are incredibly useful in this aspect, for it describes effectively what the character is doing in the story to paint a more vivid picture in the reader’s mind.
Most children, once taught to do so, will have no problem writing actions for the main character; it’s the secondary characters that are usually overlooked. Help your child understand that secondary characters are just as important to telling a story.
So the next time your child crafts a story, and writes in his teacher, or even if it is a description of a stranger he encountered, remind them to think about what that character is doing, and how he is doing it.
Instead of saying the old man walked across the street, ask your child to think further: is he walking slowly or quickly?
Also ask: what verbs can be used to describe how the man is walking? Is he shuffling his feet? Dragging them? Limping?
Or if your child writes about a friend or classmate waving his arms around. Are they doing it jerkily or fluidly?
Even if a character is merely talking, prompt your child to go beyond that. Consider if the character is doing it cheerfully or tearfully. And when he is saying something, is he muttering or whispering?
Your child’s story thus becomes more vivid and alive.
Axe unnecessary characters
Characters exist to move the plot forward. Students, especially younger ones, tend to include characters of different and colourful varieties which, well, don’t serve much purpose in furthering the plot, but exist solely for the child’s pleasure alone. It’s truthfully a charming tendency, but it won’t do the child any good especially if the essay is a graded one – for they may be marked down in terms of organisation, sequence and even logic.
However, because we love it when our children are creative, and we take so much pleasure in their imaginations, we try not to discourage them too strongly when they make their story characters do quirky things or place them in strange scenarios. Just make sure to let them know to save their creativity for outside the classroom in this case.
How we can help
Cognitus Academy has dedicated writing programmes to help your child achieve his full potential and become a better writer. The programme delves deep into writing and developing characters that add value to the story plot and elevate the standard of their compositions.
Our trained teachers are committed to each and every child, and we work tirelessly to help your child discover his or her own potential to score for his examinations. Call us at 8321 8252 to learn more about our Regular Writing and Regular English Programmes today!