Creating unique character descriptions – for costumes!

cosplay characterThink about your favourite books from your childhood and the characters you fell in love with. What did they look like? Got a clear picture of that character in your head? I’ll bet you do.

Unforgettable characters have unique physical indicators, or at the very least, an individual fashion sense. Just naming characters such as Huckleberry Finn, Harry Potter, Miss Marple conjures up images of the character.

How do you know if you’ve created a memorable character description? Here’s an easy test.

Can fans dress up as your character?

creating unique charactersIf kids (or adults) can make a costume that depicts your character, then you know you’ve created a distinct image.

Unique Character Elements

Just a few examples…

Physical appearance: red curly hair, dwarf, hairy feet, long beard, wings, blue skin…

Changed physical appearance: scar, eyepatch, wooden leg, stitches, missing tooth…

Fashion: witch’s hat, cape, overalls, camouflage, houndstooth coat, fez…

Companions: small zombie dog, parrot, dragon, talking tree, little glowing fairy, white owl…

supanova_2014_cosplay_115_by_dark_merchant-d7mz8zxCan you revamp your character to make them more memorable?



How to Choose Vocabulary for Children’s Books

I was invited to the Queensland branch of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) to present on how to choose vocabulary when writing for children and teens. I thought I’d list here some tips and links to help authors. Want more? At the end of this post there is a downloadable PDF. FREE.

How to choose vocabulary

Why is it important to choose vocabulary carefully? Children’s minds do the most development in their younger years. The information and How to choose vocabulary of teen novelsconcepts a three year old can grasp are hugely reduced to that of a five year old. Yet, if you were to write for a twenty-five year old, there wouldn’t be much difference than writing for a forty-five year old when choosing vocabulary.

Your market wants appropriate choices. When writing for early readers, your market is parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians. They will be very critical of your word choices because they have a role of responsibility for the children in their care.

Variations in reading ability. When writing for reluctant or struggling readers, it’s important that the story content and themes match the age and experience, but the language conveys this simply. Struggling readers do not want to read ‘baby books’.

Which words? You can access spelling lists for grade via schools, publications, and websites. Oz Speller is a popular site for word choices. Also search for your grade level’s curriculum for the year and make your language suit a particular subject (if you’re writing a space adventure for grade 7, they’ll be looking at planets and moons this year). If you can adapt your novel to support the learning of a subject, you’ll be able to market that book directly to schools and teachers. You could also promote the fact it will help with school to parents on your website. Each subject of high school also has a vocabulary list for the topic covered. Try to source this list (from teacher friends or ask  your local school), to use consistent language that the reader will be familiar with. And don’t forget to research similar novels to see which language choices the author has made.

Extras. You can add value to your children’s picture book or novel by incorporating easy to read font (I really love the new Dyslexie font, it’s been designed to make reading easier for children with dyslexia). Try adding activities within your book, or as free downloads on your website. You can download fonts designed to be traced, to help early readers/writers practice their lettering (get them to trace words related to your story).

Put it to the test. In Microsoft Word you can actually test your document for readability, even gaining an approximation of the grade the writing is suited to (steps to do this are included in the FREE PDF below). Also, try pasting some of your text into Rewordify—it will provide you with a simplified, easier to read version. Don’t forget Beta readers! By letting children of your readers’ age group go over your manuscript and mark anything they don’t understand, you’ll identify your vocabulary flaws.

Use hard words. It’s fine to introduce readers to new words, in fact, as a teacher, I hope you do. Just make sure the context explains the meaning clearly.

Sentence structure. It’s not just about words, but about simple or complex sentences. In picture books, you will probably use short simple sentences, mostly around six words, up to ten words. For early chapter books, you could have an average of ten words per sentence, still keeping with the simple sentence (one subject and one object). By the time you get to junior novels, you can mix simple, compound and complex sentences for variation. Most teen novels use the same language choices as adult novels, the restriction is more related to life experiences than readability.

Want more links, tips and strategies? Download the free PDF below:How to choose vocabulary

How to Love a Writer – or – 11 ways to support indie authors

February, the month of showing love, so how can we support indie authors we love?

Writing is fun. I won’t lie. Any task requiring imagination also involves ‘play’. But producing a finished manuscript and running your own publishing house is also hard work, so here’s some ways you can HEART the indie author in your indie authors

Support Indie Authors by:

  1. Buy the book. Every time a reader buys a book, and author gets their wings.
  2. Buy the book. Because books make great gifts.
  3. Tell friends about the book. Spread the word and spread the love!
  4. Ask your local bookstore for the book. This helps so much. If book stores hear about a novel enough, they’ll order it in.
  5. Ask your library if they stock the book. Having a book in a library makes it available to so many more readers.
  6. Read the book in public. Flash that cover about!
  7. Promote the book online. If you Pinterest, tweet, or Instagram, share the book with your online friends.
  8. Like their work. Visit your indie author’s Facebook page and click ‘Like’.
  9. List the book on Goodreads. If you keep lists in Goodreads, make sure this one’s in your ‘read’ or ‘want to read’ pile!
  10. Blog about the book. Bloggers have a lot of power to show indie authors love.
  11. Leave a REVIEW! One of the best ways to help indie authors is to leave an honest review on Amazon.

Got an Author Valentine? Here’s some pressie ideas to suit any budget.

Best Author Gifts:

  1. Gorgeous notebooks to fill.
  2. USB sticks, or a portable drive to store those stories.
  3. An engraved pen.
  4. Set up their Dropbox account.
  5. Scrivener – the best writer’s program.
  6. Get them a writer’s guide, like ‘The Plot Whisperer’.how to write fan fiction
  7. Book them into a writer’s workshop.
  8. Send them on an amazing writer’s retreat.
  9. A snazzy new laptop.
  10. A cleared spot in the house for their desk – or even better, clear out a whole room for their writing office!
  11. Hidden inspirational notes inside their diary, notebooks, on the computer screen.
  12. Arrange for them to meet you at the markets – where you’ve set up a stand and are busily selling their novels. Aww.
  13. Wear a t-shirt with their book cover printed on it to your Valentine’s date.
  14. A handmade voucher offering to take on one extra house chore to free up some writing time.
  15. If they’re not tech, set up their website for them.
  16. Buy them a membership with their local writers’ centre.
  17. A gift voucher with a printing company, so they can order bookmarks, or business cards.
  18. Buy their book.