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Creating More Active Characters

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 I'm working on various picture books and need to make my characters more active. Yet they are presented in risky situations, like floods and hurricanes, for example.  Any suggestions?  Thank you. 
#1 - October 24, 2019, 08:21 PM

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If you have received the "more active" comment via critiques, I'd interpret it that, even if the situation is high-drama, the characters may not actually be very pro-active. Possible problems could be: they are talking rather than doing, they are describing rather than doing, you are telling rather than showing, you are not using the best verbs (eg instead of "ran fast" you could say "sprinted"; instead of "walk" you could say "ambled"). That's my best guess for now. Hopefully others will chime in. Good luck with it.
#2 - October 24, 2019, 08:48 PM
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Agreed with JulieM. I think it's not the situation so much that creates narrative drama, but rather how the character responds to it (or causes it in the first place!). Is your character the one leading the story, or are they just along for the ride? Are they making decisions that shape the narrative, or are other people - or even the situation itself - doing it for them?  A high-stakes situation isn't necessarily one where the world is literally at risk of being destroyed, but rather where the character feels like their world is.

You could try the Pixar approach, which involves a BECAUSE, THEN type of narrative logic. Each plot point should be able to be linked together by "Because the character did X, then Y happened. Because Y happened, the character did Z. Because Z...etc". Obviously that's a little bit simplified, but it might help. :) Good luck!
#3 - October 25, 2019, 05:24 AM
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Readers respond to character agency, that is, the character takes the initiative in making things happen, even though we know children can be powerless and have to go along with whatever the parents say. For example, a small child can decide she's going to share her doll with another child at a shelter. My kids had a wonderful opportunity to help out when Irma hit and one of the things they commented on was how hearts had expanded--so from helping the elderly secure their windows before the hurricane, to playing games in the church (it became a shelter) during, and cleaning up after. Perhaps your character has to conquer some fear or overcome a prejudice. Make her do the thing she doesn't want to; it's how she'll grow. Make sure the parents or other well-meaning adults are safely in the background, not solving any problems for your child character. Good luck!
#4 - October 25, 2019, 06:06 AM
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These are great tips. I am taking notes. Thank you!
#5 - October 25, 2019, 02:34 PM

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Thank you all for your great responses.
Kk  Spenny glad you're taking notes. I was trying to show how the MC deals with his fear and overcomes it. It's hard showing feelings and change!
#6 - October 25, 2019, 04:27 PM

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Ask yourself what the character does when he's afraid. Hiding in a closet under a pile of stuffed animals is active. Then what does the child do to overcome the fear. Talking to an adult is not as active because the adult will help. But say, blowing back at the hurricane might be. It's very hard to carry this off when the character has no actual control over what they fear. No matter what your child does, they can not stop the hurricane. But they can do something in the face of it, like help someone else. Good luck.
#7 - October 25, 2019, 09:13 PM
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