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Creating Colorful Characters…

Creative story writing for 7+, 8+, and 11+ exams.

Writing creatively is one of the keys to success in competitive exam preparation. An extensive vocabulary, full of well-chosen and creatively employed words, will add interest to your writing by allowing readers to form a mental image of your narrative.

Some helpful hints, top tips and excellent examples to assist you in this important aspect of your writing.

Above all else, when creating a character, remember: “Show, don’t Tell” !

Appearance

Aim to incorporate information about your character’s appearance within sentences that form part of the action of your story. Avoid starting a story with a list which describes a character’s looks.

Example 1: Aliah was a tall, thin girl with long legs, long black hair and she was good at running.

Example 2: As Aliah sped away from the scene, her long, dark hair streamed behind her and, like a long-legged gazelle, she leapt over the fence with ease.

In example 2, details of Aliah’s appearance are built into part of the action. The noun phrase “long, dark hair” and the simile “ like a long legged gazelle ” enable us to picture her in a much more vivid way than the dull list in example 1.

Voice and Accent

Remember, we have 5 senses, not just sight ! Describing a character’s voice and/or accent can be easily built into dialogue sections of a narrative.

Example 1 : “Get in here, now” growled the man, his gruff accent revealing a past life spent on the backstreets of New York.

Example 2: The cross little toddler stared at me with a ferocious expression. “ Me not want go bed” she whined, pouting.

In both examples, the characters are brought to life by what is revealed regarding their speech. We can almost hear their voices in our heads as we read !

Skill Set

Aim to work details about your characters’ particular skills into the narrative of your story. As with appearance, avoid a boring list of your characters’ areas of expertise ; instead, let their skills drive the plot along.

Example 1: Darius was a clever boy who had always loved cracking codes and solving cryptic puzzles.

Example 2: Darius, with his long- established skills in code cracking, spent no more than five minutes unscrambling the secret message.

As with “Appearance”, example 2 does a much better job, revealing Darius’ skill set at a crucial point in the story.

Flaws

No-one is perfect, not even your superpowered protagonist ! The most interesting characters often have a flaw. Take Aliah and Darius in the examples above, for instance. Aliah might be swift, athletic and graceful, but maybe she is always in such a hurry that she becomes forgetful. This could lead to interesting developments in the plot, involving the scene she is running from… Darius might be a genius with puzzles and codes, but perhaps he is terrified of spiders. When he cracks the code on an old safe and a spider jumps out, he could mess up the operation for the whole team…

Backstory

The most interesting characters in our favourite stories often have a backstory or inner conflict which explains much of what drives them and how they act.

For example: Harry Potter’s backstory involves the loss of his parents and his unpleasant early years at the Durselys. This drives him in his quest against Lord Voldemort.

As with all the other aspects of character detailed on this page, the most effective way of incorporating a backstory for your characters is to reveal little snippets of it at relevant times during the plot.

Example: The tall, grim house in front of him reminded Zane of the one in which he had grown up. The one where he had endured the cruelty of his aunt and the endless bullying of his cousins…Brushing such unpleasant memories aside (for now, at least), he took a deep breath, approached the building and knocked firmly at the door.

A Goal

Perhaps even more important than anything else mentioned here is the need for your characters to have a definite goal in your story.

What are they trying to achieve? How will their skills, flaws and backstory influence this? How will they change over the course of the narrative ? Will they learn a lesson, as part of a story with a moral ?

Your character’s goal will often involve tackling or defeating an adversary .Who is this adversary ? A human ? A supernatural being ? The world in general ??

This important aspect of characterisation drives your plot and can tie together everything else you have described.

Take Aliah, for example. Maybe her athleticism allows her to run swiftly from the scene of a crime and fetch help, but her forgetfulness leads to her losing her phone with pictures on it that could have been used as evidence. How will she solve this problem and what will she learn from it ?

Linking things together in this way is crucial to creating a story with a cohesive plot rather than just a random sequence of independent events.

Join our 7+ , 8+ or 11+ creative writing classes led by our expert, highly qualified and experienced teachers to help your child improve their creative writing skills. 

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