Coming up with a basic plot is nothing too remarkable. What makes the story worth reading is the characters. So where do they come from?
For me, it's always been from within myself. I write primarily about teenage boys, so I need to reconnect with myself at that age. But even if I were writing about a talking bear or an animated steam shovel, I'd still want to infuse that character with my own angst or joy or confusion or anger—something I know because I've experienced it.
I have a few tactics for reconnecting with my teenage self. Most of us have a point in our childhood that still holds fairly intense emotions—probably a time of real turmoil and life changes. When you focus on that point—writing from the viewpoint of a character at that age—you might find that your stories have greater emotional resonance.
This tip comes from a workshop given by Rich at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. If you'd like to learn from Rich in person, join us for the 2008 workshop. Find out more at www.highlightsfoundation.org.
Rich Wallace is the author of four acclaimed novels for young adults: Playing Without the Ball, Wrestling Sturbridge, Shots on Goal, and Restless. He has also authored a short-story collection called Losing Is Not an Option, and a series of sports novels for middle-grade readers called Winning Season. His columns, profiles, and other features have been published in Highlights, Track and Field News, Runner's World, and other publications. Rich is a former senior editor at Highlights. His fifth and most recent YA novel, One Good Punch (Knopf), was released in October 2007.
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