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Children's literature: reading it, writing it, and loving it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to Enliven Your Writing

I'm a big fan of character-driven stories, so when I read Peggy Archer's article on how to enliven your writing through developing your characters, I immediately asked her if I could share it on my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
I attended a program offered by the CatholicWriters of St. Louis called “Enliven Your Writing with an Understanding of Clinical & Spiritual Psychology.” The purpose of the program was to show how a character’s personality makes him act the way he does. The speaker was psychologist, Dr. Richard Johnson. This is my ‘take-away’ from the program on creating characters:
Dr. Johnson began by talking about the structure of personality – what is at the core of the individual character, or what makes him unique. He listed six things that make up that structure.
Believing: What we believe makes us act the way we do. This includes our values, attitudes and prejudices.
Perceiving: What we perceive is intuitive, and includes receptive sites, which are physical, mental, and emotional.
Thinking: What we think is always either an evaluation or an assessment. You connect data with your belief.
Feeling: Thoughts create feelings. The purpose of feelings is to make you move to the next thing—it pushes us, or moves us, to act.

Deciding: What we feel makes us decide, or make choices, about what to do. We make plans.

Acting: And last, we act, or carry out what we’ve decided to do.
In a handout, we received a list of five spiritual strengths, disturbing compulsions, and instructive shadows for each part of the personality structure. ‘Spiritual strengths’ give us power. ‘Disturbing compulsions’ describe when our strength becomes compulsive. And ‘instructive shadows’ describe a lack of that strength. For example, hope is a spiritual strength, or virtue. Lack of hope leads to despair, and when it becomes a compulsion it leads to presumption.
There are different levels that lead us from one direction to another, and most of the time we are someplace in between those levels. Our strength, or virtue, motivates our behavior. Character development is describing personality. The way a character acts, or reacts and responds to a situation, comes from his personality. We should use vivid, accurate words when creating characters. And keep in mind what our characters’ spiritual strengths are to help us develop his personality along the lines of those strengths.

About Peggy Archer:
Peggy's most recent picture book, Name That Dog! (Dial), is on the accelerated Reader list, and is listed with Scholastic Book Club. Her picture book, Turkey Surprise, was a NY Times bestseller. Originally from northwest Indiana, Peggy and her husband now live in O'Fallon, MO.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kidlit Picks: Where the Red Fern Grows

Growing up, I had this idea that books about dogs and horses were boys' books, off-limits to girls unless you were a tomboy, which I most definitely was not. I loved dogs and thought horses were pretty cool too, but I refused to read books about them - with the exception of Beautiful Joe.

I loved the story, but I had only read it as a last resort. I'd devoured all of my library books and was unable to get to the library to replace them, so I roamed my siblings' rooms in a desperate search and found Beautiful Joe on my sister's bookshelf (yes, my sister had a boy's book on her shelf! Gasp!). I read it in the absence of a proper girl's book such as Nancy Drew...desperate times calling for desperate measures and all that.

Sadly, even my love of Beautiful Joe didn't change my mind about other dog stories. I didn't even read the classic animal stories to my kids. Perhaps if I had, my son would have become a reader sooner. Recently, my YA (Young Adult) book club read Where the Red Ferns Grow, and I now see the error of my ways. This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story about a boy and his dogs. It's a story about hard work, determination, delayed gratification, faith, family, and love. It's a book to treasure and to read and re-read with your children and grandchildren or simply for the pure pleasure of it.