April 22, 2020A Real Definition ... Finally!

Walking around the 2020 Writers' Workshop in early March, I was beginning to feel a little smug. And I had good reasons to feel smug ...

Already that day this introvert (yes, Mr. Mayer, you were spot on!) had unflinchingly faced and conquered Atlanta traffic north of I-20; had hobnobbed coherently with my publishing peers; had learned and could almost explain what a character arc is; AND ... I had given out at least 3 business cards! Well ... maybe 5, but I couldn't swear to it ... but, no matter! I had accomplished much that day!

And it wasn't even two o'clock!

Watch out, world! I have arrived!

Actually, I don't think the world was paying much attention, but I didn't care. I was totally enjoying myself! Two fabulous workshops under my belt, a good lunch with my friend, Sandy, and talking shop with her and a couple of children's book authors, and I was ready for workshop number three!

It was led by author Reem Faruqi, a published picture book author and author of Lailah's Lunchbox, a children's book about an Islamic girl learning about Ramadan and fasting.

Hooray! At last we were going to hear specifically about children's books!

She gave out a wealth of information concerning the traditional publishing process: submitting manuscripts, editing, finding and working with agents, and marketing yourself to readers, teachers and librarians.

And she also spent a good chunk of her workshop talking about the actual process of writing a story: coming up with the initial idea and developing the characters, giving those characters problems to solve and wrapping it all up in a satisfying ending.

And repeating much of what Bob Mayer had said: give your main character a really tough problem to solve. And don't tell, but instead show how they won, overcame or changed.

And make certain that there is an arc.

There was that term again! Did I understand what it meant? I thought I did ...

Mrs. Faruqi helped me out by actually giving a definition of the term on her handout:

character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story.

did understand it!


An important part of making that arc complete is how your story ends. The following tips on her handout are taken from the book Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul:

- Does someone else save the day for the character? That shouldn't be the case!

- The main character solves the problem.

- The main character changes.

- No lucky coincidences. No one else saves the day.

- Everything you've written relates to the end.

- Try not to make the ending predictable.

- The ending doesn't have to be happy, but it can be hopeful.


Writing is hard work. Forget about a 300 page novel. Try doing it in a mere 32 pages. Try doing it in less than 500 words. Try doing it for the most discriminating and important audience in the world!

Make those characters believable. Make those obstacles insurmountable. Complete those character arcs. Then make those characters come out on top in the end and wrap it all in a satisfying finale.

That's about all there is to this book-writing business ... it just might be the hardest, fun-est thing you'll ever do!

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  • Dixie says:
    2020-04-22, 15:09:57
    We all good be character because some of us change weekly (grow more).

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Kathy says:
    2020-04-22, 10:23:50
    Kinda makes one want to try writing! You make it sound so “easy,” tho I know, in reality, it’s very hard.
    I actually think that 95% of writing is just having something to say! If you have a story or a message you want others to hear ... just write it down! The mechanics of it – the grammar, spelling, structure, tense, etc. – can be learned! Like Mr. Mayer said ... if you want to be a writer, then just write!

    And as much of a reader as you are, Kathy, you might be a terrific writer! Never know until you try!- Sherry A Mitcham