You need to believe in the characters whose story you’re writing. You need to know them intimately. And you need to show them to your reader.
Elaine Marie Alphin

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You need to believe

Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Under the Egg

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
undertheegg.jpgUnder the Egg (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014 ) by Laura Marx Fitzgerald is an eggstraordinary story. Theo, now that her grandfather Jack is gone, is in charge of their 200-year-old family home and her eccentric mother. When dying, Jack told her to look “under the egg” and she’s afraid what she’s found is not only going to ruin his reputation, but that she’ll find out he’s not who she thought he was.
I love the first two lines:
“It was the find of the century.
Or so I thought at the time.”
And I love Theo. As a parent I want to take her under my wing. In my kid mind, I want to be her friend. She’s interesting, smart, and brave.
This mystery has page turning chapter endings, villains, and the fun of a hunt. It’s also a winner of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association BEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR!
Take a look at Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s About Me on her website. It made me smile.
The author is also on twitter: @marxfitzy

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Posted in MG Novels

33 Minutes

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
33minutes.jpg33 Minutes (Aladdin, 2013) by Todd Hasak-Lowy is a fast and funny read. I love the descriptions of people and the food fight and the main character’s snarkiness. But the book has a serious side, too.
Seventh-grader Sam Lewis is going to get his butt kicked in 33 minutes by former friend Morgan Sturtz. And all the kids at school know it! But how did we get here? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
On his FAQ, the author explains how the book is not biographical, but it is emotionally biographical as we all go through losing friends. It also talks about the unusual format of the book. I love how in chapter one, Sam is always stating Fact and Opinion since that’s what his social studies teacher emphasizes.
This was Todd Hasak-Lowy’s first book for children, but he has written for adults and has a YA book coming out in 2015. Follow him on twitter @toddhasaklowy.

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Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Naming Your Character

photo courtesy of earl53 on
isz8gyWy.jpgI recently read this tweet by @nikkitrionfo “I hate choosing character names. #amwriting” And I told her how at our SCBWI Oregon retreat, @doesntmattr (an editor from Scholastic) talked about with project ideas, he just uses “Bob.” He replied to our tweets with “I could spend two hours trying to come up with a name. ‘Bob’ gets the job done.”
For me, I need the character’s name before I can move on in the storyline. Maybe I agree with what Anne of Green Gables says, “I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables In my opinion, who the character is is part of his or her name.
One of the resources I use is a name the baby book and lists of popular names on the internet. I look for names that sound right and often, but not always, check the meaning of names. Where and when a name was or was not popular can be important too.
For surnames, I like using the internet again to look up common last names. I might do it by city or state, ethnicity, and again meaning.
In real life, I’ve named dogs people names (Sadie and Quinn), but I don’t recommend doing that in a story. I think it is easier for the reader if pets have more obvious pet names.
Character Naming Resources
All these have practical tips, but this article is my favorite: “8 Tips for Naming Characters” by Dan Schmidt
The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters” by Brian A. Klems
Name That Character: Top Ten Tips” has “do”s and “don’t”s as well as samples from books and movies.
I Need Help Naming My Character!” – What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Name Your Character
This article “Tips for writers on naming fictional characters” has some interesting sections, such as “Terms of Endearment,” “Overused Names,” and “Loaded Names.”
On this page, Random Name Generator at, indicate how many given names and gender and provide an optional surname. You can choose ethnicity/language, plus extras such as Mythology, Ancient, Biblical, and labels like Fairy, Goth, Hillbilly.
There’s also a Last Name Generator, but it isn’t as flexible or fun.
How do YOU name your characters?

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