Posted by: nancyisanders | October 1, 2010

Middle Grade Musings: Characters

Everything I Need to Know about Middle Grade Novels I Learned from Jurassic Park
Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, the main characters in Jurassic Park all seemed to be 3-D with three main distinctive character qualities each:

The main dinosaur guy:
1. His favorite dino was the raptor.
2. He disliked kids.
3. He always broke computers.

The math guy (Malcolm)
1. Believed everything was chaos.
2. Gave a wisecrack about everything.
3. Was totally like a reptile and unlikeable (which made him somehow likeable!).

Grandpa (the owner of Jurassic Park)
1. Thought life was like an amusement park.
2. Spared no expense.
3. Was self-centered like a child.

The computer geek
1. Was totally over-the-top obnoxious.
2. Was messy and irresponsible and greedy.
3. Was the only guy who understood all the computer technology.

Each minor character had at least one unique characterization:
Grandson: very smart kid who loved dinosaurs
Granddaughter: computer whiz
Lawyer: very totally predictable lawyer
Overseer of dinosaurs: was in charge of raptors and worried about dinosaurs’ intelligence

Writing down these characterizations for Jurassic Park’s main and minor characters made me realize that every single one of my characters in my middle grade novel was one dimensional, a clone of the other, and bo-o-ring. My goal is now to give my main characters each 3 strong, over-the-top characterizations, and each of my minor characters at least one unique trait.

In my next post, I’ll show how strong characterizations were developed over the entire length of Jurassic park and also affected the plot.


  1. Great look at characters! Seems so simple when you present it, but I know it is a lot of work.

    After you finish middle grade fiction, would you consider writing on middle grade nonfiction?? Or is that in the archives?


    • Hi Margaret, thanks for the suggestion to write about middle grade nonfiction. I am actually getting started on a middle grade nonfiction deadline that will be due in June. It might be fun to post about it in the months ahead and share experiences about how it’s done. Thanks again for the idea! -Nancy

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