Posted by: nancyisanders | December 14, 2012

Character Development

Right now I’m under contract to write a brand new chapter book. It’s a “first chapter book” and is geared to a second grade reading level. Think “Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pope Osborne and you’ll know what level of book I’m working on.

This week I spent time working on the character development for all my background characters. This is actually one of my favorite parts of writing for kids! Below is an excerpt from my new book for writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books. It’s all about the process of character development for first chapter books. But not only are these tips helpful if you’re writing a chapter book, these are helpful if you’re writing magazine stories, picture books, and even novels for kids!

-Excerpt from Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books:
Some of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as a writer were the times I developed the characters for the two first chapter book series I wrote for Concordia Publishing House. You can enjoy the thrill and delight along this enchanting journey as well when you create your own characters for this reading level.

Characters in first chapter books can be like splashes of bold and vivid colors across the pages of a book that for the first time in a young reader’s life are illustrated in black and white. Characters in first chapter books can be whimsical, endearing, lively and engaging.

It took me several months to develop the cast of characters in my first chapter book series, Marshal Matt: Mysteries with a Value. Before I started the process of character development, first I pitched an idea for a new series of first chapter books to my editor at Concordia. She was interested, so I brainstormed ideas for this series while I was busy working on a different book deadline.

When I worked with my co-author, Susan Titus Osborn, to write our Parables in Action series, it took time for us to develop the cast of characters, as well. We brainstormed a unique and enchanting character trait for each that would easily identify them from book to book in the series. Here is a list of the quirky and fun characters that we created:

Parables in Action series
Cast of Characters
Suzie: This is the main character whose voice tells each story. She always prays when the situation gets sticky. Each story and each character is seen through her eyes.

Bubbles: This is Suzie’s best friend. Bubbles’ real name is Nan. She is a child actress on TV and appears in a different costume in each book because she is always practicing for her next new TV role.

Mario: Suzie’s friend, Mario, likes to collect things. He’s very resourceful and comes up with all sorts of ways to raise money and fix problems.

Woof: Mario’s dog is named Woof. Woof is always running into a scene and barking, “WOOF!” at a key moment of the scene.

The Spy: He’s always writing spy notes in his spy notebook. The Spy’s real name is Larry. He always talks in secret code. For instance, “Iggle, iggle, snoogle, snoogle” means “yes.” When he says, “Ark, ark! Bam, bam!” he’s really saying, “Wow!”

Mr. Zinger: This is the classroom teacher of all the kids in this series. He has a beard, wears a baseball cap, plays the guitar, and sings with the kids. Mr. Zinger’s character traits are based on my husband, Jeff, who teaches fourth grade and plays guitar while singing with his students!

As you can see, characters in first chapter books can be over-the-top funtastic! Kids in first through third grade love reading about characters like these. Now you know why I had such a great time working to developing them.


  1. Congratulations on this new chapter book contract, Nancy! Is it a historical fiction chapter book?

    • Yes, historical fiction, so lots of fun! A bit of fiction but a bit of nonfiction, too.

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