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Cheryl Hughes: Character Development

My granddaughter, Sabria, spent the night with me last Wednesday.  Her mom had to be out of town.    Garey was out of town, as well, so it was just the two of us, which is rare, and I love those times.

On the way to my house, she told me about a writing assignment her teacher had given the class.  They were to write three stories, then pick the best one to turn in for a grade.  The students would be given three prompts.  The first two were: A Time Machine and Babysitting.  They haven’t been given the third prompt.

“Do you want to hear the Time Machine story?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

She opened her notebook and read.  “I found a time machine.  I traveled back to the time when my mom was a child to see how she had lived.  The End.”

“That’s all?” I remarked.

“I’m not interested in a time machine.  I’m not wasting my time on it,” she said.  “I have a lot more material on the babysitting story.”

Wait!  A babysitting story?  Isn’t this the granddaughter who watches every episode of every Japanese Anime series Netflix and Prime has to offer?  The granddaughter who watches British mysteries with me and tries to see if she can figure out the offender before I do.  This granddaughter wants to write about babysitting?

“Okay, tell me about the babysitting story,” I said, trying to keep any negativity out of my voice.

“It’s about a thirteen-year-old boy who has trouble socially,” Sabria said.  “His father is so frustrated, because his son doesn’t have friends and doesn’t play sports and isn’t involved in anything, really.  The father comes up with the idea to offer his son’s babysitting services to the neighbors, who have four children.  He thinks if his son is forced to interact with these kids, maybe he will interact with kids his own age.  When the boy finds out, he is furious.”

“Yeah, I can see that.  If I were a thirteen-year-old boy, the last thing I would want to do is babysit the neighbors’ children,” I said.

“Anyway, the thing with the neighbors is that they are not the real parents.  They kidnapped all of these children when they were babies,” she explained.

“How old are these children?” I asked.

“They are ten, eight, six and a baby,” Sabria said.

“Okay, you do realize you will have to do character development on all these kids, as well as on the thirteen-year-old boy and the parents,” I said.  “You’re writing a story, not a novel.  You need to lose the baby.”

“Why do I need to lose the baby?” she asked.  “I like the baby.”

“I assume you are going to have the boy rescue the kids when he finds out the neighbors have kidnapped them,” I said.  “That baby is going to have its own set of problems.  It has to be fed and changed.  It’s going to cry and wreak general havoc on any plans of escape.”

“It’s going to be a good baby, and I’m keeping it,” Sabria protested.

“There’s a saying in writing circles,” I said.  “Sometimes, you have to kill your darlings.”

“I’m keeping the baby,” she said. 

That night, as I watched her type up the parts of the story she had written, I smiled as the words, creative differences, came to mind.  I shook my head.  “That baby is going to give her fits.”

On the way to school the next morning, Sabria told me that her mom had sent doughnuts for her class the day before, on her birthday.

“There’s something I want to know,” I said.  “You know the little boy in your class who wouldn’t let you have a doughnut when his mom sent doughnuts to your class.  Did you give him a doughnut?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Revenge is never the answer.  I learned that from My Hero Academia.” (Japanese anime)

I think Sabria has a good grasp on character development


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