Wednesday, May 4, 2016


This post is brought to you by Ben Clanton and THE HUNGRY BEAR CORPORATION.

When I do school visits I usually talk a bit about story ingredients with the kids. There are two in particular that I find to be key when making stories: characters and questions. With those two ingredients you've got all you need to discover the rest (conflict, setting, resolution . . . ). When presenting I get some help from the audience to create a character (often we create some sort of miximal). I then ask for a loquacious volunteer to come up front and BECOME that character. I do a sort of talk show role-playing where I interview the character. In one such interview the character turned out to be 2,000 years old, the inventor of video games, and allergic to sneezes. In another interview my guest turned out to have a certain meal that it loved beyond all others . . . kids and authors. One of my favorite interviews was one in which the character was an alien from another planet who did not know any Earth languages so I had to get another volunteer to be an interpreter. 

This exercise of interviewing a character is a great one not only for school visits but also coming up with stories in the first place or working out sticky story bits. Often I find myself having conversations with my characters when out for a walk or when fixing dinner, but sometimes I make the process more formal and write up questions and answers. I end up knowing a lot about my characters this way and while most of the details won't end up in the book I find that the voice of my characters are better defined when I do a Q&A and the emotional/character arc becomes deeper and more believable. BUT ENOUGH of me prattling on! We've got a special guest on the blog today.

BEN (B): Pickles! Thanks for being willing to answer some questions. Can you start out by sharing a bit about yourself?

PICKLES (P): . . . .

B: Pickles? You there?

P: Oh! Um, yes, HI!! Sorry, I was distracted. My friend Chip just sent me this video of a cat facing down an alligator. That is one brave kitty! Here . . . I'll send it to you. One sec!

B: Thanks, Pickles . . . I think I saw that one. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

P: Do you think a cat could face down a T-REX? I've heard that alligators are pretty much living dinosaurs. OH, WOW!!! YOU'VE GOT TO SEE THIS VID!

B: Huh?

P: This one is full of a bunch of otters this time facing down an alligator. THEY'RE SO CUTE!!! 

B: Hey, Pickles, I know that otters are super cute and all but would you mind focusing a little?

P: Huh? What did you say? I didn't catch that . . . my brother Eucalyptus was shouting something at me. Do you like pink?

B: Sure! Who doesn't? Now can you tell us a bit about yourself?

P: Chip doesn't like pink. Chip says purple is better. I like them both. I also like raspberries. And peanuts. Oh, and that sound when a bubble pops.

B: Speaking of bubbles . . . want to tell us how you became the bubble blowing champion of the world?

P: I once had a pet bubble-rock. But it died. Or at least I think it did. It stopped floating and sunk. Maybe it is just sleeping. Huh! Oh, got to go! Good talking with you Bugle! Bye!

B: Okay . . . I guess this interview is at an end. 

And so is this post! Thanks for tuning in! I wish you more success getting answers out of your characters than I had getting any from Pickles. :)

- Ben Clanton


  1. This is fantastic, Ben. What a great exercise, and like all your kid stuff, fun, fun and right to the heart of what kids love. And no wonder, my dear, you are the tallest 5 year old I know.