Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Using Real-Life Role Models to Develop Middle-Grade Characters

     Her windup was fluid, almost effortless. She faced batter after batter, striking them out with her 70-mile-an-hour fastball. But when she walked off the pitcher's mound at inning's end, what amazed me wasn't her athletic ability as much as her poise and humility, even as the crowds chanted her name and reporters clamored for interviews. Then her story showed up in Sports Illustrated, which isn't exactly the same as a one-column story in the hometown newspaper. Again I admired that cool, unaffected demeanor that you don't usually see in junior high kids, much less from one that just landed on the cover of the world's most popular sports news magazine.
     Mo'ne Davis, the now-famous pitcher and infielder of the Taney Little League team of Philadelphia is exactly the kind of character I like to write about. She's a kid doing extraordinary things, but more importantly, she's someone who shows strength of character by who she is, not what she does. Yet those two ideas are intricately tied. Mo'ne excels on the field because of who she is off of the field.
     When I started developing main character, Summer Haas, for my middle-grade novel, BINGO SUMMER, I wanted a mentally-tough character who wouldn't be beaten down by the rapid changes happening in her young life. Her parents are divorced, she moves to a new community, she leaves her best friend behind. Through it all, she's determined to be a great softball player, but how did she get there? She focused on the goal, being the best she could be, yet kept her ego in check even when she beat an established player out of the coveted starting position.
     Creating three-dimensional characters, especially heroic main characters, is hard work. They have to be admirable yet not without fault, tough yet vulnerable. I wish Mo'ne Davis was playing ball when I wrote BINGO SUMMER. Using real-life role models like her to inspire characters makes the writing process a whole lot easier.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Mo'ne Davis sounds like an extraordinary person. I agree that our characters need to be three-dimensional, and it's great if we have role models in real life to inspire us.

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