As a child I was a voracious reader, devouring fiction books with great characters at almost a book a day. So it came as a great surprise to me as an adult writer how difficult it really is to craft and create an interesting character in my own books. As a young adult I became more of a reader of non-fiction and biographies and still favor that genre, with the exception of historical fiction.
As a writer of 3 children’s manuscripts in the past two years, I find it easier to do the research than the writing and certainly the editing. My editor for my first non-fiction bio for kids about an inventor, gave me great advice. She told me to find heart in the story. I never realized until after a year of revisions that crafting a good non–fiction character requires not just telling their story, but fleshing out a believable and interesting portrait with respect to the character’s history. Like a good fictional character, the real person you are writing about needs to grab your reader’s interest. I needed to find a voice for my character, even though his biography is written in the third person.
Writing for kids is very different than writing for adults. And when writing non-fiction it is very easy to get too technical for young readers. When I stepped back and thought about my audience as being seven to ten year olds, I had to revise and edit my original drafts many times and add less technical vocabulary and contextual clues. In writing a book about an inventor for a young audience, you have to find the excitement in that inventor’s process and the creative process of inventing. As a new writer in the children’s book field, I was also inventing my own process of using a combination of the research facts and the elements of storytelling to respect the subject I was writing about, the inventor, Lewis Latimer. I hope my journey as a writer and the love I have developed for my subject, telling about untold heroes in history, will appeal to my young readers. Maybe they will find their voices as writers as they are already on their path as readers.