Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sundee Frazier: Believable Boys

Reported by Angelina C. Hansen

Sundee Frazier, born and raised in Washington and proud of it, won the 2008 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. The main character of her first novel, BRENDAN BUCKLEY’S UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING IN IT, was originally written as a girl, Brenda.

Changing the gender of her main character led Sundee to question whether or not there were actual differences between the genders. She asked dozens of children’s book authors for insight, filmed their answers, and shared that video with conference attendees.

Boys versus girls? Sundee shared a handout which included information from an anthropological study of how boys tend to express their emotions. She warned that the study was only partially useful, and potentially harmful to writers of boy characters. She cautioned against reactive writing. “The most important thing to do,” she said, “is to capture the essence of complex, quirky human beings.”

Her advice to writing believable boys? Write characters from the inside out. Find emotional authenticity. Recreate experiences from our own emotions. Sundee shared a writing exercise to help us break through our emotional prison walls.

She concluded by sharing a couple of practical tips for writing believable boys, reminding us that it is the “emotional core” of the main character that connects him to the reader.

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