K.A. Barson has been published in Highlights for Children magazine and her young adult novels, 45 Pounds (more or less) and Charlotte Cuts It Out, were published by Viking Children’s Books. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches writing classes at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Kelly lives in Jackson, Michigan with her husband, three dogs, and three cats.
K.A. is one of the speakers for our YA Symposium, The Young and the Reckless: Writing for Teens, and is a UCLA Extension Writers’ Program Instructor.
Q1: Do you develop your characters as you write, or you already know them before you start writing?
I know them pretty well before I start writing, but I always discover more about them as I write the first draft. For me, the first draft is the discovery draft.
Q2: What is your go-to technique for adding more dimension to your characters?
First, I use a lot of internal monologue (reaction), as I talk about in the lecture. I also interview them, asking a lot of WHY questions. Why do you want that? What will happen if you don’t get it? It sounds kind of silly, but I’m always surprised by the answers. It helps to get to know the characters beyond the basics. It’s those answers that help create a richer backstory and helps me discover their strengths and weaknesses.
Q3: What special support people (critique partners, writing group, beta readers, etc) do you rely on? How do they help you?
I’m really lucky to have a bunch of talented friends. I have a few who will talk me through plot to make sure it makes sense and contains a solid arc. I have others who will beta read for me and see things I don’t. These friends went to VCFA, either at the same time as I did, or local-ish writing friends who later attended there.
Q4: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to the writers attending the symposium?
Tell the stories of your heart. If you try to fit into a trend or write something because of an editor’s or agent’s wish list, you won’t have the same connection to the story. Good storytelling is always on trend.
Kelly’s lecture for the symposium is titled: What the…? How to Deepen Character through Reaction
Do your characters need more dimension? Do you feel like your story needs that extra je ne sais quoi? Sometimes adding a layer of internal reaction can really zhuzh it up. Internal reaction provides context and illuminates character. Carefully curating your character’s innermost thoughts can elevate a good story to a gut-wrenchingly powerful one. Let’s explore how to do that.
Learn more about Kelly Barson
Web site: www.kabarson.com