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November 25, 2013

Can’t Get ‘Em Out of My MInd

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was one of the first novels that made a lasting impression on me. I read it when I was a fifth grader and thought the story of those four loveable sisters, living in genteel poverty during the American Civil War, was a great story. Their bittersweet experiences growing up, including sibling rivalry and the pangs of first love, were easy for me to identify with in the 1960s—just as they must have been for young readers in 1868 when the book was first published. I hated finishing the book and closing the cover with all that happiness inside.

Why? I think it’s because the characters were so believable and downright likable. Their diction—or word choice—reflected their personalities too. It was in character for Amy to bemoan her “agonizing mortification” and for Jo to declare, “I like good strong words that mean something. I loved such lines as, “one forlorn fragment of dollanity” and “wept a little weep.” Even the secondary characters were unforgettable: peppery Aunt March, gallant Mr. Brooke, happy-go-lucky Laurie and crusty old grandfather.

On page 22 of our workbook, Jennifer and I offer some advice for creating characters that young readers will care about. Heed it, and you too may write a story with characters that become unforgettable in the hearts and imaginations of your readers.

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