How to read a character

Heroes and anti-heroes

Leggi qui in italiano.

It continues from the previous article “A story is like a lake”

There is a bunch of classic characters. In brief, we can see a hero, an anti-hero, and other roles that will stay on one side or the other (and in some cases making just a mess).

It’s time to present you with some examples

Daniele Frau with Gabriele Manca's original mask, character.

Let’s take a classic as Robin Hood (for which we have many different versions). We will note almost immediately two principal characters. On one side, we welcome Robin Hood (or Sir Robin of Loxley as in the most famous Hollywood version), ready to lose everything for his loyalty to King Richard Lion Heart.

On the other side, there’s John Lackland, king’s brother and usurper. With Robin, we have the typical hero, loyal to his king and his oath and his evil counterpart, ready to betray his brother. But what would be the story without John Naylor (Little John), Friar Tuck, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Lady Marian? Each of them has a different code, brings solutions to problems, and causes others to happen.

On the shore of the lake

If we decide to stay on the shore of the lake, we notice how the story develops and take different paths. If we would like to describe this story for children, we would imagine Robin as a fox, the usurper as a mangy old lion full of rings in his fingers, and helped by a snake. Friar Tuck will be a friendly bear, Lady Marian, a beautiful and clever lady- fox and the Sheriff, an ugly dog with a huge belly and sharp teeth.

Instinctively, we will be lead to stand for the band of the poor against the rich. Without even noticing, we will stand for Robin and his sense of loyalty, his intelligence, and his love for Lady Marian.

So what’s right and wrong, then?

But, but, but… We don’t keep telling our children that stealing is something wrong? Aren’t thieves evil, negative characters? Sure, but that’s the reason why it is so essential to create a good character. Children are more than capable of watching that small fox in the eyes and see him as a positive character.

In a world that needs to divide us in good and bad apples, children can go beyond and see the character for what really is, without judgment. They assess Robin for what he does, not for what he is. His bravery, audacity, and true love for Marian are how a thief can become a hero to children’s eyes.

To sum it up

Stories and characters need to be simpler, to be completely understandable by children. We’re not speaking about shrinking the lake, but making the waves smaller, so that our children can float safely on their small boats.

 Let’s stop here for today. Next week we’re going to meet our characters, or at least the more specific ones. There will be some new characters and others we fully know. In any case, we will recognize most of them in the people around us.

You want to read more about writing for children?

Here we are our original stories, Souls Alive and Go back to the future. Enjoy!

To next week!

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