Cruel Author Forces Her Characters to Stand Out (Anna Staniszewski)

When I was in middle school and early high school, all I wanted to do was fit in with the crowd. I tried to have the right clothes, to do the right activities, and to never say the wrong thing. Sadly, that never worked out for me, so I spent most of my school career hovering in the fringes. It wasn't until later in my teen years that I started to find some confidence (thanks to writing and theater) and stopped minding standing out so much.

These days, when I'm working on teen and tween characters, I try to make them quirky and interesting and unique: qualities that would make them stand out from the crowd. After all, no one wants to read about a bland character who just goes along with everyone one. But that's pretty ironic, isn't it? That I'm trying to make my teen characters stand out when all they want to do is fit in?

It seems like the very traits that make a fictional character interesting are also the ones that would push them into the fringes of the social hierarchy. So while teens spend so much time trying to blend, we as authors spend a lot of time making sure our teen characters don't get lost in the crowd. 

I'm not sure exactly what this all means, but it's something that makes me appreciate my own teen years a bit more. After all, if I'd gotten better at fitting in, I probably wouldn't be as good at creating characters who stand out.


  1. I think that as a writer, you get to show the reader more of the inside, private life of your character. That unique, stand-out part never seen by the other characters which inhabit your character's world.

    I am pretty sure that if your classmates could have seen into your private thoughts, you would have been even less successful at blending in. :)

    By the way, I when I was a kid, I used many tactics to prevent people from reading my mind. :) Also, I would close my bedroom door at night, so nobody else's dream self would mingle with my dream self. I was pretty sure that if I wasn't awake to keep my thoughts inside my mind, that they were floating out in the ether somewhere. :)

    OH DEAR. There is no way I could pass for normal. :)

    But, then again, nobody can.

    1. Heather, I LOVE what you said about your dream self. You have GOT to work that into a book. Seriously. Now. Go.

  2. I remember a few classmates who didn't mind standing out. It's cool that you got to that place through acting. My very self-conscious teen son has started acting, and I hope that helps him feel more comfortable in the world.


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