Gordon Korman, author of many books, including the "Swindle" series and the "Titanic" series, discusses the narrator's voice and how dialogue can help to create a character. This video is part of the NBC Learn original series, "Writers Speak to Kids."
Writers Speak to Kids- Gordon Korman
JENNA BUSH HAGER, reporting:
What makes a good story?
GORDON KORMAN: What I think makes a book a page turner is primarily the characters. You have to really, really care about the people who are in the story, and what's at stake for them has to be really, really important.
BUSH HAGER: How do you decide the narrator's voice?
KORMAN: Well I think that the main character is obviously the protagonist, the person who makes it all happen. That voice, I think, is the one that really has to be kind of relatable to the reader, you know, you need to sort of say not necessarily 'that's me' but you need to be able to see the situation of the story from over the shoulder of that narrator, that main character.
BUSH HAGER: How do you start a story?
GORDON KORMAN: I sort of set myself the task of making that story as interesting as possible as quickly as possible. So for me I find a place that gets you as far into the story as quickly as I possibly can.
BUSH HAGER: How do you end a story?
KORMAN: I'm a huge planner. I always know the beginning and the ending of a story and at least two or three incidents from the middle. So in a way, when kids talk to me about their writing problem and they're like 'how do you end a story? That's the hardest part for me.' I usually know, if not exactly how my story will end, I know the kind of ending that I want. I mean every story sort of sets up a conflict or a problem and the end has to address that. Now it doesn't have to address it in a totally predictable way, in fact it's better if the ending can be unpredictable. You want those twists, but I certainly know where I'm going when I start a story. So for me ending is not usually the hardest part.
BUSH HAGER: Do you rewrite your stories?
KORMAN: One of the things I like to do in revisions is work on my dialogue, because it's really important to me that my characters should talk like real people, even something as simple as how does a character say 'hello.' Does he say 'hi'? Does he say 'Yo' or 'What's up' or 'How ya doin' or 'How are ya?' Well if you can get that much personality out of a word, think about how much you can get out of dialogue. And I think that, you know, if the FBI says no two finger prints are alike, characters have dialogue finger prints. The words they use, not so much what they say, how they say it. And revision, rewriting is a great chance for me to make sure that my dialogue is authentic, that the characters talk like real people.
We are all “calaveras,” or skeletons, whether rich or poor, famous or not, writes Duncan Tonatiuh in his children’s book about the Mexican celebration of the dead.