Children’s Author – write from the heart

Karen Foxlee Author

Karen Foxlee is an Australian author who writes for both kids and grown-ups. She grew up in the outback mining town Mount Isa and still frequently dreams she is walking barefoot along the dry Leichhardt River there.

One of four children she started telling stories when she was young. She filled countless small exercise books with sweeping sagas of orphaned girls illustrated with pictures cut from the back of Reader’s Digest magazines.

She has worked as an underground cable mapper, pool kiosk attendant, library assistant and hotel laundry hand and eventually became a registered nurse. All the while she never gave up her secret dream of becoming a writer.

These bio details are straight from Karen’s website where she has a love for characters and fleshing them out.

Dragon Skin is due out later this year, another middle grade story. Most fans know her from Lenny’s Book of Everything, Honour Book of the Year for older Readers 2019 and The Girl Most Likely. If you wish to look her up, you will be surprised at the depth and insight of this wonderful writer who insists that it’s important to write a compelling story but just as important to reveal the character’s struggles, emotions and fears.

Every character needs a quirky something to keep the readers interested. One might want to be an explorer and has an obsession with stones and rocks. Another character might collect letters, shoes or swim at night.

Give your characters secrets – big or small. Secrets linked with guilt, shame, fear or happiness. What do the characters long for? What are their worries and concerns? Do they fit in, are they bad people, are they scared of saying something wrong?

Give your characters Important Things – a ring on their finger which reminds them of a person in their past. Give them a belief or saying from a Grandma. Give them goals to reach. In Lenny’s book of Everything, Lenny wants her brother to stop growing.

We all have secrets and something important that we love. Weave these into your next story.

Emotions – how do the characters feel about their physical appearance – awkward and clumsy, self conscious, worried about crooked teeth, knock knees?

Use emotions outside and inside.

Memories – give your characters vivid memories. Allow these to shape your narrative.

Raise the stakes for the character’s journey. They must grow and shine.

“This is the story of Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who doesn’t believe in anything. She is still grieving for her dead mother when her father takes a job in a museum, in a city where it always snows. On her first day in the museum, Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long-forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen, and he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.”

Whether it’s listening to an audio book or turning the pages of a hard copy, a good book is a pathway to a fascinating different world. Karen has achieved this magic with all of her books. Not to mention, she has captured some brilliant names of characters that sing in your memories for a long time. Kitty, Annabel, Orphelia and so on.

Think of your favourite character in fiction, adult or children’s and see what they struggle with to overcome.


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M.J. Gibbs
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