According to the blog Learner.org, (http://www.learner.org), “The plot of a story is the sequence of events, the ‘why’ for the things that happen in a story. . .The plot draws the reader into the characters’ lives.” As a second grade teacher once put it to a group of children, “What makes you want to keep reading?” I like this because, as both a reader and a writer, I have always wanted my characters to draw me into their lives by having feelings and problems that I understand and relate to and that make me care deeply about them.
I have certainly created a character in Quincy the Horse who has feelings. While it may surprise some who do not have frequent contact with animals in general or horses in particular, this is not a case of dramatic license. Horses are very emotional and relational beings who exhibit a range of feelings. They are capable of deep and lasting bonds and rely on each other and their humans as part of herd dynamics. These features of horses are present in the Quincy the Horse Books.
Now that I have established that characters need to feel things so that readers can care about them, I come to another important issue. For the plot to unfold, characters must make choices and take action to grapple with conflicts they face. Going back to the quote from Learner.org, we have the following, “The plot helps the reader understand the choices that the characters make.” I have found that it is not simply the varied feelings of the characters that create a believable plot and an engaging story. It is the personality of the character and his or her characteristic way of feeling and reacting to problems that makes the reader believe in him.
In both Quincy Finds a New Home and Quincy Moves to the Desert, the main character, Quincy, is faced with situations that are not of his making. In the first story he is sold to a new owner and taken to a new home, and in the second story, he is sent off on a cross country journey. While he does not have control over the initial situation, he learns that he has choices about how to cope as he struggles with the state of affairs in which he finds himself.
Though he is lonely, confused, doubtful and bored at times, Quincy is also an observer of himself and the world around him. He knows he has problems and he wants to find answers. In the first story, he learns that it is okay to ask for help when he is befriended by an old horse named Beau who loves to give advice. Quincy confides and then listens and gets an answer to his problem. After that experience, he trusts Beau. When future dilemmas arise, he chooses to turn to Beau for guidance. In the second story, he has doubts and fears, but he learns another important lesson. He learns to go with the flow, and before he knows it, he is discovering all sorts of amazing new things.
So I have tried to do a bit more than simply recount Quincy’s adventures. I have encouraged young readers to get to know him on a personal level. I have explored his attempts to sort out the world around him in more depth than might be common in a children’s picture book through a discussion of his observations, his use of imagination and fantasy, and his tendency to ask questions. Last, but not least, I have permitted him to have what all children need, the support of his mentor Beau, and a strong bond with his beloved owner.
Camille Matthews, MSW, LCSW is a clinical social worker and writer who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, complex PTSD and attachment disorders. In 2002, she received her certification in the new field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) from the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association and established the Pathfinder Program in Farmington, NM where she treated adolescents, children and women victims of domestic violence using EAP.
She teamed with illustrator, Michelle Black to create the Quincy the Horse Books for children ages 5-10. Matthews was born and raised in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky where her father was a law school professor. She was an only child and her favorite thing to do was visit her grandparents and cousins. She is a lifelong equestrian, avid reader and student of politics who blogs and is an op ed contributor. She relocated to the Reading, PA area from Northwestern New Mexico in 2010.
You can find out more about Camille Matthews’ World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/CamilleMatthews.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Matthews and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.
In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Camille Matthews about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Matthews will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life.
The show will be live October 10, 2011 at 2pm EST.