Using educator skills to build fictional characters

Cheryl Carpinello, our Choices WOW! Women on Writing book tour guest today has used her years as an educator and observation skills to create characters her young readers can relate to. Author of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, Cheryl shares how using the traits of her students helped her build believable characters for her award-winning fiction.


Being an Educator Helps Me Build Believable Characters

By Cheryl Carpinello

Writing characters that readers can identify and bond with is difficult at the best of times. When writing for young readers, I transport myself back to my classroom where I watch my students working and discussing. I wander the school hallways and observe students’ interactions with each other and with other teachers.

Doing these exercises helps me develop characters that my readers can relate to and see pieces of themselves. As an adult writing for ages 9-15, it is important that my characters come across true.

Kids are really amazing and at times mind-boggling. First and foremost, they are emotional. Whether they hide those feelings or wear those on their sleeves, their actions and reactions are the direct results of their emotions.

Guinevere, age 15, in Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, continually lets her emotions drive her actions. Her father repeatedly tells her that she must make decisions with her head not her heart.

“But Father…I promised.”

“So you did, daughter mine, but kings must rule with their heads not their hearts. This discussion is over.”

My younger readers, ages 9-12, have trouble projecting themselves into a scenario that may happen next week, or even just three or four days ahead. They are very concrete thinkers, meaning that if they can’t touch something or see it, they can’t identify with it. Concepts and theory literally go right over their heads.

Guinevere and Cedwyn go out on their adventure, even though they’ve been told to stay at the castle. All they think of is seeing the magical stones. Had they been able to think their action through, they might have realized the dangers that existed away from the castle. But they couldn’t think ahead.

He’d been a fool, an idiot…He should have known; he should have thought it through more. He stared at the spot where his best friend had disappeared and wondered if he’d ever see her again.

When others suffer, Guinevere and Cedwyn still don’t stay put at the castle. Instead they put together a plan that should never have been allowed to play out. Adults, who should have stopped it, found themselves bowing down to the young princess as the ruler in the absence of the king.

Brynwyn remained outside the gates long after Guinevere, Cedwyn, and the others were out of sight…For an instant her shoulders slumped, and her brow wrinkled in worry. “I hope we made the right decision,” she said to no one in particular. “May King Arthur and King Leodegrance show me mercy, as well as me husband, if anything happens to those two.”

A trait the characters in my Arthurian and Egyptian stories share with my students is that of being stubborn. When kids are set on doing something, there is no deterring them. Sometimes the scenario works out, but more often it doesn’t. By the time Guinevere and Cedwyn figure this out, events are way beyond their control.

They’d decided meeting at the stable would be safer than at the keep. His ma had a surprising ability to catch them in the act of doing precisely what they shouldn’t be.

The last trait I want to mention is found in most students regardless of their age, and in many adults. That is the need to belong, to not be different. In my tale Sons of the Sphinx, Rosa longs to be the same as other students in her high school, but to no avail. She is the only girl in the entire school who hears dead people. She tries to tell herself that it’s okay, but fails. Every time she hears a dead person talk to her in school, she ends up making a fool of herself. The other kids, some she’s known since grade school, treat her as if she has a disease.

The rest of the day I endure the strange looks and whispers by shrugging and mumbling something like ‘Idiot dead people’. The kids will avoid me for the next few days. I think they’re afraid whatever I have will rub off on them…

I‘ve been fortunate to be able to create my characters based on my years working with and observing kids as an educator. Without this experience, I would be working harder to create believable characters for my readers.


Summary of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

  • His one desire…To be a knight.
  • His future queen…At times reckless.
  • Best friends…Bound by Friendship and Loyalty

When their adventure turns deadly and dangerous, Guinevere and Cedwyn find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle. Not only are they in danger, but so are the kids of Cadbury Castle.

Renegades—foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess—steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger.

As the plan quickly unravels, Cedwyn chooses to turn his dream of becoming a knight into reality.

Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?

Print Length: 150 Pages
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Publisher: Bublish, Incorporated (May 2017)
ISBN: 978-1946229441
Available to purchase on

Awards for Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

2018 Gold Global eBook Award—Juvenile Fiction
2018 Gold Global eBook Award—Children’s Literature
2018 Bronze Evvy Awards—Fairytale/Folklore/Mythology
2018 Bronze Evvy Awards—Juvenile Fiction
Short-Listed for 2019 Chanticleer Intrernational Awards
2018 Honorable Mention Purple Dragonfly
100 Most Notable Indies for 2018
2018 Wishing Shelf Finalist
2017 BookLife Quarter Finalist
2017 Apple eBook Children’s Official Selection

About the Author

Cheryl Carpinello is an author, retired high school English teacher, and Colorado native. Since retiring from teaching, she’s been able to devote her time to writing and traveling. Although she may be away from teaching, she is still a teacher at heart and especially enjoys meeting with kids and talking with them about reading and writing. Cheryl hopes through her books she can inspire young readers and reader’s young-at-heart to read more.

You can find Cheryl at:

Writing Blog:
Amazon Author Page:
Twitter Home Page:
Linkedin Page:
Google URL:

Keep Reading!

Here are a few snippets from Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend:

1. The Goddess Speaks:

Many trials await the two of you. Perhaps the hardest are the ones you will have to endure alone.

“You, Guinevere, will find yourself lost. You—who are destined to be a great queen—will have to traverse a journey of immense pain and self-doubt. You must let your inner feelings guide you. The journey will be hard and painful. You must summon the courage of your soul to sustain you.

“You, Cedwyn, faithful friend of the princess and the queen. Your journey may be the hardest of all. You will be sent far from those you serve and love. Your duty will demand that you see this most difficult journey to its end. Whether it be death or life for you will depend upon many things. Your courage must also come from deep within your soul for one so young. Your love of family and friends must be great. But greater still must be your loyalty to the knight’s duty. For your knight’s vow comes soon. You must embrace it. You must defeat the temptations to turn aside for your own safety.

2. Great Sadness and Danger:

With saddened and heavy hearts, they left the gruesome glen behind and rode for the castle.

Samuel followed Guinevere, having chosen to ride beside Aaron. His tears dried, but the anguish not buried with his family. The grief was clearly evident in his hunched body, the anger in his clenched fists on the pony’s reins. Cedwyn worried about the boy’s state of mind.

Guinevere now led the trio, concern for the safety of the castle and the people there were marked by the hard set of her chin. Worry etched lines in her wrinkled brow and deepened her hollowed eyes.

Cedwyn brought up the rear. His eyes noted every movement. Ears tuned to the echoes of the forest, head swiveling at each movement and sound. Fear had taken permanent hold over his body—a feeling he was certain should have been as foreign to him as it would have been to Arthur’s knights. Cold fear tightened its grip on his heart and throat. Those who would kill the gentle monks would stop at nothing. Now the little group rode in the dark, a time when all earthly creatures took on the pallor of ghosts, and hidden danger lurked all around them.

3. Fathers and Daughters:

His finger on her lips stopped her rebuttal.

“Not now. Other issues demand the attention of the knights and kings.”…

“But Father…I promised.”

“So you did, daughter mine, but kings must rule with their heads not their hearts. This discussion is over. You are dismissed to go to your room. I have a knight there who will make sure your rest tonight isn’t disturbed.”

Her legs refused to move. She opened her mouth, but no words came.

“Go. Now Guinevere. Before I forget you’re my own flesh and have you flogged for the dangers you’ve brought upon us. Go!”

Guinevere ran from the room, fists clenched, tears streaming down her face.

Thank you, Cheryl, for being with us today. And congratulations on your wonderful success with Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.



  1. Thank you for hosting us, Madeline!

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