Character grid

8th graders at Lincoln are now reading SWEETSMOKE. Apparently, 35 8th graders. I understand how it can be difficult to deal with the number characters, and I made a character grid to help guide them between Scylla and Charybdis. It is important to understand that, if you are telling the story of the whole of a plantation, there are going to be a fair number of people involved. The other danger of making a grid is the spoiler alert factor. I have probably given away too much in terms of what happens to individual

characters. I have also given away the key to Ellen Howard’s character. I have been at many book groups where readers have said that they struggle to identify with Ellen Howard. I have what is perhaps a surprising affection for her, as well as feeling a great sadness on her behalf, and her journey is one of the most unusual in the book. There is a key to understanding her, and when I mention it in book groups, the readers all get that sparkle in their eye and say “Ohhh, that makes sense.”

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