Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creating Characters for Picture Books

Character-driven picture books are in demand, but how do you make the space to introduce a character, share his/her story, and create a decent plot in a couple hundred words? 

Every author will find a personal method, but here's a few tips I'm working with: 

* Know your babies!  You, the author, will know far more about your characters than your readers ever will.  You will know their passions, weaknesses, greatest fears, and proudest moments.  You don't have to put it all in your book (you can't!), but knowing them may just bring the story you're looking for onto the computer screen.

* Kids (and editors) like character-driven books because they relate to the main character.  Reading the book makes them feel something.  Emotions and feelings are powerful!

* Challenge your main character.  Tension is good.  Don't make the solution too easy.  Remember you're relating to young children.  Life can be downright hard sometimes.  Challenges do not always disappear in less than 32 pages, even for children living relatively comfortable lives. Today, for example, my four-year old said "Good-bye" to her grandma (who she won't see for at least 2 more months), had to leave some "beautiful, special flowers" outside where the "wind might blow them away," had to cope with her brother putting a scribble on her masterpiece, had to wait for a turn (several times!), had to share toys and games she didn't want to, had to play outside while it was hot, and lost her computer privileges when she didn't mind.  Remember the world from a child's point of view--what seems like a minor inconvenience to me can be a very stressful situation for preschoolers.  And they want to see that in their books.

* Learn from the best!  Fancy Nancy and Mr. Duck Means Business are two fun examples. 


Laura Marcella said...

These are terrific points, Carla!

Abby said...

Good advice here. What a cute little preschooler you have! Life is hard even at that age :)

Monica said...

What an insightful description of your 4-year-old's day, in all its conflict and drama! And I like the black cat, too.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Hi Carla - This is such a great reminder to "think kid". I am a fellow campaigner and picture book writer and new follower. So glad to meet you!

Kris Yankee said...

Great post. Fellow campaigner stopping by. I write MG/YA, but have published a picture book. I'm an editor, too!

Maeve Frazier said...

Newest Follower, here, and part of the campaign. Glad to have found you! :)

Gail Shepherd said...

Newest newest follower from campaign. These are great tips. I write MG, but there are lots of PB writers in my critique group, so this will help me give them better feedback. Thanks!

Books for Little Hands said...

Great tips, Carla. It's great to be reminded of the CPOV (Child's Point of View). Children need to be able to relate to the characters and the situations they are in. I'm loving your blog, by the way :)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I wish I could write picture books. Sadly, when I start out writing it turns into a full fledged novel! lol :)

Carla said...

Thanks, Laura!

Abby, It's so easy to forget sometimes too!

Monica, That cat makes me smile every time I see it!

Susanna, "Thinking kid" can be so much fun too! I'm glad you came by!

Kris, Congrats on your book! It's nice to meet you too!

Maeve, I'm glad you came by!

Gail, I'm glad it seems helpful! Picture books are a lot of work! Thanks for coming by!

Books for Little Hands, Being able to relate to what you read is so important--especially for children! I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog!

lol, Chantele! Writing a novel is a skill of it's own!


Lady Gwen said...

Hi Carla!
I'm your 97th follower just stopping by from the campaign group. I write YA fiction but love picture books and MG, too. Nice site you have here!

Ms Saba (aka Teacher007.5) said...

Hi Carla! new follower here and campaigner! :) Nice to meet you!

Joanna said...

enjoyed this piece on PB character! Looking forward to campaigning with you. :)

elizabethanne said...

Excellent thoughts on character in picture books. And very insightful way of describing your daughter's day. I'm a campaigner, too. Looking forward to getting to know you better!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great post!

Fellow campaigner here. I write just about everything - from PBs on up to adults. Looking forward to getting better acquainted!

Charmaine Clancy said...

Great advice thanks, I've been imagining a picture book lately so this really helps :)
Wagging Tales - blog for Writers

Carla said...

Thanks, Lady Gwen! I love MG and YA too!

Ms Saba, Thanks for stopping by!

Joanna, I'm glad you liked it!

Nicole, I look forward to getting to know you better too!


Lauren F. Boyd said...

Hey, Carla! Thanks so much for becoming a Follower on my blog! It's great to meet you, especially as a fellow picture book writer!

I really like what you said about trying to see things from a young kid's point-of-view and how something small to us can really be a big deal for them. And that they want to see this in their books is something that I haven't thought about before I read your post - so thanks so much for this insight!

And the cat is so cute! It reminds me of Fall, Halloween, and kids - I love 'em all!

I am bookmarking your blog and will be back soon! Keep up the good work!

Thanks again!

Carla said...

Charmaine, I'm glad it helps!

Lauren, I'm so glad you enjoyed this! It's simple to see the world from a kid's point of view, but sometimes we just forget! I'm excited to get to know you better!


Stacy S. Jensen said...

I like the real life examples. Sometimes we forget that kids can relate to tough decisions.

Cortney said...

Carla, thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm your newest follower. :)

kmckendry said...

Great advice to know your character even though you can't put it all in writing.

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