Over the past two weeks, I've had my head buried between the pages of character-driven picture books. I've analyzed, studied, and read them over and over again, discovering what makes each main character leap off the page and into kids' hearts.
For instance, take Pigeon, a spunky & tenacious bird who takes on a life all of his own. Pigeon began as mere sketches (Psst! don't tell Pigeon this!) in the margins of his author / illustrator Mo Willems' notebook, demanding Willems to write about him.
It's this type of character, which perches on a writer's shoulders, whistling "Yoo, hoo! What about me?" in the writer's ears, who becomes that character, the one who drives a plot forward. Sometimes, these pesky characters not only sit on our shoulders, but they grab us by the hair, jerking our heads all around, until we finally write them.
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In my research of the character-driven picture book, I've learned they should focus on:
- a lovable character children (or silly adults!) can relate to
- one they can fall in love with
- one that never leaves their minds
- a flawed or troubled (at least in some aspect) character
- a character who is active in resolving the story's conflict without the assistance of the adults in his / her / its world
- a character who grows or develops in response to the BIG problem.
Currently, I'm working on revisions with my agent (yippee!) on my character-driven picture book. I've been very hush-hush on the premise of my book and the main character, but my silence only heightens the excitement! I will tell you this...
My main character is flawed-big time
He's lovable-in a weird, quirky sort of way
Memorable? oh yeah
He may deal with a common kid-ish conflict, but his spin on the tale, is like no other.
Only he can tell his story.