When you develop your main character you will find it can either be the most daunting task or the most fun. Gertie and Jeff were easy and fun for me to write. I could hear their conversations in my head which made writing the dialogue easy. I could close my eyes and visualize some of their scenes together. Yet, when I started this new story I felt lost. There were no voices in my head. I could picture the main character, but I found it more of a challenge to write him as a character. Want to learn more? Read on …
How to Develop Your Main Character?
Creating characters who readers will feel as if they could exist in real life is a key ingredient to a successful picture book. Real characters are easier for children to identify with. The more likable the character the more fun to read for the child.
Characters also need to be consistent. Their actions, thoughts, and conversations need to be consistent to make them convincing and easy for children to imagine existing in real life. Children are very good at identifying inconsistencies in your character so please ensure that your character is consistent from the beginning of your story through the end.
Show Don’t Tell
It is easy for this writer to tell the reader all about the character, but that is not a great strategy. If you want your book to be published you should show not tell. I still struggle with this concept, but I am getting better. Showing can be done in several ways. The most obvious one is through your illustrations. You can show the characters physical attributes with the illustrations. Illustrations can help readers to visualize the characters, places, and events in the story.
Dialogue is another way of showing and not telling. Everyone has their own distinct way of speaking, especially children. Spend some time talking and listening to children. Take notes about their speech patterns and note some of the phrases they use. These will be great additions to your story. Some younger characters may still use baby talk in their dialogue or maybe they mispronounce the name of their dog and now the dog answers to that name. Dialogue is a great way for the reader to get to know more about your character.
Actions are a third way that the reader can get to know your character. You can show this by the way your character walks into a room, does he race through the door or perhaps he dances through the door? Does you character have a nervous habit like biting their nails or playing with their hair. Are they superstitious and afraid to walk under a ladder or do they hyperventilate when they see a black cat? Showing and not telling takes practice and your writing will get stronger with practice.
Writing a Character Profile
Writing a character profile can be very helpful in developing your main character or characters in your story. The purpose of a character profile is twofold: to help you create a character that is as real as possible and to help with consistency issues in the story. Here is a brief outline that I followed to develop the main character for the new book. I found it very helpful and I hope you will too!
Characters Name –
Birthdate and age –
Where does this character live?
What is their family like?
What is their personality like? Do they have any nervous habits?
Who are their friends?
What are their likes and dislikes?
Do they have any hobbies?
These questions will guide your main character development. It can also be used to create a second main character in your story. When writing children’s picture books it is recommended that there be only one main character, but no more than two. You can find additional character questionnaires such as this online. The objective is to really know the characters in your story. The better you know your characters the easier it will be to write your story by keeping it real and consistent.
With these questions you should be ready to develop your main character.
Ready, Set, Go …
I am so glad you’re here and so grateful that I can share this journey with you. I really do believe that the world needs your story to be told.
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