But also, I come across books and think I will definitely need this someday, just not right now. But I’m an instant gratification kind of girl, so I buy it right then so when I need it I won’t have to wait for it.
It really is a book of questions. So if you are searching for an extensive “get to know your character questionnaire” this book is for you.
However, by going through, I’ve realized it is a goldmine for brainstorming or discovering a new character (for anything) but especially picture books!
This idea that agents and editors want “character driven” picture books is huge! And here is an opportunity to point you in the “write” direction.
The Book has 14 chapters and they are all a series of questions.
1. What Are the Character’s Internal Traits?
2. What Are the Character’s External Traits?
3. What Does the Character Want, Not Want, or Need?
4. What Does the Character Like or Dislike?
5. What Does the Character Fear?
6. What Does the Character Believe?
7. What Are the Character’s Strengths, Weaknesses, and Habits?
8. What Is the Character’s Background?
9. What Is the Character’s Self-Assessment?
10. What Is the Character’s “Type”?
11. Does the Character Have a Nickname?
12. What Is the Character’s Job?
13. Will the Character Face a Nonhuman Adversary?
14. What Plot Drivers Will Affect the Character?
And each chapter continues as a series of questions, giving you options to consider.
For example, in the first chapter Internal Traits, he lists traits and under each one gives you related traits and Character Possibilities for that trait.
For the trait TIMID some examples he gives for Character Possibilities are:
Trembles at the thought of trouble.
A cataloguer of exits.
A collector of misgivings.
He’s giving you ACTION for your character! Something essential! So even though a “timid” person may seem passive, he still needs to be “active” in his timid ways.
For the External Traits Chapter he gives you examples of how other characters will view your character based on those traits.
*Doesn’t care much for chit chatting.
*His “hellos” when he has any are like icebergs.
*Has forgotten how to smile.
*He’s a slam the door in your face kind of person.
*Has a bad case of the grims.
(Doesn’t that just sound like a character driven picture book?)
And we all know a Character must Want or Need something…so he devotes and entire chapter to asking you questions about what your character wants.
This chapter is broken down into those wants or needs such as: courage, equality, affection etc… But then he asks specific questions about each one.
What kind of affection does the character want or need? Friendship? Public Adoration? Has he previously been denied it? Did he have it and lose it? Where does he think his chances for affection lie, and is he right? And what will happen if he doesn’t get it?
Doesn’t want: unfriendliness, solitude
(His questions are helping you build character, but also helping you build your plot.)
I love the chapter on What Is Your Character’s Type:
He categorizes them into such categories as:
The Hard Head
And then the last two chapters are about obstacles and conflicts that character will face. He gives types of obstacles and then again asks questions to get you thinking.
Some examples of Plot Drivers are:
And many more. And he asks question after question in relation to these plot drivers to get you thinking…. For example:
Is the arrival a surprise? A welcome visit? Something that has long been dreaded? For the character who is arriving, is it a homecoming, a visit, a chance to gain a sanctuary, an opportunity to get a new start? Does the arrival appear in the form of a ghost? How does the arrival of someone alter the course of the plot? How are the others affected?
There is just so much in this book to love! And I can see using it to brainstorm character driven picture books.
Spend time sifting through this book and try adding a few chapters together by saying What If?
What if this UnSocial Grouch got an Arrival from a Chatterbox?
What if this Timid Nobody wants Public Adoration?
What if this Peacemaker causes a Disagreement?
I’m very excited about using this book, especially for my favorite time of the year: PIBOIDMO Picture Book Idea Month coming up in November!
Mondays with Mandy or Mira consists of Mandy Yates and Mira Reisberg. Mira is the founder of the Children's Book Academy and was so impressed with Mandy when she was a student in one of the interactive courses, that she invited Mandy to share the blog. Mandy has as an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and has been published multiple times in Highlights Magazine. We hope you enjoy and find our offerings helpful.
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