Character Leading Plot
by Mira Reisberg
As creatives, whenever we look at that blank page, whenever we’re making decisions on where to take a character, whenever we submit our work or attend a conference, we’re facing fear. Most of us are sensitive types, many come from some kind of trauma, so facing fear is an important topic for us just as it is for many of the characters in our plot-driven stories. We talk a lot about character in our upcoming Mastering Graphic Novels course, but suffice to say - character leads plot, meaning your character's personality, traits, attribute, hopes, fears, and quirks will determine what actually happens in your story. You can read more about that here
Here are the main elements of writing fiction, and a lot of nonfiction too, although structure might replace plot in some books:
4. Voice and Language
How well you know your characters makes a big difference in how well you write them. Physical descriptions (kept to a minimum in picture books) and shown through actions e.g., instead of “Because she was short, hugging was awkward” – “Angie stood on her tip toes to hug” are only part of the picture.
It’s your main character(s) hopes, fears, greatest desires that really drive the story or plot. Whatever your main character’s greatest fear is–that’s what they must face and overcome.
Whoever their greatest enemy is–that’s who they must vanquish or friend.
Whatever their greatest desire–that’s what they must strive towards and attain either in that book or one of the following books if it’s a series, or attain, if it’s a stand-alone picture book.
Challenges often become assets.
Whoever their friends are, these are either allies on the journey, or characters that they have conflict with, or characters that they must save or help in one way or another.
The more you know your characters, the better that you can write them. Even if you never use most of the stuff that you know about them, your character will still come across stronger for that knowledge. Being a visual person, I like doing mind maps. So here’s one that I did for one of my stories from way back that I’m sharing with you as well as a downloadable blank version that you can use with your own work. Let me know if you find it helpful.
If you want to learn more about creating wonderful characters and stories check out our brand new course with all its bonuses - Mastering Graphic Novels: https://bit.ly/GraphicNovelsLive
Saying it's just a graphic novel course is selling it short. It's a fabulous 7 in 1 class (not including the bonuses) that will teach you how to write and Illustrate PB through YA and how to adapt those stories to hybrid or graphic novel formats or create an original one from scratch! I'll be joining you in the course adapting and re-imagining an exiting picture book story and dummy and creating an original chapter book, which will hopefully become a series. Here are some pictures from my graphic-novel style picture book. These are still very primitive but they give you a sense of just how much fun I'm having and how much more I can now do in this new form to create something richer, more meaningful, and more marketable to publish in this fabulous hungry for talent $1 billion industry.
These images are still super rough and early stages but they show how you can add complexity in really fun and easy ways. They're done in Procreate but I'm also learning Clip Studio Paint (both of these are course bonuses) which is super exciting. Can you tell that I'm a lifelong learner who loves the thrill of the new?
The bottom image will probably be converted into more relational images with the interior animals talking with each other using text bubbles and little expository text areas at the top and bottom. Talk about making endorphins playing in this new form.
Yours in children’s book love, Mira xoxoxoxo
Dr. Mira has helped MANY authors and illustrators get published. Her students have published or contracted over 800 books and won every major US children's book award that we know of. Mira has worn just about every hat in the industry including illustrator, author, editor, art director, and literary agent. She holds a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children's literature. Mira has taught children's literature survey and kidlit making courses at Washington State University, Northern Illinois University, San Francisco City College Extension, and UC Berkeley Extension. She is also an award-winning children's book illustrator and writer, ready to romp into the wonderful wild world of making and teaching Graphic Novels and Hybrids.
5/4/2022 03:26:10 am
Awesome and interesting article. Great things you’ve always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post.
5/5/2022 07:04:13 pm
Thank you My Indigo Card. It means. a lot getting a kind response.
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We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break