After a delicious lunch, I left early to head to my room and set things up for my two break-out sessions. I got everything ready, set up my books showing examples of character-driven picture books, inserted my flash drive on the university’s computer and was ready to go. Participants began trickling in. I glanced at the clock and I started on time. Although I was a bit nervous at the beginning, it soon dissipated as my talk got under way.
The break outs were well attended and I had some participants come up to me afterwards to ask questions and to discuss their writing. It was a really good experience!
So you ask, what is a character-driven picture book? I interviewed Jill Davis, executive editor at Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. She defined it like this, “A character-driven picture book centers around one character whose name, appearance, personality or mission are central to the action of the story. A character-driven book will focus on something a character does (or has done to him/her), rather than being a picture book about a theme, a situation, or a place. A well-developed character has personality, voice, or specific habits or attitudes that differentiate them not only from characters in other books, but from characters in their own story. For example, George is curious, Olivia is exhausted, and Madeline is plucky and small.”
My talk continued by showing how authors use narration, action and dialogue to let the reader know their character. Next we did an exercise where participants looked at character-driven picture books. After that we discussed character qualities, a character list and how to create a character. The session ended with a writing exercise where participants could write and create their own character.
I’ve been asked to do a similar talk on character-driven picture books at the Iowa SCBWI conference in April. I feel honored to be asked. I’ll be carpooling to Iowa with two Hamline University faculty members who teach in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. They will be speakers as well.