Fancy Nancy. No David. The Pigeon. We all know those characters that kids love in picture books. And we would LOVE to write them ourselves.
But how do we do that?
It all starts with getting to know who is in our stories. And it requires knowing more than their name and what they look like. It’s time to look at our picture book characters like they are human (because they are).
How to Write Characters that Kids Love:
The only way to create characters that kids love is to truly know
In order to get to know your characters on an intimate level, you should ask yourself five questions. Your answers will shape the person your character is meant to be.
1. What is their basic information?
No matter what kind of story you’re writing, you need to have a basis for who your character is. Know the answer to these 5 points:
- Grade Level
2. What do they look like?
It’s easiest to write about someone when you know what they look like. Also, appearance can help drive the story. Like in Jory John’s Giraffe Problems, the main character has issues with his long neck.
3. What’s their family dynamic?
I’m the second oldest of seven children. How I act is
The way a person’s family is built can drastically affect how they act in your story. Think about who their parents are, and whether they all live together. Consider doing research on characteristic traits based
4. How are their relationships with others? Either in the story or outside of it.
I recently took an assessment and learned that I’m a people pleaser. This affects all my relationships and how I interact with other humans on a daily basis! And it’s also something that I have to mindfully try to curb, in order to not say yes to everything under the sun.
The same situations apply to our characters.
They may not all be people-pleasers, but they all interact with others. Think about how they are with their friends versus adults. Is there anything that causes this change? Make sure that rings true in your manuscript.
5. What is their personality like?
When you think of characters that kids love already, most have a similar thing in common. They have BIG personalities. For instance, they can be stubborn, selfish, quiet, overly kind, etc. depending on who they’re talking to.
Use that information to bring out your character’s personality through the use of dialogue and actions in
In order to make the character shine through, focus on showing not telling.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the words and plot, that we forget our characters are people. Instead, they act as stand-ins or props, rather than the humans we intended them to be. (In our defense, writing picture books is harder than it seems!)
Now that you know who your story is about, make sure to incorporate their personality throughout the book. Key areas to show this:
- Action: The types of things they do and the way they do them
- Dialogue: What they say if they say anything
- Monologue: How they think and process the problem before them
It’s very easy in our writing to say Spot was a loveable dog who always got into trouble. However, if we show the dog tearing into the trash while the family’s away and then licking their faces when they get home, it will have a greater impact on the story.
Thumb through your manuscript and see if there are spots where you can show the readers MORE of who your character is. Get them to really feel the connection. And print out the Picture Book plotting worksheet. This will help you build a well-rounded story using your new character!
Remember, this is supposed to be fun! So get on the ground or hang upside down if it will help you become one of the characters that kids love.
And for additional articles to help you write a picture book, read these:
- How to Plot Your Picture Book
- Best Writing Book for Picture Book Writers
- Tips to Help you Find a New Idea
- The Best Way to Learn How to Write a Picture Book
- The Ultimate Guide to Write a Picture Book