IMAGE 6by Zachariah OHora

Writing is hard work. Coming up with good characters can be even harder. The market for picture books (at least this moment) is all about character-driven stories.

When I’m trying to come up with a fresh book idea and there isn’t one to steal from my kids, I start with a character.

I’ve developed a method that is very simple. Even if you don’t draw you can fake it.

It’s called “Pimp Your Character” ™.

In a nutshell it works like this…

(Tara’s note: click each image to see it in its full-sized glory!)


Good! You are on your way. If you are feeling confident about this simple version, move on to the advanced version.


Say you are having trouble picking an animal. Maybe you hate animals? If so, try writing dystopian YA.

If you love animals but just can’t decide go to or even better

Pick an animal and refer to the charts above to “Pimp Your Character” ™.

If done right your character will write or reveal it’s own story. All you have to do is be open to hearing it. Don’t be afraid to use peoples own prejudices and expectations.

You might be surprised. Here’s an example.


Sometimes I get lucky. Real life provides me with a story and character idea and they almost write themselves. NO FITS NILSON! was one of those.


Good luck Pimping Your Character!


nofitsnilsonZachariah OHora is the author and illustrator of Stop Snoring Bernard! (Henry Holt 2011) which won the Society of Illustrators Founders Award for 2011 and was chosen as the PA One Book for 2012.

His latest book No Fits Nilson! was awarded a Kirkus Star and featured in The New York Times Book Review. He is currently working on My Cousin Momo (Dial Books, Winter 2015) and Wolfie the Bunny written by Ame Dyckman (Little Brown, Spring 2015).

He is repped by Sean McCarthy of the Sean McCarthy Literary Agency. His website is Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @ZachariahOHora.