It’s Day 27 of PiBoIdMo and based on all of the incredibly inspiring posts being shared here you must have more ideas than Thanksgiving leftovers. So how do you decide which ideas are keepers? Throw a dinner party!
A few weeks ago with another holiday season looming, I got a sudden and unexpected flash in my mind’s eye of all of my book characters seated together at a long table. I found the image amusing because it’s never occurred to me to put all of them together in the same room. But there they were eating, and drinking, and conversing loudly like they were at a swanky after-Oscar’s party.
Grace Campbell from GRACE FOR PRESIDENT was, of course, talking politics and the upcoming presidential election. Gaston was trying very hard to sip (never slobber!) his French champagne. Alfred Zector was passionately discussing books with Crafty Chloe who was busy rearranging the table center pieces. My beloved zombie, Mortimer, was smiling and secretly holding Mildred’s severed hand under the table. And no surprise, Bacon was seated at the head of the table commanding everyone’s attention with his bad jokes, long-winded stories, and impromptu ukulele solos.
Admittedly, some of my older characters weren’t adding much to the discussions. The dinosaurs from DINOSNORES were rudely asleep at the table, drooling into their salad plates, while the monsters from HOW TO POTTY TRAIN YOUR MONSTER spent the majority of the evening locked in the bathroom unrolling toilet paper and eating soap.
I asked myself if I were to extend my guest list to include other picture book characters, who might I want to invite and why?
I’d be sure to invite Matt De La Pena’s character CJ and his Nana because I know I could count on Nana to find something kind to say about my cooking. I’d send a telepathic invitation to Tammi Sauer’s little green alien because who wouldn’t want to hear what life is like on his planet? No doubt Ame Dyckman’s spunky Dot with her strong opinions and big appetite would be a lot fun to sit next to at a dinner party. I’d definitely invite Drew Daywalt’s crayons for a splash of color and Pat Zietlow Miller’s sweet Sophie just to see which vegetable she might befriend at the dinner table.
Characters don’t necessarily have to be as lovable as Dan Santat’s adorable Beekle but they should be memorable. Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones would certainly be an unforgettable guest as would Elise Parsley’s Magnolia and her show-and-tell alligator. My Bacon might not be the kind of character you’d want to be seated next to at a dinner party because he’s exceedingly arrogant, but you can bet he’d be the kind of guest people would talk about on their drive home. And isn’t that better than being the guy in the beige sweater with kale in his teeth who’s name you can’t remember?
When you’re contemplating your new picture book ideas, take a close look at your lead actors. Would they be characters you’d remember meeting the day after a dinner party? What about weeks or years later? Would they be the kind of characters you’d love to have as a friend because they’re thoughtful and kind like Amos McGee or imaginative and smart like Rosie Revere?
The characters we create may be playing out their adventures in two-dimensional worlds on the glossy, flat pages of picture books but something truly magical happens when we create characters that take on a multi-dimensional existence and live on in the hearts and memories of our readers for years to come.
Kelly DiPucchio is the award-winning author of nineteen picture books, including two New York Times bestsellers. Her forthcoming titles include DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, EVERYONE LOVES CUPCAKE, illustrated by Eric Wight and ONE LITTLE, TWO LITTLE, THREE LITTLE CHILDREN illustrated by Mary Lundquist. Kelly lives in southeastern Michigan with one husband, three children, and two puppies. You can see more of her work at KellyDiPucchio.com and follow her on Twitter @kellydipucchio.
Kelly is giving away a copy of EVERYONE LOVES BACON.
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Good luck, everyone!