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Tammi.authorpic2015by Tammi Sauer

A few months ago, I introduced a new character—Ginny Louise. In Ginny Louise and the School Showdown, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, it’s clear that Ginny Louise’s defining characteristic is that she is irrepressibly cheerful. No matter what comes her way, she is happy, happy, happy.

ginnylouisehighrescover ginnylouise.spotart1

Soon afterward, another character of mine crash-landed in a boy’s front yard. In Your Alien, illustrated by Goro Fujita, I wanted to create an irresistible alien that every earthling would love to have for his or her very own.

youralien alien

In my latest book Roar!, illustrated by Liz Starin, a young boy is the main character. His defining characteristic is that he wants, wants, wants to be a big, scary, fire-breathing dragon.

7a_COVERroar.trio

Knowing those characters inside and out helped me to make each book feel authentic.

Sometimes I really struggle to come up with an irresistible character. This calls for some brainstorming. By figuring out the details about a character, I can often uncover his or her story.

For this brainstorming exercise, fill in as many blanks as you can. You won’t use a lot of this information in your manuscript, but these details will help you to get to know your character. Sometimes all it takes to get a story started is discovering a character’s disposition, pet peeve, or fear.

Who knows? Maybe YOUR character is just what an editor is hoping to introduce to the world.

PB CHARACTER BIO
BASICS
Type (kid, monster, chicken, alien…):
Name:

FAVORITES
Color:
Food:
Item of clothing:
Book:
Type of music:
Class:

EXTRAS
Disposition:
Hobbies:
Talents:
Pet Peeves:
Flaws:
Secret:

THE BIG THREE
What is his/her biggest fear?
What does he/she want more than anything?
What is stopping him/her from getting it?


Tammi Sauer is a former teacher and library media specialist who has visited hundreds of schools and spoken at various conferences across the nation. To date, Tammi has sold 24 picture books to major publishing houses (Bloomsbury, Disney*Hyperion, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, and Sterling). In addition to winning awards, her books have gone on to do great things. Mostly Monsterly was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program. Me Want Pet! was recently released in French which makes her feel extra fancy. And Nugget and Fang, along with Tammi herself, was featured on the Spring 2015 Scholastic Book Fair DVD which was shared with millions of students. Visit her on the web at tammisauer.com.

PrizeDetails (2)
Tammi is giving away a signed copy of ROAR!

ROAR!, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Liz Starin, stars a little boy and two dragons who discover what it takes to ignite a friendship.

The trailer for ROAR! includes cameo appearances from some of today’s fiercest authors and illustrators. You’ve been warned. Please view responsibly.

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Tammi is ALSO giving away a picture book critique!

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

tammiforsiteby Tammi Sauer

Psst. Hey, you there. Yes, you. Do you want to wow an editor with your next picture book manuscript? Great!

It only takes one thing. Come up with the next Fancy Nancy, Olivia, or Skippyjon Jones. Editors are wading through their slush and/or agented submissions in the hopes of finding an irresistible, can’t-put-down, character-driven manuscript. They want manuscripts that make them feel something and a great character can do just that.

Examples of strong characters in picture books:

OLIVIA by Ian Falconer
Olivia is a feisty little piglet who has too much energy for her own good.

FANCY NANCY by Jane O’Connor
Nancy is very into fanciness whereas her family is not.

SKIPPYJON JONES by Judy Schachner
Skippyjon Jones is a little kitty with a big imagination.

A PET FOR PETUNIA by Paul Schmid
An exuberant Petunia wants, wants, wants a pet she really shouldn’t have.

DINOSAUR VS. BEDTIME by Bob Shea
The seemingly unstoppable Dinosaur is very much into his own bad self.

CLARK THE SHARK by Bruce Hale
Clark has super-sized enthusiasm which leads to all kinds of mayhem.

Developing a unique and engaging character like the ones listed above, however, is a huge challenge.
When I’m working on a new picture book manuscript, I remind myself that if people don’t care about my main character, they won’t care about my story.

I always keep A.R.F. in mind.

A stands for Active.
I want my main character to be doing something. No one wants to read about a kid who just sits on the couch all day with a bag of Doritos.

R stands for Relatable.
I want my main character to connect with readers. I want readers to think, “Yeah, I know what that feels like.”

F stands for Flawed.
I want my main character to have some sort of flaw. Nobody longs to read about little miss perfect. Yawn. Perfect is boring. A flawed character is much more interesting. A bonus? A flaw often increases the story’s tension and makes the character more endearing and root-worthy to readers.

In my latest book, GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN (Disney*Hyperion), illustrated by Lynn Munsinger(!!!), Ginny Louise is the new kid at school.

ginnylouise.spotart

But Truman Elementary is no ordinary school. This is made clear at the very beginning of the book:

The Truman Elementary Troublemakers were a bad bunch.

Especially these three: Cap’n Catastrophe, Destructo Dude, and Make-My-Day May.

Day after day, these scoundrels made waves.

They dodged danger.

And in the classroom?

You don’t even want to know what went on.

ginnylouise.spread1

Ginny Louise is Active. She happily goes about her school day. She paints, she sings, she learns things. All the while, she is oblivious to the fact that everything she does drives the Truman Elementary Troublemakers bonkers.

Ginny Louise is Relatable. She doesn’t fit in with her classmates in the classroom or out on the playground. (Readers can empathize with her because everyone has experienced the feeling of not fitting in at one time or another.)

Ginny Louise is Flawed. She only hears what she wants to hear. This results in all kinds of miscommunication.

By the book’s end, this active, relatable, flawed character turns things around at Truman Elementary. Well. For the most part. 🙂

GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN debuts TODAY! Next summer, Ginny Louise and the rest of the gang return for more mayhem in GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL FIELD DAY.

ginnylouisehighrescover

And now it’s a great giveaway for GINNY LOUISE!

Leave a comment naming your favorite PB character and you will be entered to win a signed, first-edition copy of GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN!

One comment per person, please. 

A random winner will be selected in two weeks.

Good luck!

Tammi Sauer is a former teacher and library media specialist. She has sold 23 picture books to major publishing houses. In addition to winning awards, her books have gone on to do great things. Mostly Monsterly was selected for the 2012 Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories program. Me Want Pet! was recently released in French which makes her feel extra fancy. And Nugget and Fang, along with Tammi herself, appeared on the Spring 2015 Scholastic Book Fair DVD which was seen by millions of kids across the nation. Tammi’s books Ginny Louise and the School Showdown (Disney*Hyperion), Your Alien (Sterling), and Roar! (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman) debut in 2015.

You can visit Tammi online at tammisauer.com and at picturebookbuilders.com.

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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
August 2020

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