Author Wendi SilvanoWhen I first came across the book TURKEY TROUBLE a couple of years ago during my kids’ school’s Scholastic book fair, I had no idea Wendi Silvano lived in Colorado or that we would eventually meet. I just knew, after I read the book, that I HAD to have it. So I bought two copies — one for my daughter’s classroom and one for us. You can imagine, then, how excited we were when TURKEY CLAUS came out.

And that is the power of a character-driven picture book. One book is seldom enough because we know these characters so well we just HAVE to find out what happens to them next. 

Fast forward to fall 2013 and I found myself sitting next to Wendi during the Rocky Mountain SCBWI book signing. I was a little nervous and a lot starstruck, so I said the first thing that came into my mind: “Want to be a featured author for 12 x 12 next year?” Wendi not only agreed, she one-upped me by JOINING the challenge too. So now she’s one of us, and once you read her post, I know you’ll agree with me that we’re lucky to have her in our midst. AND one lucky 12 x 12 participant will win a critique from Wendi at the end of the month. Here she is, giving her thoughts on writing good character-driven picture books. Please welcome Wendi!!

PSST: Haven’t signed up for 12 x 12 yet? 530 of your peers have! Click here for all the details on how you can join us before time runs out and we close the doors until 2015.

Engrossed in a Goose

So, that wily goose you saw out-smarting all the other geese for the bread you tossed out at the lake just won’t leave your head. You keep thinking about him—chuckling at his clever techniques: how he slyly moved in and snuck the crust when the two bigger geese were fighting over it; how he took it behind a nearby bush to eat it before either of them noticed it was gone; how he proudly honked as he waddled past them, scoffing at how oblivious they were.

If someone like him seems to take up permanent residence in your mind, rejoice! Ask him his name. (He will tell you if you listen). Then ask him what he wants more than anything in the world. Ask him what keeps him from getting it. Ask him what he is afraid of. Ask him what makes him the happiest, who his best friend is and what he’s planning to do this weekend. In other words, learn his whole story (not just what’s going on today).

Then, once you know him inside and out try writing a story about him. He just might become the star of your very own character-driven picture book… the most sought after picture book manuscripts, according to many editors and agents today!

You might ask, “Aren’t all of my picture book manuscripts character driven? They all have a main character.” Turkey Trouble

The answer is no. Not every picture book with a main character is character-driven. So, what makes a picture book a character-driven one?

A character-driven picture book is just what it says—a picture book where the character drives the plot. Think of it this way: In a character-driven picture book the story is more about the character than about the plot. What happens in the story happens because of the attitudes, personality and character traits of the main character.

Think about two different well-known picture book characters, Fancy Nancy (created by Jane O’Connor) and David (from the book No, David! by David Shannon). If both of them encountered the same problem in their story—let’s say being stuck indoors on a rainy weekend—would the same plot ensue? No way! We know these characters well enough to know that Fancy Nancy would surely “fancy” up the place and put on some type of elegant to-do, whereas David would likely end up in a load of trouble for wreaking havoc all over the house. Their unique personalities and desires would determine the plot.

The wonderful thing about writing character-driven stories is that, once you have developed a compelling character and come to know him well enough, all you need to do is come up with a dilemma for him to face and you will know pretty well what he is likely to do.

So, just what will make your character compelling? Try asking yourself these eight questions to see if the character that is stuck in your head is compelling enough for a strong, character-driven picture book or picture book series.

Just One More
1. Is he likeable and authentic? Readers won’t connect with a character that doesn’t seem real. He can’t be entirely mean or completely good. He must have genuine flaws, but still have a good heart.
2. Is he relatable? A child needs to care about your character. This will happen when readers recognize themselves or others in him, and when the character experiences the powerful emotions of childhood in an authentic way.
3. Is he “one of a kind”? What makes him memorable? A stereotypical character is boring. Your character needs a distinctive or oddball feature that distinguishes him from the other multitude of characters out there. But remember, this shouldn’t be a quirk just for the sake of having a quirk. It should be something that emerges from who the character is or what he experiences.
4. Does he have a dream, a passion or a deep fear or worry? The stakes for your character have to be high enough to capture the interest of the reader.
5. Does he stay true to himself? Your character must consistently act “in character” (unless there is some compelling reason not to). As you write, let him drive the story, not you. The story should move forward because of how he reacts to the various situations he encounters.
6. Does he have the ability to act and change the things around him and solve his own problem? Young readers desire control and power over their own lives, and they like characters who have that and who become their own heroes by finding solutions themselves.
7. Does he have a distinctive voice? Would the reader recognize the character from just hearing one of his conversations? Is he someone the reader would recognize on the street?
8. Have you fallen in love with him? If not, it is unlikely anyone else will.

So, grab that goose. Let him move in with you for a while. Get to know his motivations, what inspires him, what upsets him. Get to know how he understands the world. Then go write his stories!

Thank you Julie for asking me to write this post on character-driven picture books… they get my vote as the most fun to write!

WENDI SILVANO has always loved picture books, but she didn’t always know she wanted to write them. As a child, a sister to 8 siblings (6 of whom were younger), a teacher and a mother of five, she had innumerable opportunities to read and fall in love with picture books. When she quit teaching after her third child was born she made a discovery that lead her down the path of writing them as well. She discovered that she wasn’t the least bit domestic (cooking, sewing, gardening, decorating and the like were all either disasters or terribly boring!). The only part of being a “stay-at-home” mom that she loved was the “mom” part. So, she began turning her love for picture books into a passion and a career. She has been writing for children for almost 20 years and is the award-winning author of seven picture books, more than a dozen emergent readers, numerous magazine stories and teacher resource books as well as hundreds of educational reading passages. Her books Turkey Trouble and Just One More both won the IRA’s Children’s Choice Award, while Turkey Claus was named one of the “Ten Best Picture Books of 2012” by YABC. Her other awards include the IRA’s Paul A. Witty Short Story Award, the EdPress Award for Excellence in Children’s Magazine Fiction, The Highlights Magazine Fiction Contest, The Children’s Writer Early Reader Contest and others. She currently writes from her home in Grand Junction, Colorado. Her latest picture book, Turkey Trick or Treat will be released in 2015 from Two Lions Press.

Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Creativity, Giveaway, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Books, SCBWI, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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350 Comments

  1. I love great characters. Hard to do for sure, but so fun to read.

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  2. This is excellent advice, Wendy, and just in time for my revising one of my mss that is character-driven. I’m going to save this for future reference. Thank you!

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  3. Thanks for this great post! I’m definitely going to ask your questions about the characters in my stories so I can delve into who they really are :)

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  4. What a PERFECT post for me, Julie and Wendi! I just started Susanna’s Making Picture Book Magic class and today’s FIRST LESSON is…WHO IT’S ALL ABOUT – CHARACTERS!

    I loved hearing how you discovered your passion for writing picture books, Wendi…congratulations on all of your books and writing successes! Your checklist will help me as I create my next character…and reinvent the ones that inhabit my older manuscripts…I need to make them jump off the page, right into the reader’s lap! :)

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  5. Thank you, Wendi. Sometimes I forget not to be on the outside looking in when I’m writing, but on the inside (of the character) looking out. Seems so obvious and, embarrassingly, I forget. I’m going to keep your 8 questions handy! Thanks so much. It’s nice to have you here with us!

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  6. Great post. Thanks!

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  7. Nothing beats an informative post with tools! Thank you!

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  8. Thank you, Wendi, for those eight questions to ask and to use to get to know our character more deeply. I am “grabbing that goose” and making my character stay true to himself and move in with me :). Thank you for your helpful post.

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  9. Great post! So many industry phrases can be misnterpreted – so good to have a checklist to boot!

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  10. Thank you so much for this great advice!

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  11. We just read Turkey Trouble last week and loved it! Thanks for the great post.

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  12. Wendy, can I thank you so much for sharing your insight into Character Driven PB’s. You have made it so clear and I really appreciate the way in which you’ve described the process. Thanks, Julie for bringing us Wendy.

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  13. Very helpful post Wendy. Thanks for sharing some important things to consider about our characters.

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  14. Meredith Pinkstone

    Thanks for clarifying the concept! The advice is priceless, thanks!

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  15. Thank you for sharing these tips, Wendy. And congratulations on your “Turkey” success.

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  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Wendy for finally explaining “character-driven” picture book in a way all of us can understand!

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  17. Thanks so much for this post. I definitely focus more on plot-driven or concept books, so I always wondered how people do “character-driven.” This was a great lesson and I’ll have to bookmark it for sure!

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  18. Such a great post! Loved the examples and your list of 8 questions to ask! Thanks so much.

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  19. Victoria Warneck

    Thank you, Wendi! I need to frame your questions and refer to them every time I think I have written a character-driven manuscript…

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  20. Thanks, Wendi for clarity on character-driven picture books!
    Off to interview a few characters.

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  21. Great post! Thank you! Welcome to 12×12. :-)

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  22. I love the 8 questions to determine whether a character will work. I am usually a plot-driven writer, hoping to branch out to character-driven. Perfect post for me! Thanks, Wendi!

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  23. Wonderful post, Wendi! Thank you. As I work on my latest revision for my agent I am going to keep your 8 tips nearby. :). Oh, and welcome to 12x. It’s the best!!

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  24. This resonated with me so much. In fact, I had a great brainwave for how to completely rework a manuscript! I jumped into it, and then came back to read the rest of the post. So thanks for the inspiration!

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  25. Thanks for your list Wendi! I also appreciate you sharing a boy character driven example!

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  26. You are all so kind and flattering. I wish everyone a delightful time getting to know your characters better… and writing their stories!

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  27. Wendi, what a fun post! Your explanation is very clear. Thank you for the great tips! Congrats on all your success!

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  28. Thank you for the wonderful advice, Wendi. Love your check list! When I get stuck and want dig deeper amd really get to know my characters, I write them a letter and have them answer me.

    Welcome to 12 x 12!

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  29. When I was a teacher, I read TURKEY TROUBLE to my class every year. What a great book! And, I never knew there was a TURKEY CLAUS. I’ll have to run out and get it!

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  30. Pamela Hamilton

    I’ve been struggling with a story. After reading Wendi’s post, I think I need to get to know my main character better so he and I can get unstuck. I really like Jamie, but I don’t think I know him well enough yet to love him.

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  31. Your examples of character-driven pbs cemented that understanding for me. Thank you for that and for the carefully thought out questions.

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  32. Somehow I missed Turkey Claus! I’ll get on the hunt while I stew with my new character. (great name BTW ;) )

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  33. This! “Have you fallen in love with him? If not, it is unlikely anyone else will.” This strikes right to the heart of it, doesn’t it? Thanks, Wendi!

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  34. Thank you Wendy – 8 great questions. We love Turkey Trouble. It’s a favorite in our house!

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  35. Loved this! It was like a whole class wrapped up in a blog post. I’m going to print this out so I’ll have it handy.

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  36. Hahaha, fantastical, Wendi! Love your books and your questions. Saving this in my special email folder. *Waving*

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  37. Great post, Wendi! Thank you for sharing.

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  38. I’m copying down these questions for a character-driven story. Thanks, Wendi! And welcome to 12×12!

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  39. Thanks for the character quiz. Creating a distinctive/memorable/likeable character is like the holy grail of picture book writing. :)

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  40. I’m so excited for TURKEY TRICK OR TREAT! Congratulations to both you and Turkey!

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  41. I totally needed this post– thank you, Wendi. I now have a much clearer understanding of what “character-driven” really means!

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  42. Melanie Moschella

    This is great advice! Thank you for sharing : )

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  43. Wow, thanks for my amazing first lesson on writing character driven picture books! Definitely keeping this post on hand to help me write my first character driven manuscript!

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  44. This article is excellent! It’s so helpful. Thank you, Wendi! I’m definitely saving this post.

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  45. Thanks for the tips! I love Turkey Trouble. Turkey has soooo much personality. You nailed “compelling” on the head and drove it home!!! I have Turkey Claus on hold at my library and look forward to Turkey Trick or Treat (great title!!!).

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  46. Margaret Greanias

    I love this post. I found myself mentally checking off the eight questions for my 4 favorite manuscripts. I will keep this list handy to use for revisions and new ideas. Thank you!

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  47. Thanks so very much Wendi for not only a fun read, but a wealth of information. So pleased you joined 12×12 and congratulations on all of your successes. (Your Turkey is quite the character and is captured to a ‘T’ with the illustrator! You’re a good match!)

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  48. Thank you for sharing. I plan on printing this article.

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  49. Wendi, thanks so much for the definitive explanation of “character driven”! Love the helpful questions.

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  50. Very helpful and insightful. Thank you.

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  51. Thank you so much. More than anything else I’ve heard from people, this article really helps me understand what ‘character driven’ really means.

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  52. Great post! I found it very helpful.

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  53. Oh, I love character-driven stories, and I agree with others who have pointed out that they’re not easy to write. But worth it!

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  54. I think I need to print this one out and stick on my wall. thank you!
    Kelly McDonald

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  55. Awesome post! it really helps me! Thank you! :D

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  56. Another one to cut out and keep!

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  57. Wow – what a great post, Wendi! I really found it so helpful! Thanks so much! (And your turkey PB’s are hilarious!)

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  58. Excellent key points on characters and how they drive a story. The questions will help me revise my current character-driven ms!

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  59. Kathy Cornell Berman

    Thanks for your excellent advice. It’s just what I needed. I’m looking forward to reading all of your books.

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  60. Wendi, thank you for this wonderful checklist…this goes in my notebook for ready reference! Now I am wondering if I need to change the hero in one of my Ms…hmmmmm?

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  61. Thank you, Wendi! I just hope everyone else loves that dog as much as I do.

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  62. This helped clear up a lot. Thank you, Wendi; the checklist’s printed and taped! :0)

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  63. Character-driven picture books seem to be the most popular. I need to work more on my “characters” to give them more “character”! Thanks, Wendi!!

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  64. Thanks for your post, Wendi. Finding that elusive character able to drive that picture book has become a little easier to identify though still very tricky to create!

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  65. Thanks Wendi,

    I just read Turkey Trouble with the 8 questions you listed in mind. Now I’m off to do the same with my manuscripts.

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  66. Exactly what I needed to read today as I’m knee-deep in a revision on a character-driven PB. Something was missing, though–and now, I think I know what! (Thanks!)

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  67. So very, VERY helpful, Wendi! I will be back, referring to this post, many times I’m sure. Thanks!

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  68. You’ve confirmed what Periwinkle has been trying to tell me — that she’s got quite a few stories in her if I would only listen. Thanks for this post, Wendi. Oh, Periwinkle says thanks, too.

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  69. So, it’s okay to talk to wildlife? I always thought is was. You gave me a lot to think about as I write my little stories and hone in on its character. Thanks, Lynn

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  70. Thanks for the great advice!

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  71. Amanda Sincavage

    “A character-driven picture book is just what it says—a picture book where the character drives the plot…What happens in the story happens because of the attitudes, personality and character traits of the main character.”

    This is the best description I have read on character-driven picture books, and I love your 8 questions. I have some character ideas from PiBoIdMo that I hope to develop more fully with your questions as a guide. Thank you!

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  72. Thanks, really useful questions.

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  73. Thank you Wendi Silvano, your advice might just be what I need to turn my ‘cute but needs work’ story into something worthwhile. I am off to get to know my character so much better.

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  74. This was a great post, Wendi! I think I was already writing character-driven picture books (without knowing there was a term for them), but I’m going to use your checklist from now on.

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  75. Wendi,
    Thank you for the detailed definition of “character-driven.” I can use that term confidently now in talking about my book. In fact, I’ve just thought of what I need to do to strengthen his voice a notch.

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  76. This was super helpful! Thanks so much!

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  77. This is exactly what I need to hear right now. It’s probably no mistake then, that many character-driven PBs are simply titled with the character’s name. Thanks for sharing!

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  78. Thank you, Wendi! Your 8 tips for writing character-driven stories are so helpful. I especially appreciated your comparison of Fancy Nancy and David – they definitely wouldn’t respond in the same way to the same situation, so I take your point!

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  79. Wow, I never realized before reading this that my current work in progress is totally a character driven picture book! Thanks for helping me see the light!

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  80. Wow! how did I miss this. Wonderful advice, thank you.

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  81. That was such helpful information to piggy-back onto my e-course. Thank you!

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  82. Thanks for making the category of “character-driven” picture books so much clearer! You’ve given me a different way of thinking about my latest idea.

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  83. Thank you for this great advice. It made “character-driven” picture books so much easier for me to understand!

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  84. Thank you so much for this!!!!!!!!

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  85. Very useful (and for me, very timely) information. Thanks for sharing!

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  86. Thank you so much….I must rethink my PB. It’s all about watching a quiet change in nature. That may not be enough!

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  87. Thank you for this! Very useful! :D

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  88. I have come back to read this post a few times as I am working on revising one of my stories – excellent advice. Printed out the 8 tips and stuck them up next to my computer!

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  89. Very useful information on character-driven characters. The face of that turkey on the book cover is priceless!

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  90. Okay, I’m going back to draft #12 of my picture book and will now ask myself these questions which I’ll admit I had not done. The face of my friend’s daughter has just jumped into my brain – she is definitely who my character is. That alone has helped me heaps. I need to memorize your suggestions so they become second nature when I starting any writing project. Thank you tons.

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  91. You really make your characters come alive and I love your advice for getting to know a character. Thanks for the great post.

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  92. Thank you for detailing what makes a solid character

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  93. Thank you Wendi for wonderful post! Reading your books are on my to do list!

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  94. This is so helpful, and now I’m going to take a close look to see if my character has enough “agency”– is she driving the story, or being swept along? Thank you!

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  95. Thought i already posted. this was great. im off to write a cdpb. kelly artist

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  96. Thanks Wendi great post. i was thinking about how you write a character driven PB and what fun it would be to do. Your post is very informative and helpful and of course very well written.

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  97. I love the analogy about the wily goose, this explains the character driven story idea so well. Great post

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  98. Hej Wendy! Thanks :-) This helps a lot.

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  99. What wonderful advice…thanks for sharing :)

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  100. This list of questions is awesome! I am printing them for working on my character-driven picture books. Thanks so much!

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  101. Great post, Wendi. Reminds me of that very useful maxim that “true character is what one chooses to do under pressure.” Put your characters in a bind and watch them shine.

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  102. Thank you Wendi. A great set of questions to answer – I love character driven books, hard to write but great to read!!

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  103. Thanks for the reminders. I like my characters-hope other people do too.

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  104. Thanks for the great list. I really need to work on my character driving the story instead of me.

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  105. Thanks for all your sharing Wendi, and I mean all. This was a fantastic post.

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  106. Excellent information for picture book AND chapter book characters. Thank you!

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  107. Thank you. This is a wonderful explanation and really helped me a lot. :)

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  108. Your questions are most helpful. Now I can see where to improve!

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  109. Laura Zimmermann

    Great post…thanks!

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  110. This was perfectly presented, Wendi! Thank you!

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  111. A wonderful and very helpful post that reminds us how important it
    Is to really get to know your characters. The list so useful — thanks.

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  112. Wendi,
    Thank you so much…without even realizing it you made me feel better! I will keep writing!!!!!

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  113. Jacquelin C. Devlin

    Thank you Wendi! Using your goose example, as well as the Fancy Nancy and David examples, makes this so clear and easy to remember — probably the best and most concise explanation of “character driven” that I’ve seen.

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  114. Thank you Wendi. I was not clear on just what a character-driven picture book was and you have definitely opened my eyes in this respect. Not only that, you gave me some tools to further develop my character.

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  115. so much great advice, thank you, Wendi!

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  116. Characters DO live in my head! Thanks for this post.

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  117. Thanks for sharing such great advice!

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  118. I loved this, Wendi. Thanks for the specific questions to ask and for the tangible qualities of a good character. I have bookmarked this to go back to often.

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  119. I too have been a lover of PB for as long as I can remember and am now a new writer. Thank you for clarifying what a character-driven PB is and for providing a great list of questions to help us develop our own unique, lovable characters. I will be saving this post and referring back to it often!

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  120. I truly loved this post. I have frequently googled “character driven” without really getting a good feel for the description. Wendi has cleared this up marvelously for me.Thank you.

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  121. Great examples and description of character-driven books! This helped clarify it for me, too. I need to sit down and really interview a character in one of my manuscripts. Especially with the questions you’ve offered here, I think it’ll only make the story stronger. Thank you!

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  122. This is fantastic advice! Thanks for the explanation and examples!

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  123. I love delving into my characters! Thanks for the advice, Wendy.

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  124. I really needed this post! I struggle with character development but your examples were very helpful. Thank you!

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  125. Some wonderful advice here, Wendi. As I was reading I realized I needed to take notes because what you said was so important for us to remember as we create our memorable characters. I like how you point out that our characters can be born as we make observations in our everyday lives. Thanks so much…and congrats on your success!

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  126. Thank you so much for the advice. Turkey Trouble is a favorite at our house.

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  127. Good to reflect on Fancy Nancy and David… helps me reflect on whether I really want to write a character driven story… Thank you!

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  128. Thank you for the great tips.

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  129. Fantastic post, Wendi! Thank you for your insights – I will be returning to them!

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  130. Thanks Wendi. I’m writing a character-driven picture book, so your 8 points will be helpful. I can’t wait to read Turkey Trouble.

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  131. Thank you for this crystal clear guideline. It came at just the right time for me. A character decided to live in my head last week and she has been there ever since. She’s a bit demanding so I see I will have to bring her to the page if I’m ever to have any peace.

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  132. Loved your book Turkey Trouble, looking forward to Turkey Claus.

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  133. Thanks for your post, Wendi. It will help me discover more about a girl who won’t leave my head…and especially what it is she really wants. It’s easy to forget, too, to give characters an authentic, identifiable voice. Can’t wait to get back to the MS and see how I can make her come alive.

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  134. Great tips! Thank you so much Wendi! I’m motivated and inspired.

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  135. Great advice regarding character-driven picture books. I continue to learn so much as a part of 12×12, and I thank you for sharing your experiences and advice.

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  136. Thank you for breaking down the tips into easy to manage questions. Now we just need to practice putting the answers together in an interesting way!

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  137. Karen Mae Zoccoli

    oops, thought I had posted but I guess not! At any rate, thank you for this post on character-driven stories and all the wonderful tips and reflection questions to get our characters that we love to come alive in our stories!

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  138. Thanks for the great information, Wendi. Clearly I need to go ask my characters some questions.

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  139. Kristen Schroeder

    It’s exciting to have a writer of Wendi’s caliber by our sides, completing the 12 x 12 challenge. Thank you helping us all learn more about character-driven picture books!

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  140. I’ve been scared, really, to tackle a character-driven manuscript because the task seems so daunting. But you’ve given me a lot of specifics to get the ball rolling! Thanks for the post. Seeking out Turkey Claus as we speak:)

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  141. Jessica Pilarski

    Your characters are so lovable.

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  142. Thanks for laying out the kinds of questions that will help create an interesting character!

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  143. Thanks for the excellent pointers!

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  144. Thanks for this great advice about character. I’ll definitely be using this as I look at my manuscripts.

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  145. I’m always focusing on plot. Thank you for the stimuli to think beyond the obvious within your post.

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  146. Love the information in this post, Wendi! (Did you attend Chautauqua in 2011? You look so familiar!)

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  147. I must save this for future reference and save it in my Done folder to always check after I finish (or start) a story. Thanks so much, wendy :)

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  148. Thanks first the great post and welcome to 12X12! I’m currently struggling w whether or not my dog should talk..and how to make that work if so. Off to the library to find your “turkey” books!

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  149. “You must fall in love with your character” is great advice. Should be obvious….

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  150. Great post about developing your character! I have two characters I am working on and I can’t wait to see where they take me!

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  151. I read your books Wendi…love your turkey…what a character! Your post clarified how to help your character stand out. Happy day!

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  152. Great advice, Wendy. And I LOVE TURKEY TROUBLE. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about developing characters.

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  153. Thank you for this! I’ve often had a character in my head but didn’t quite know what to do with him from there. Perfect timing!

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  154. I’m posting your 8 questions for a character driven story beside my computer. What a great gift you have given us. Many thanks!

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  155. Many thanks, this is great advice!

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  156. Thanks, I’ve read lots of advice but I haven’t seen quite these comments. I’m going to keep them in mind for next time.

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  157. Jennifer McKee (aka SilverLining)

    I am going to apply Wendi’s questions to my manuscripts that are character driven. I’m confident that they will help me to make my stories stronger. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

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  158. Great tips. I know this is going to help me with some of my stickier stories that I think of as character driven, but need some tweaking to truly be.

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  159. Very helpful tips. The questions helped me make my bird stand out from the flock!

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  160. Thanks, Wendi! Those character building tips are so clear!

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  161. Thank you for sharing these tips, Wendi.
    p.s. I love your books!

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  162. Thank you, Wendi. A very helpful post and kind of you to take the time to share.

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  163. Thanks for a great post. You made me realize I need to ask my character a few more questions so he can have more, well, character.

    Reply

  164. Great post, I saved’ the character 8′ to my desktop

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  165. Excellent advice, Wendi!! Thank you so much!!

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  166. Fantastic post filled with great information and reminders! And … now I’m also looking forward to reading ‘Turkey Trouble’!! Thank you!

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  167. Thank you for the helpful advice! What a great post. I am definitely going to have to read Turkey Trouble now.
    :)

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  168. Great description of a character-driven book. I’m going to have to read Turkey Trouble. Sounds like my 4-year-old would love it!

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  169. Thank you for all your insight Wendi! I will definitely be using those 8 questions.

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  170. My draft for this month was a character-driven PB. This article was a great “check in” for me to see if my character is “up to snuff.” Thank you!

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  171. Thanks for explaining what they mean by character driven picture books.

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  172. Timing is everything – working on a pb draft that I will run through your excellent checklist!

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  173. Thanks for the questions, Wendi. Very helpful.

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  174. Thank you for a practical checklist we can use to examine our characters – incredibly helpful!

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  175. Thanks, this has helped me finally understand what “character driven” means. Great stuff to chew on as I build my characters.

    Reply

  176. Pingback: Perfect Picture Book Friday - Turkey Trouble | JulieHedlund.com

  177. Ya know, as much as I hear about character-driven picture books, you still had some nuggets that stood out from the other definitions, examples, and how-to’s. I’m keeping this one on file! Thank you so much for sharing :)

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  178. I like when a character becomes real to me but it makes me nervous to. Sometimes I wonder when I talk about a character like a real person I’m flirting with reality. Am I a bit looney tunes?

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  179. As I was reading your post, I was thinking, ”Now what IS the definition of a character-driven PB?” Thanks for answering my question, and so much more, Wendy!

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  180. Having just finished my draft for February, I read this and decided I need to get to know my character a little bit better. With the help of your questions, I hope I’ll be able to get to know my character better so I can make my revisions sparkle. Thanks.

    Reply

  181. Thanks for this great post! I especially liked the example you gave with Fancy Nancy and David. I am certainly going to ask myself the questions you pose for each of my characters. THANK YOU!

    Reply

  182. What a great post! Thank you for the helpful tips!

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  183. As others have said, great post Wendi!

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  184. Gabrielle Snyder

    Thanks for this great advice, Wendi! I especially like the suggestion that your character should become the hero or heroine of his or her own story.

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  185. Thanks for the post. Great advice and ideas.

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  186. What a wonderful explanation of character-driven! Very helpful! Thank you Wendi! And thank you Julie for picking such an insightful author!

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  187. Wendi, I enjoyed how comprehensive you are in this post. I think that a character-driven book needs an author who is ready to be open to have the same feelings the character does, rather than trying to fix the character’s problems. Empathy is both scary and extremely helpful in making an authentic connection with the readers.
    Thanks, Kathryn

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  188. Thanks for this outline! I frankly have wondered exactly what a character-driven story is, much to my embarrassment. :)

    Reply

  189. Wendy, I’m so grateful that you have written on character driven books. I was not really sure of the concept and how important it is. Thanks so much for the great information. I’ll try to put it to work in my writing.
    Nina

    Reply

  190. Thank you for the questions to help keep us focused. I think they’re useful for thinking about all characters, not just those in character-driven PBs.

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  191. Thanks for the great advice and the list of 8 questions to ask yourself when developing a strong character driven pb. Although I think I’ve written some pb that have strong characters, I don’t think any have been driven by the characters as much as the plot. This month I attempted to write a specifically driven pb for the first time and your list was really helpful AND I really, really love the character! So that’s a good sign ;)

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  192. Great advice. Thanks. Got a lot of info from the 8 questions. Some things I had not thought about much.

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  193. Wonderful and timely advice! This will certainly help with my revisions.

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  194. Thanks for the post — character-driven stories are my favorites to read and write. That eight-point checklist is so useful. And for some reason, I’m craving turkey now…

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  195. Great Post. I’m going to work on a character driven manuscript in March
    Thanks,

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  196. Fantastic advice.

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  197. Great post, Wendi! Thanks so much. :-) (Love your books!)
    Linda

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  198. Thanks, Wendi! Great post! And I love both Turkey Trouble and Turkey Claus. Looking forward to Turkey Trick or Treat. I have a few fowl manuscripts myself, and I’m going to take those birds through your 8 points to make sure they stand out from the flock.

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  199. The eight questions are great! A wonderful post, thanks Wendi.

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  200. Thanks, Wendy… I think about what you said about “falling in love” with your character and it’s so true. In earlier drafts of my PB that is currently out on submission, I loved the idea of my main character, but didn’t totally love her. After (many) painstaking revisions, I finally have a character that I love and admire (and find joy with!) so great message… Thanks!

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  201. Love the list Wendi! Thanks so much.

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  202. A thoughtful and generous post. Thanks for sharing your insights

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  203. Julie Segal Walters

    I took notes on this post! (And last month’s post too.) SO helpful! Thank you! (Even though my Feb. ms is not character-driven). :-)

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  204. Love this and will refer to it often! Thanks for the character-driven tips!

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  205. Great post and great advice.

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  206. Thanks for the advice Wendi. I have a little boy from a tiny town in Peru waiting to become the main character in one of my PBs.

    Reply

    • Wendi Silvano

      That’s interesting. I lived in Peru for 1 1/2 years and have a number of stories with children from Peru in them (mostly in magazines). Small world! What town?

      Reply

  207. Great advice and post Wendi! Thank you!

    Reply

  208. Characters are always my greatest weakness (I tend to think in terms of plots first), so this was a very helpful posting.

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  209. Thanks for advice and inspiration! Great post!

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  210. Ooh, thank you for this. You’ve got my wheels turning!

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  211. A keeper post for sure! What great tests for our characters and how we need to develop them. Thanks Wendi!

    Reply

  212. Thanks for talking turkey about character-driven PBs. You’ve given us quite a feast! Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Cheers!

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  213. Just what I needed for this particular month! Thanks!

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  214. What great advice on characters, thanks.

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  215. Character driven stories are definitely hard to write. Thank you for the advice.

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  216. Thank you for a great post, Wendi. I’m going to use this list to go back in and make sure I haven’t skimped on my character in some way.

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  217. Most of my picture book stories have been plot driven, but I have a few that are coming to me lately that are definitely character driven. :)

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  218. Wendi I am sure the feral echidna in my back yard will thank you for encouraging me to let him move into the house :)

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  219. Great points to consider for each manuscript.

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  220. shereen sepitko

    Thanks for the direction!

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  221. Great direction given in this post. Thank you for sharing.

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  222. I struggle in this area. Love your advice Wendi, thank you!

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  223. Cathlin Parker

    This is great advice that I’m going to apply to the manuscript I’m currently working on. I’ve been worrying too much about plot and not enough about character.

    Reply

  224. Love the post .. thanks for all the information

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  225. Great advice. All I ever hear from agents and publishers is that they’re looking for character-driven books (preferably ones that could be part of a series).

    Reply

  226. Ellen Yeomans

    Great post! Thank you for the list.

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  227. thanks, Wendi & Julie. This was a timley post for me as my current ms is character-driven, but I know it needs a bit of tweaking, thanks to Wendi! Home I win some turkeys!

    Reply

  228. Kelda Ytterdal

    As a beginning writer, these tips will be helpful to me. I have many ideas for books. Really contemplating the characters more deeply – even for picture books – is going to help a lot. Your tips and questions in this article will shift how I work moving forward.

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  229. I’ve printed out your post and will be subjecting all those characters in my head to a very valuable Q&A session.

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  230. Thanks Wendy! Now I know how to wrangle all those characters running around in my head into an actual book!

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  231. I love Wendi’s checklist – so helpful!

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  232. Yes, I really appreciate this checklist!

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  233. Dear Wendy,

    Thank you so much for this post and those 8 great questions you pose. A new character has kind of found me over the past 3 weeks, and I’m so grateful for your questions, because, even as I was reading them, I was asking them of my new character.

    Reply

  234. Great suggestions! I will be asking myself these as I write my next PB

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  235. Pam Jones-Nill

    Wendy,
    Thanks so much for this character checklist. This will be a very valuable exercise in strengthening my characters.

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  236. Great checklist! I’m adding it to me revision notebook. Thank you!

    Reply

  237. Very helpful tips, thank you for sharing! I’m bookmarking this post. :)

    Reply

  238. Thanks for the wonderful tips. I think getting to know our characters is the most fun part in writing

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  239. I was thinking about some of the characters I have sketched out in my journal. You have given me more ideas on how to make them stand out.Thank you!

    Reply

  240. Wendi, Thank you for your inspiring message. Because of you, I am sure many new great character-driven picture books will see print. I just hope one of them will be mine.

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  241. “Character-driven” has never been overly clear to me. I can’t tell you how much I got out of this!

    A very genuine thank you.

    Reply

  242. Great post, Wendi! I love the definition of character-based picture book and your examples of how the story would be different with Fancy Nancy and David. I hadn’t heard that before. Thank you!

    Reply

  243. Fantastic and relevant post, Wendi. Your 8 questions are definitely going to help me make my February picture book draft stronger in revision!

    Reply

  244. Robin gustlin

    Great ideas about character development!! Thanks so much!!

    Reply

  245. Aha!I finally see the light regarding the difference between character-driven and plot-driven stories. I love the list of questions. Saving this post for future reference. Thank you so much for sharing with al of us.

    Reply

  246. Thank you, Wendy for the great tips on developing our little(or big) characters for our picture books. Very helpful indeed.

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  247. Great explanation of what is character driven. Thank you!

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  248. I’m almost overwhelmed by the wealth of information, but excited. I’m trying to develop character-driven stories, too.

    Reply

  249. Thank you Wendy! Your post is super-helpful and very timely. Being newer to the kidlit community (from the perspective of a writer vs. a teacher), I’ve started hearing and reading the term “character-driven”often and recently tried to read different postings on it. Your description makes it really clear and broke it down in a way that writers can apply it to their own stories. Thank you for taking the time to generously share your knowledge and experiences with us!

    Reply

  250. What a great list! Thanks Wendi for your incredibly helpful post!

    Reply

  251. Suzanne Harris

    Great advice, Wendi. It has proved invaluable as I start my second book in what I hope, some day, will be a character driven series.
    Thank you!

    Reply

  252. Jennifer Furioli

    I’m very excited to use this to help me look at my past PB manuscriptsvwith a “fresh” perspective. Thanks for such concrete examples!

    Reply

  253. Thanks, Wendy. I am going to start asking those 8 questions on my PB draft for March! Look out goose, I’m gonna grab you!

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  254. Love the check list! Thanks.

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  255. Thank you for sharing. I’m printing this page and passing it along to my peers. What valuable information.

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  256. Great explanation of character driven- thanks:)

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  257. Bookmarked and printed! We all know a great character when we read one, but having solid questions to ask ourselves as we CREATE them is invaluable. Thank you!

    Reply

  258. Great post, Wendi! When writing my picture books, I’ve tried to develop my characters as I go along. The problem for me is that the main character in my PB series is inspired by my true life cat whom I use as a muse when writing. I find his character to be funny, but that may just be b/c I know him personally. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at my writing from a different perspective, to be certain that my characters have enough depth and appeal to my readers.

    Reply

  259. There are so many helpful tips here to learning more about your character. Love this
    “Then ask him what he wants more than anything in the world.” I think I will ask myself the same question.

    Reply

  260. Great post! Thanks for all the helpful tips

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  261. Characters that are believable and likable really do make a great picture book. Thanks for the great info about creating “real” characters.

    Reply

  262. Christina Caturano

    Thanks Wedi for your words on character development! Looking forward to using your guide in my next manuscript. xoxo

    Reply

  263. Great ideas! I love lists that help sort out characters’ wants and needs. I will definitely be using this.

    Reply

  264. Thank you for all this information Wendi. I am working on a character right now so it came just in the nick of time!

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  265. good insight! It’s challenging with the limited amount of text we should use in pbs!

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  266. Thanks for sharing your insights. Definitely appreciate them.

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  267. I’m writing a character-driven story and found this list absolutely perfect. thank you!

    Reply

  268. What a great article, Wendy! Very helpful!

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  269. Good checklist—thank you.

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  270. Very helpful. Thanks for the great article.

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  271. Thanks so much for your advice! I really like how you used the examples of Fancy Nancy and David to remind us how vivid strong characters can be.

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  272. wendi, thanks so much for your great advice!

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  273. Thank you for such a great post that maps it out.
    Happy writing!

    Reply

  274. Thank you so much for clarifying what a character driven picture book is. And thank you for the eight questions to determine if the character is compelling. You’re amazing!

    Reply

  275. Thanks for the helpful insights!

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  276. So much great advice here! Thanks so much! As a writer who comes from the theatre world, I can really relate to the questions you ask about character!

    Reply

  277. Great advice. Happy to hear you’re doing 12×12 with us!. :)

    Reply

  278. Sheila Hausbeck

    Love the list, am looking for a flaw for my main character right now.

    Reply

  279. I can’t wait til I find your turkey books!

    Reply

  280. I met Lee Harper, the illustrator, at Princeton Book Festival and told him how much I adored the book as he was signing my copies (bought several)- so great to “meet” the author as well!

    Reply

  281. Thanks for this great advice, Wendi!

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  282. Laura Clement

    Comment I liked best and ran the most true was #8. Have you fallen in love with him? If not, it is unlikely anyone else will.” Fabulous.

    Reply

  283. Ellen Korbonski

    This is a great blog to get me started on my writing journey.

    Reply

  284. I’ve had a character in my head for a while and now I know exactly how to continue to get her from my head to the page. Thanks Wendi! Such amazing advice.

    Reply

  285. Thank you for that super-intensive, Wendi. I am going to print it out and keep it where I can see it!

    Reply

  286. Thanks for giving a great working definition of character-driven narrative. I was pretty sure my stories were character-driven, but your post solidified it. Thanks again!

    Reply

  287. Barbara Messinger

    I’ll have to go back through my manuscripts with your eight points in mind. Thanks!

    Reply

  288. Your list of traits is great, Wendi! Especially #7 — a distinctive voice — because I tend to like first person point-of-view with my drafts and story ideas. In any event, memorable characters become childhood friends, don’t they? Olivia, WInnie the Pooh, Knuffle Bunny, Chrysanthumum, and on and on and on. … such fun! Thanks again!

    Reply

  289. Nice explanation of character driven

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  290. Kristine Poptanich

    Great advice Wendi!

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  291. I finally get what character driven means!
    Looks like a fun book too!

    Reply

  292. Nice descrition of character drven story. Thank you

    Reply

  293. I also have a turkey book idea. Now I need to get a draft written!

    Reply

  294. R. Shane Parkhill

    I’m still finding my way around 12 X 12, so unfortunately I did not read your excellent article until after I made my February submission. Still, great advice for future efforts. Thanks. (Although I still hope there is some room for stories that are not strictly character-driven.)

    Reply

  295. Leah Henderson

    Thanks for the great checklist for what makes a strong character for character-driven stories. It will remain by my desk!

    Reply

  296. Great post, thanks.

    Reply

  297. Great advice. Nice insights to deepen characters.

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  298. Oddball-ness is what I’m missing, and why my mc is having so much trouble winning hearts and minds. Thanks for the reminder that I need to find out what is unique about him and drag it into the light!

    Reply

  299. Thanks for the great advice! What wonderful suggestions for characters.

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  300. Thank you for posting this excellent information!

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  301. Thank you for clarifying for me what the main character exactly is/does as a character-driven picture book. It’s a challenge I look forward to tackling!

    Reply

  302. Awesome post! So insightful, with concise suggestions and actual steps!! Perfect!

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  303. Thank you very much for the questions checklist which helps to clarify for me!

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  304. Awesome post, and I will be taking that 8 point check list and checking it to my characters from now on. Thanks Wendy for a great post.

    Reply

  305. Thanks so much for sharing you knowledge and talent, Wendi. I’ve just finished a character story that I absolutely adore, and was thrilled to hear about your experience:

    “The wonderful thing about writing character-driven stories is that, once you have developed a compelling character and come to know him well enough, all you need to do is come up with a dilemma for him to face and you will know pretty well what he is likely to do.”

    You’ve inspired me to dig even deeper into my character’s psyche, devise another interesting dilemma, and put these words to the test. I expect it won’t be as easy as it sounds, yet it’s good to shoot for the stars. Who knows until we try? THANK YOU!!!

    Reply

  306. Patti Bessette

    Thank you for sharing this valuable information!

    Reply

  307. Thank you for clarifying what “character driven” really means!

    Reply

  308. Wonderful post, Wendi! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

    Reply

  309. Rachel Lattimore

    This is going to be a great way to learn! That you Wendi for such great information – I’m looking forward to learning more by being a part of 12 x 12!

    Reply

  310. This was really helpful! Thanks for the checklist which I will print out and post next to my desk!

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  311. I love those thoughts for what makes a character unforgettable :)

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  312. Thanks for making it so clear!

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  313. RogueAnthropologist

    Whew, I’m exhausted by scrolling past all these other comments :)

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  314. Thanks so much. I need to spend time getting to know that character!

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  315. Thanks for the great advice!

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  316. Great post. I’ve realized my character is too normal.

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  317. Loved reading this post! great advice.

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  318. Always enjoy reading a good post about picture books! Thanks Wendi!

    Reply

  319. Great post- one I will print and refer to again. I especially appreciated the questions to ask your character before you start to write. Thank you!

    Reply

  320. Carol Breedlove

    Thank you! Your excellent explanation and examples are very helpful.

    Reply

  321. Leslee Anne Hewson

    Thank you for the useful tools and insight.

    Reply

  322. Thank you so much Wendy for answering a question that has troubled me for a long time. You’re such a great writer and teacher!

    Reply

  323. Joyce Richardson

    So much great ways to measure your character! –joyce

    Reply

  324. Such great tips for developing a strong character and for explaining the difference between a main character and character driven book.

    Reply

  325. ceciliaaclark

    great advice Wendy thank you. I am not a poultry person so would have avoided reading about turkeys and geese if it were not for the lively descriptions by other writers such as yourself. I will seek to revisit some of my characters to make them more than they are.

    Reply

  326. Great explanation for character-driven books. I am currently working on one and am hoping for publication. I have already thought about other situations I can put theses two characters in. :)

    Reply

  327. Great advice on Character driven PB’s. This gives me some great ideas how to enhance my mss. Thanks.

    Reply

  328. Jodi Cardillo

    Great ideas about characters and how to develop truly memorable ones! Thanks!

    Reply

  329. Wonderful post – thank you!

    Reply

  330. Characters are everything in a picture book or any story. Wendy gives great advice! After reading Wendy’s bio, I see we have a lot in common except the published picture book part. Hope to remedy that!

    Reply

  331. Meredith Pinkstone

    Great advice and examples — thanks!!

    Reply

  332. Thanks so much for this very clear explanation of a character driven picture book. Now I can look at my characters and make them much stronger.

    Reply

  333. Pingback: February 2014 -12 x 12 Winner! | JulieHedlund.com

  334. Dena Byrne-Moses

    Thank You! I submitted my manuscript and go lots of feed back. Then I ripped it apart rewrote it and now I hate it. After reading this post, I will go back and look at it with different eyes. I love the character and the adventure – now we will need to see where it goes

    Reply

  335. Evangeline Fitzpatrick

    Wendi – I am a late-comer to your site, but your advice is wonderful and well-written. Thank you for sharing your insights! I greatly appreciate them.

    Reply

  336. Thank you for your check list via the goose! It has made me sit down with my list of stories in progress and really think about the main character and each character in your practical way. I love your books and so do my grandchildren, teacher friends and anyone I have so often given them away to! You look such fun and full of creative sparks! I hope I get to be in a group/conference where you are one of these days!

    Reply

  337. Great tips, thank you for sharing!

    Reply

  338. very valuable info. btw, glad i’m not the only mom who can’t sew:). thanks!

    Reply

  339. Turkey definitely has some trouble and a great imagination to solve the problem. This is like little children playing dress up. It’s filled with silliness and laughs.

    Reply

  340. Thanks
    for this very helpful post. I now realise how I need to redraft one of my picture books

    Reply

  341. Wendi…GREAT post! It really hit home…I just finished writing a book, “10 Ways to Develop Characters” over the weekend. It’s a giveaway prize for an event later this month. I love characters…I make puppets, so some of my characters end up as puppets. I have even used them to illustrate a book. I really loved the way you put those 8 questions together…that certainly boils it down! My book ended up to be 62 pages, but your 8 questions really focus on the target and are perfect for Picture Book characters! I love your Turkey stories! BTW, I have a rather large turkey puppet that I made.

    Reply

  342. Loretta Caravette

    Good post. Interesting information.

    Reply

  343. Loretta Caravette

    I see I missed a step.

    Reply

  344. Great post – will keep this for sure! Thanks.

    Reply

  345. Very inspired, thank you so much!

    Reply

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