How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 3

Welcome to part three of how to write a children’s book. So far we’ve established our story idea, figured out where our story will take place, and our lesson. What’s next you ask? Let’s take some time to develop the story more. In turn, this will also help us develop the characters.

Let’s dive into a little more detail about our protagonist. Some additional detail will help us communicate to our illustrator how we feel the character should look. This is not essential to the story, but I usually see my characters in my mind as I write.

What’s in a name? With Eartha the Sea Turtle, the name was easy because it was based on real sea turtle. Steven the vegan rhymed. (For the record, in Steven the Vegan I named a female character Marion for a possible spin off book, Marion the Vegetarian.)

How are we going to name our lead character? We could go out and get a big book of names and go through it one by one. I think we can come up with one ourselves. Let’s think more about the character itself. Physical characteristics can often help us name a character, like a dog named spot, or a dinosaur named Rex. Visualize our penguin. Is he tall or short? Thin or stout? Does he speak? Does he have spots or a distinguishing mark? the list could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Okay, to keep this project going, I’ll make some decisions. He is small, not short, or stout, just small. He looks like a regular penguin, no weird marks. Of course with just this description alone, we could easily call him Tux. Everyone knows penguins look like they are wearing a tuxedo, so this could fit. But, being me, I’m not settling for what is expected. Let’s build some more details. I’m going to say that the penguin doesn’t speak. This is good and bad. It’s good because there will be no spoken dialog from him. It’s bad because we have to make sure our storyline and illustrations depict his emotions properly. I know what you are thinking, if he can’t speak how does he communicate. Well that will help us name him. To communicate, and get the attention of others, he slaps his flippers on his sides. Due to the way he communicates, we will name him Slappy.

This can also work to our advantage for parents reading the story because children can clap their hands with Slappy.

Next we have our victim, the pigeon. The more I think about the pigeon I think that our victim really needs to be a character that is cuter, and a bit more helpless. So I’m thinking that the victim isn’t the pigeon, but the pigeons baby. A baby pigeon. (I know, so one ever sees a baby pigeon in New York. Just go with me on this will ya?) The story starts to make more sense because the baby could fall out of a nest, and into the water. That creates the situation where our protagonist can become a hero.

Let’s review what we have…
A small penguin named Slappy who lives in an ice cream cart in Central Park. He spends his days watching birds fly, and wishes he could fly himself. A baby pigeon falls out of it’s nest, and into the water. The mama pigeon calls for help, and Slappy dives into the water, flying underwater, and saving the baby pigeon.

Next we will start writing the actual story.

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