I’ve been in this business for a little less than 2 years now. I’m not a pro by any means, but I do know coming up with creative characters can be one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing a children’s book. In most cases, the characters in the story will either make or break your story. A good, quirky, strong, interesting, and well-developed character can often carry a weak storyline.
Now, I’m not saying I write well-developed, strong characters. In fact, this is one area where I strive to become better at almost daily. I do, however, fancy myself as a writer of quirky, unusual, and dare I say humorous characters.
Because of this ability, I’ve been asked to explain myself to society.
I once had a lady tell me I wasn’t right in the head. Honestly, she was correct. To be an author, you have to have something wired differently in that brain of yours. It’s not a bad thing by any means; on the contrary, it is a unique and awesome thing. What other profession allows you to talk through dialogue with yourself in public?
Cedar Fort wanted specifics. “Where do you come up with this stuff?” They asked me”¦
Well, for Hashbrown Winters, the ball started rolling with the name. To me a name is critical. Something memorable. Something that stands out. And since I deal in children’s writing, something that kids will enjoy.
Ha.a.a.s.s.s.h.h.h.””brown. Yeah, it’s not your every day type name. To be honest, I don’t like or dislike hash browns. If they were served on my plate, I’d probably eat half of the portion and spread the other half around. Of course, Hashbrown can’t stand the little deep fried nightmares. So why would I even come up with that as the name of my main character? Random idea. That’s the answer.
Here’s the story. One day I was driving with my wife and she was pregnant with my first son. We played the whole naming game for a bit and then the name Hashbrown Winters struck me. I told my wife the idea and we laughed. But later that night, I scribbled the name down on a notepad and thought to myself, “Now there’s a great name.” See, totally random. But it doesn’t always work that easy.
No fun, I tell you.
What fun would Echo Rodriguez be if he only said things once?
So, I had to dig deep to discover these characters. Have you ever met somebody that either resembled an animal or an inanimate object? Do you have childhood memories of kids who performed some quirky ritual every day at school? Sure you do. We all do. My wife knew a kid who would purposely step on your feet to try and break your toes in the lunch line. This same kid ate everyone’s pencils for fun. Tada! I took those traits and added them to my own memories of elementary school bullies and Hambone Oxcart, the death dealer of Pordunce Elementary and Hashbrown’s arch nemesis, was born.
Exaggerated personal memories are the best. I, myself, have a Whiz Peterson tale in my history. I won’t go into details about that, but if you really want to know, you can find it on my blog in the archives. A good friend of mine lies all the time”¦ Fibber Mckenzie. I knew a kid who seemed to always be catching the strangest illnesses”¦ Measles Mumphreys. All I had to do was dig up the memories and then name them.
This all worked fine and dandy with Hashbrown’s adventures, but for my newest novel, The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter, I couldn’t just rely on bizarre memories to fuel my characters. Still, pulling from your own experiences to create a character is an excellent start. For Amber Rawson, the main character, I used my older sister as the model for her personality. As the story progressed, her character evolved, but ultimately, it all started from my memory of her when we were younger.
Trendon, who happens to be one of my all-time favorite characters, is a blend of one of my childhood buddies (I’ll leave him nameless) and a hodgepodge of annoying movie sidekicks. There are so many ways to create. The resources are limitless, but remember, your memories are the key to a successful start.
There. No more secrets. You now know from where I steal this stuff. If people only knew how often I rob their attributes and traits to write my stories, they’d run and hide whenever they saw me enter the room with a notepad and pencil.
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