One tip that I have taken away from a writing workshop is that a character is defined by what she does. Too many times I have wanted to jump into illustrating the details of what a character is wearing or physical attributes before really understanding why or how a character responds to the conflict of the story.
In the rough stages of illustrating the picture book, Too Many Visitors for One Little House, I had many conversations with the author, Susan Chodakiewitz, about the characters. Susan had a clear vision of the each character in the story. From the nosy neighbors to the new family on the block, every character had background information that contributed to the story. Even though only some of the traits we discussed were illustrated, it was helpful for me to understand these characteristics, motivations and behaviors in order to make decisions about visual details.
Here are a few characteristics of the nosy neighbors from the story:
The meticulous neighbor. She keeps watch on the neighborhood to make sure nothing is out of place.
The grumpy neighbor who doesn’t like change. He would rather have his nose stuck in the past than to get to know the new family on the block.
The one stuck in the middle. She just wants to get along with everyone and visually expresses the motivation of the three: to be invited and included.
contributed by Veronica Walsh, Children’s Book Illustrator