Ame Dyckman: My Characters Won’t Let Me Write This Post: Seven Tips for Creating Really Really Real Characters

AME TURQUOISE FOX SHIRT 7-14It’s the usual chaos in here.

Boy and Bot just rolled by in the wagon. Cub and the girl are playing cookie tag and keep dropping crumbs on my keyboard.

And Wolfie wants another carrot—and is drooling all over my arm.

Excuse me a moment, will you?

CAN YOU GUYS PLEASE SETTLE DOWN FOR FIVE MINUTES SO I CAN GET THIS POST DONE?!

Sorry about that. Where were we?

Oh, yeah. Seven Tips For Creating Really Really Real Characters.

Let’s go!

Tip #1: Hey! I Know You!

This one’s a tip and an exercise in one! A… tixercise!

Okay, that totally didn’t work. But this will:

Grab a piece of paper.

Bot, hand me our errands list, will you? I’ll write on the back. Thanks!

Put your character’s name at the top.

Now write down everything you know about them so far.

Yes, EVERYTHING! Everything you can think of, even if it’s something minor or goofy or you think it’ll never make it into their story.

Don’t edit. Don’t censor. It’s no-wrong-answers brain purge free-for-all time!

For example… Cub cries at Hallmark commercials on televis—OW!

NO POKING, CUB!

Keep this character profile page and add to it each time your character reveals something new.

Like really sharp little claws, for examp—OW!

Tip #2: Earlier…

What happened in your character’s day up to the point where their story starts? When and how did they wake up? What did they have for breakfast?

Did they follow the rules?

“PPPBHT!” yourself, girl! KNEW you were peeking at this! HA!

What was their status quo before their status quo shifted?

Again, even if it never makes it into your story, you gotta know this about your character.

So ask them.

Tip #3: Relatively Speaking

Master Maurice Sendak said the wild things in his WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE were inspired by his aunts and uncles.

Families are fascinating—say, for instance, a baby wolf adopted by bunnies—flawed, and fabulously FUNNY!

So at your next kinfolk shindig, potluck, or bail hearing, take a long look at your clan and ask yourself:

Which of your relatives is a real character?

Who deserves to be one of yours?

Now, immortalize them.

Tip #4: Quirky Before Qwerty

Quirks—we all got ’em.

Your character does, too. So don’t let them be shy about telling you what theirs are.

Mannerisms, superstitions, catch phrases… does knowing and showing these wonderful peculiarities make your character more real?

AFFIRMATIVE!

(Y’all knew I was gonna say that!)

WOLFIE THE BUNNY COVERTip #5: Thesaurus Ain’t An Extinct Lizard

Time to think succinctly—uh, short. Time to think short!

Sum up your character in ONE word.

(No, you can’t use hyphens! Points for tryin’, though. I’m secretly impressed by your rascally rule-bendin’ self.)

Got your word? Great! Next—

Oops. One sec.

Boy, can you get me a drool towel for Wolfie? He’s like a FAUCET here! Thanks!

Okay, take your word, like… “helpful,” and look up all the synonyms for that word.

Now you have a list of words—

BOY! WATCH OUT FOR HIS TEETH!

—and even phrases (such as, “willing to lend a hand”) that describe your character, but with subtle little nuances.

Descriptive words that might describe how a character changes—slightly, realistically—through the arc of a story, right?

YAY! Hope you found this beneficial. Or useful or valuable or advantageous.

Tip #6: What’s The Scoop?

Oh, how I love this one! Ready?

If it’s not already on your character profile sheet, what kind of ice cream is your character’s favorite?

I’m serious. (What? It happens… occasionally.)

Knowing what kind of ice cream your character likes best says volumes about them. There’s a big ol’ difference between a single-scoop of vanilla character and a triple-scoop Chocolate Overkill-Pistachio-Swedish Fish character, right?

Don’t worry if your character can’t actually eat ice cream.

Talking to YOU, Bot! You sounded funny for a week!

Ahem. It’s the would that counts. Not the could.

Stumped? You need field research!

Go to your local ice cream parlor, get yourself a scoop… and secretly notebook all the other customers’ ice cream choices, too!

Does their ice cream pick seem to pair with their personality? What would you have expected them to order instead? What would your character have ordered from the choices offered? What would they have asked for as a special request?

Who says writing homework can’t be fun?

FINALLY,

Tip #7: I Believe In Characters! I Do! I Do!

My most important tip for creating really really real characters is…

You need to believe that they are.

Then your readers will, too.

That’s it. Beautiful in its simplicity, ain’t it?

Okay, gang, it’s been a blast, but I gotta go run errands. We need oil, a new wagon wheel, cookies—

WOLFIE! WE DON’T GNAW ON THE SOFA!

—and carrots. Lots and lots of carrots.

Read, write, and rock on, everybody! Can’t wait to read your books!

Hugs, Ame

Ame Dyckman

Ame Dyckman

AME DYCKMAN reads and writes picture books when she’s supposed to be sleeping. She’s the author of the award-winning BOY + BOT (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) and TEA PARTY RULES (illustrated by K.G. Campbell). Ame’s next book, WOLFIE THE BUNNY (illustrated by Zachariah OHora), hops into bookstores February 17, 2015. Ame lives in Lawrenceville, NJ, with her family, her evil-but-adorable cat, and her book characters. Follow Ame on Twitter (@AmeDyckman), where she Tweets picture book reviews and pretty much everything that pops into her head.

Amy is giving away signed copy of TEA PARTY RULES and a prize pack. Comment on her blog post to be eligible to win!

TEA PARTY RULES PRIZE PACK TEA PARTY RULES COVER WITH EJK MEDAL

Registered for Summer School? Check out Ame’s fabulous writing exercise in the exercise book.

 

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145 comments on “Ame Dyckman: My Characters Won’t Let Me Write This Post: Seven Tips for Creating Really Really Real Characters

  1. deborahholtwilliams says:

    This was such a fun post to read! And I’ll have to think quirky when I dream up my characters.

    Like

  2. HAHAHAHAHA. This was BODACIOUS! What a great list. Can I come visit you? 😉 Thank you.

    Like

  3. Jenifer McNamara says:

    Are these the Tea Party Rules? Like how authors live and thoroughly study their characters even Beatrix Potter studies nature and drew rabbits before she wrote “Peter Rabbit”. Very Interesting!

    Like

  4. Russ says:

    This was wonderful and very helpful. I realized that I am heading in the right direction as I get to know my characters but learned a few new things to do in order to make them believable. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  5. AuthorKaren says:

    Such great tips and I love how you write. This is a wonderful list….thanks 🙂

    Like

  6. Christy Mihaly says:

    This gave me a much-needed chuckle today — thank you very much! And the tips are terrific, too.

    Like

  7. laurazarrin says:

    Love this! Too funny. Can’t wait to apply your tips to my latest character. He’s been a bit silent and needs a prod to get him talking.

    Like

  8. Jessica Jordan says:

    Great tips, so much fun…and I WANT Wolfie this very second!

    Like

  9. Thanks for the tips and for making your characters a part of your post! Their personalities came through so well and it makes me want to come visit and go for ice cream! Love, love, love your books, Ame!

    Like

  10. Joanna says:

    Score! brilliant tips, Ame!

    Like

  11. marlainagray says:

    Reblogged this on Marlaina Gray and commented:
    This is informative and funny!

    Like

  12. Rachael says:

    Loved this blog! Thanks so much, even the ice cream question was helpful.

    Like

  13. Deborah Allmand says:

    Glad to know I’m not alone with characters interrupting your day!! Your writing, your thought process, your meals, your sleep!!! Great way to keep a character journal on things your discover while writing!! Thanks so much for your post.

    Like

  14. What a great post! Thanks for taking the time to show us just how real your characters are. Loved it. I also have to say that I work in an elementary school library, and your Boy + Bot book has been checked out so constantly that I haven’t even had a chance to read it yet!!

    Like

  15. Such a great post! I love the would vs could tip! Now excuse me while I go eat ice cream (for research purposes of course).

    Like

  16. Ame, You areally too much fun! Definitely incorporating your suggestions. Thanks!

    Like

  17. donnacangelosi says:

    Loved this post, Ame! Thank you for sharing your tips and for the many smiles!

    Like

  18. Rajani LaRocca says:

    Fantastic post! So much fun!

    Like

  19. Lauren says:

    Thanks Ame, you are always such a delight! I look forward to reading Wolfie the Bunny – my kids and I have enjoyed everything you’ve written, so far! And I love the idea of incorporating relatives into my children’s books. Hmmm…

    Like

  20. ginaperry says:

    Gosh, I love tip #6. Thank you for a fun and challenging post, Ame!

    Like

  21. Hilarious post and tons of goodness to delve into my characters. I’m still thinking about her ice cream choice. Thank you for being a part of Summer School!

    Like

  22. Dawn says:

    I smiled throughout this entire post. It was not only fun, but packed with information. Thanks!

    Like

  23. I love your books – thanks for sharing your post!

    Like

  24. Lauri Meyers says:

    Yikes! How do you get any writing done with that menagerie in your house? I wonder what Wolfie thinks when a NEW character moves in…and wants carrots. Great fun post Ame!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Ame: Wow! Seven seriously outstanding tips you have shared with such humor and laughter. I especially like that the “Thesaurus Ain’t An Extinct Lizard.” I do use a thesaurus to expand vocabulary. You have shared a great tip to expand a character using a thesaurus. You make writing homework fun. ~Suzy Leopold

    Like

  26. l8k8 says:

    Thanks for the post. I do believe. I do.

    Like

  27. Poppy Wrote says:

    Fun!

    Like

  28. bucherwurm65 says:

    I love Boy + Bot! And I love your post! 😀

    Like

  29. Doris Stone says:

    Ame, I love your voice, characters and books. Thanks for your fun post! I’m off to do my homework!

    Like

  30. Marge Gower says:

    Thanks for this delightful read. I love the “Don’t edit. Don’t censor. It’s no-wrong-answers brain purge free-for-all time!” I have to admit I frequently edit my characters while I’m writing. I’ll have train my brain not to do that anymore. Thanks for letting your characters speak to us.

    Like

  31. Ame, love your quirky humor. Your seven tixexercises are super. 🙂

    Like

  32. Angela Turner says:

    Love, love, love your suggestions for getting to know your character. Can’t wait to try them.

    Like

  33. Carrie Brown says:

    Ame, You are always full of voice and completely absorbed in your writing. Thanks for the tips AND keeping us entertained at the same time! (Multi-talented 🙂 I especially like the field study suggestion about watching what kinds of ice cream everyone else is ordering!

    Like

  34. kdveiten says:

    What fun suggestions! Thanks for the mini-lesson on getting to know your character.

    Like

  35. Talia says:

    Fabulous! Can’t wait to…Just a sec….Gabe, seriously, what now? You’re kidding. Who doesn’t like icecream? Predictable, you would be the problem character. Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah, can’t wait to try these tips. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

    Like

  36. SevenAcreSky says:

    Thanks Ames for this post. I’m probably guilty of character simplification and need to tale each of these points to heart. Great advice and a great delivery.

    Like

  37. linnshekinah says:

    Wow great inspiring tips. Adding some layers to my characters.

    Like

  38. S Marie says:

    HA! I am planning ice cream homework this weekend 🙂 Love the exercises to think of our characters outside the vacuums of their written stories.

    Like

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