Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Writing Workout: VISUALIZING Your Characters!

Lucky us to have author-illustrator Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie stop by today Wednesday to share how we can visualize our characters!

An avowed daydreamer since childhood, Jeanne now dreams up fictional worlds for her children’s books – including her latest offering, MARIELLE IN PARIS, written by Maxine Rose Schur and published by Pomegranatekids.  Jeanne, it turns out, lives in Paris, too, though she was born in Michigan.  Jeanne has also created colorful stylized travel notebooks, Advent calendars, magazines and apps.
Her artwork is regularly exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic and is in the collections of the Mazza Museum: International Art from Picture Books and the Paris Library for the Arts, Bibliothèque Forney.

As for Marielle the mouse, a talented dressmaker, she lives in an upside-down flowerpot.  One day, the elegant Madame de Sooree asks Marielle to make nine dresses for her nine daughters  - Berenice, Babette, Belle, Bernadette, Blanche, Blondelle, Brie, Brigitte, and Beatrice - for their birthday party.  Marielle soon tours the city, looking for creative inspiration. With but ten days until the party, though, a big wind whooshes through her workroom, threatening the completion and delivery of her creations and Marielle, alas, is afraid of heights! What’s a mouse to do?!

MARIELLE IN PARIS includes a quiz for readers in which they match each party dress with the Paris scene that inspired it.

Jeanne is also an avowed – and discreet – observer, sketching people on the Paris subway or buses, taking in the variety of ears and noses, mouths and purses.  Like Marielle-mouse, she finds inspiration visiting museums, savoring the street markets or strolling without a particular purpose.

Thank you, Jeanne, for sharing your observational skills and smarts with our TeachingAuthors readers, creating today’s Wednesday Writing Workout for both writers and illustrators.

Here’s to beaucoup de plaisir!

Esther Hershenhorn

Visit Jeanne’s Instagram page @JustJeanneB to learn about the #Marielle Dress Design Contest for Kids.  Readers are invited to observe their neighborhoods to see what inspired them to create a new dress for Marielle-mouse.  A paper-doll figure of the character and some simple “starter shapes” are downloadable from a link on the page.

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Visualizing Your Characters

Being a sensitive observer of Nature, people and your physical surroundings is important to being a successful artist or writer, especially since a well-developed character is essential for a successful story.

1) Cut out a lot of shapes from paper. Shuffle them around to make some characters.  Once you find one, photograph it and shuffle the pieces again. Make another character. Re-shuffle. Make at least 10. Don’t think about it too much. Have fun! These are just starting points.

2) Now do some drawings from these photos. Do more than just copy them. Develop them. You can change the features slightly, including ears, noses, mouths, etc. Clothe your characters. Add

3) Then on a large sheet of paper, randomly draw some simple closed shapes in pencil. Draw a triangle, a circle, an oval, a squiggle… Put your character into these shapes. Give the character a reason for the poses they take inside the shapes. Is he/she jumping for joy? Sleeping? Rushing?

4) Give your “shaped” characters speech bubbles.

5) Ask yourself a lot of questions about your character:
What is their problem in the story and how will they solve it?

Is the way they look essential to the story?  Is it part of their problem? Should they be cute? Ordinary? Extra-ordinary?

Where does he or she live? What does their home look like on the inside and on the outside?

Is there something in their life they cannot live without?

What do they like to eat and drink?

What makes them sad, happy or mad?

Do they have any particular habits?

Keep asking yourself questions. I’m sure you can think of more. You are on your way to creating a new story!

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