This is a post about character development in my most recent picture book, Petite Rouge: A Cajun Twist to an Old Tale, Pelican Publishing 2015.
I was tagged for this Blog Tour by the lovely and gracious Christine Mix. Check out her blog tour post, about her picture book character “Spike” at:
The first question in this installment of the “Meet My Character” blog tour:
What is the name of your character?The character's name, Petite Rouge is French/Cajun for “Little Red”.....or Little Red Riding Hood. Tackling such an old fairy tale, that has been done so MANY times before, was a bit daunting.
When and where is the story set?
In Sheila Hebert-Collins' retelling, even tho' the woods was traded for a swamp (Cajun = Louisiana = swamps) and the wolf traded for a gator and the time is “today”.....the basic story was about the same.
What should we know about her?
Each time I'd read the story, I was struck by the same thing; Little Red Riding Hood, a perfectly “normal” looking little girl, ALWAYS failed to 1) recognize that the wolf in the woods was the one her mama had warned her about and 2) realize that the “grandmama” in the bed, was NOT her grandmama......and I'm going “Wait....what???”
I know the point is to get the little reader to start saying.....”Watch out Little Red Riding Hood”.....and “know” something that the main character doesn't seem to pick up on.....but seriously???
So in my version, I gave an explanation that makes sense to me. Little Red Riding Hood or Petite Rouge is near sighted, and wears glasses. The villain steals her glasses rendering her incapable of seeing that he had taken her grandmama's or grandmere's place.
Now this was something I could work with.
What challenges did you have in telling the story?Shelia Hebert-Collins gave me a wealth of scenes and dialog to work with in telling Petite Rouge's story. But to add in my bit-o-verve in the story, I picked up on one line that told of Petite Rouge taking a small boat thru the swamp to get to her grandmere's house. During that boat ride, the evil gator BUMPS the boat and knocks Petite Rouge's red glasses off her nose.......
and into the swamp....where he swallows them down.......
rendering her only able to squint to try and see who she is really talking to.
What goals did you set for yourself in telling this story?My main task was to tell the story as written by Shelia Hebert-Collins adding my own bits of (color) spice to the mix. One of the first things I found I could use was the actual color play of the RED cloak and hood ( garde-soliel or sun bonnet) that Petite Rouge always wears, against the intense GREEN of the evil gator.
I intentionally lowered the chroma (color intensity) of the background swamp/house interiors to allow the eye to go directly to the very very RED of Petite Rouge's clothing and the virulent evil GREEN (Phthalo green glaze over a arylide yellow underpainting )of the wicked gator. Secondly I found that I could emphasize the fact that Petite Rouge wore glasses by making them red. I had both her mother and grand mother also wearing red glasses, since near sightedness often runs in even fictional families.
I also had a blast working with a few of the secondary characters. These secondary characters.......
had been in a sketch done years ago, and found their way into the book. They are pivotal at the end of the story where they........oops! No spoilers! You'll just have to get the book to see how Petite Rouge gets on.
And now onto the next in line for the Meet My Character Blog Tour here......
my Midsouth SCBWI friend, the totally: “Fabulous Illustrator” Mary Uhles:
Mary Reaves Uhles has created illustrations for clients such as Cricket Magazine Group, McGraw Hill, Magic Wagon Press, and Thomas Nelson. She is currently working on THE LITTLE KIDS TABLE, a picture book for Sleeping Bear Press, available in the Fall of 2015. Previously she illustrated BEYOND THE GRAVE, a chapter book in the Up2U Adventure series from ABDO Publishing. She has twice been awarded the Grand Prize for Illustration from the SCBWI Midsouth Conference. Her piece, Eat, was a finalist in the 2014 SCBWI Bologna Book Fair. Prior to beginning her career as a freelance illustrator, Mary worked as an animator on projects for Warner Brothers and Fisher-Price Interactive. A PAL member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mary lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Since creating characters and stories is her favorite thing in the world (even more than mocha fudge ice cream) she feels mighty lucky to do it every day in her hilltop studio.