Monday, February 11, 2013

Kellie DuBay Gillis: Making an Entrance

Please excuse the glitter in my hair and the streamers stuck to my socks. I’m cleaning up from my daughter’s whirlwind birthday party weekend. She’s the one I alluded to in my lie for the Operation Awesome Mystery Blogger reveal. When I said that I single-handedly delivered a baby in less than 50 minutes in a bathroom, most of that was true. Five years ago, I did deliver my daughter in less than 50 minutes in our 2x3 powder room off the kitchen, but I had the help of five EMTs and one queasy husband. (The only thing I did single-handedly was dial 9-1-1.)

I always joke that the way my daughter burst onto the scene says a lot about how she approaches life. Her nature. Her character. And that got me thinking about our characters and how they make entrances and introductions in our stories. What does it say about them and how they approach their life on the page?

As a picture book writer, nothing makes me more giddy than having a dozen five year old girls come over for a party. These are the kids I write for and about. It’s a perfect opportunity to swim around in their kidness and absorb as much as possible. While I painted nails or led a party game, I watched and listened. You never know when something will spark a new idea or help spit-shine an old one.

But what I found really fascinating was how each girl made their entrance. Some bounded through the door oozing with confidence and excitement, ready to show off their party clothes and eat up whatever I was dishing out. Others were very reluctant to have the group flock to the door upon their arrival and wanted to slip into the party without a bunch of hoopla. Some didn’t want to see their parents leave and others ran in without saying good-bye. I thought I knew most of these girls pretty well, but how many of them made their entrance surprised me. And, like any good character, many of these girls had a transformation at the end of the two hour party. Some found their voice (literally on the karaoke machine), others helped put a new friend in the spotlight.

We are told that we should really know our characters and that they should have a life beyond the page. I’m taking this to heart as I strive to write interesting, multi-dimensional characters. So, if your main character was about to walk into a birthday party, what sort of entrance would he or she make? Consider this your MC’s formal party invitation and feel free to write a line or two from your MC’s POV in the comments about how they’d make their entrance. If you supply the guests, I’ll bring the cake. I have a lot left to share! Looking forward to posting every other Monday on the ups and downs of writing picture books and middle grade with the fans of Operation Awesome. Thanks for reading!

-- Kellie DuBay Gillis


Katrina L. Lantz said...

Love this! Welcome, Kellie! I also get story ideas from my six-year-old. He says the most enchanting/weird things sometimes. Okay, I took up your challenge and wrote my MG protag, Robert, walking into a party:

The door is open, so I walk on in. Plastic streamers snake over the ceiling, probably the work of dear ole Mom working her spinnerets. I brush past one of her spider idols and knock it off its pedestal. The ensuing crash turns every eye toward me. I grin. My mom -- sorry. Plastic Palms -- scowls. Like a twitch, more of a reflex than a conscious act, I wink my left eye. The shattered statue reforms, resuming its place on the plastic pedestal. It wouldn't do to upset Mom on her birthday.

Kellie D.G. said...

Fun! Thanks for the warm welcome, Katrina. And tell Robert to help himself to some cake, if he's not in too much trouble!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Hee hee. His dad's name is Famine Mouth, so there's no cake left. This was fun. Thanks!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Sounds like everyone had fun at the party!

Hmm--I think Avery would greet everyone with a cheery wave on her way to the cake. I mean, friends are great and all, but CAKE.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

LOL! Nice!

Toni Kerr said...

I love listening to my kids and their friends for voice. The things they come up with are hilarious!

And for the challenge, my mc is a bit anti-social. He's polite enough to show up, but he'd probably sneak in and out before anyone noticed. :-)

Great post!