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Passive Versus Active Character in PB

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Two of my picture book manuscripts have more passive main characters. Both involve a beloved adult - mother or grandma - telling them a story in some capacity. The talented writers in my critique groups have told me that the child is too passive, that the child should be the one telling the stories to the adults, that the story should be the child's not the adults. They are correct, in that this is the standard for PBs, and framing the stories this way could work very well. BUT, is there no room for a less active child main character in PBs? Must all PBs follow this rule? Certainly children are not always the main actor in their daily lives. They have passive moments. And magical things can happen in them. Why can't some of our picture books reflect that?

I know there's the issue of selling and marketing the book, obviously. Is that where this "rule" comes from, or does it have other origins?

I am posting because I am curious to know other writer's thoughts. Has anyone else struggled with this? Does anyone know published books that do this?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Brianna
#1 - September 28, 2015, 10:32 AM

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Hi Brianna,

It's tempting to have an adult as a MC in a PB, and there are certainly some successful PBs that do. But MOST of the PBs out there have a child as a MC, a child who has a "problem" and who solves his problem by himself (without adults). Kids like to see themselves in books. It's empowering. If a parent, caregiver, or grandparent is the MC or is overly-involved in fixing the child's issue, then the child becomes a member of the chorus, rather than a lead.

One exception to this is bedtime books, where a parents/caregiver/grandparent is often part of the story. But usually there's not much of a "problem" in these books.

Good luck!

Jody
#2 - September 28, 2015, 11:22 AM
PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, BUSY BUS series, EMERGENCY KITTENS, and more!
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Thanks, Jody. That's helpful to see it that way. I know you want them to solve their own problems so it makes sense that that would be why they are the more active character. Mine are both bedtime books, so there isn't much of a problem to be solved. So perhaps I can get away with it more in this sub-genre. I think I will try to revise so the child has a more active role though, at least 50/50 and see how that feels.

Thanks for taking the time to reply!

Brianna
#3 - September 28, 2015, 11:30 AM

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My pleasure! Have fun.
#4 - September 28, 2015, 02:55 PM
PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, BUSY BUS series, EMERGENCY KITTENS, and more!
Twitter @jodywrites4kids

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