We all have mental pictures of what our characters look like. Because I write picture books, my mind works in images. Characters are fleshed out in my mind as I write and some of what they say and do is based on how I think they appear. This week we aspiring authors are describing characters we are working on – living with, actually.
But first…the story of Fluffy Kitty!
I make words, not pictures. My stick figure cows need labels as to which end gives milk. So when a story is sold, I am in the hands of the editor to pick a compatible artist and send my suggestions along. It is a rare situation where the author and artist even communicate. Most of that time that is very successful and I am delighted with the result.
Case in point…Fluffy Kitty!
I had written a collection of stories about the events surrounding Christmas from the point of view of animals that might have been there: The donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem, the camels bringing the Wise Men. One character was a Siamese cat who lived at an inn where Mary and Joseph seek shelter. In fact in the story it is the cat, Silky, who shows them where she had her kittens in the barn. Silky the Siamese.
When the book arrived, there was Shaggy Donkey as expected. But the cat had morphed into a fat gray Persian who was now named Fluffy Kitty! After the initial surprise, I fell in love with her. But she constantly reminds me that my images are only mine.
So for this week, I am wrapped up in an arctic lemming. He is a little like a weasel with a pointed snout and sharp front claws for digging. In the summer he is brown, but my story is set in early winter so he has just changed to pure white. He moves very fast, skittering over the frozen tundra. The lemming has bright black eyes and a tail bushy enough to wrap around himself to keep warm all winter long. Most days he is curled around my neck, correcting typos and indicating he would never say something as trite as “That’s really cool.” (Get it?)
And if Tuk-tuk ever finds a publishing home, we’ll see if that is how he looks!