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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Hinde

When things aren't working when creating picture books

Updated: May 22, 2023

Looking back, it occurs to me that I hadn't been completely happy with my main character for some time. I was happy with Maddie, Basil and Nanny Snuffles. I was happy with the dialogue and action, but something wasn't quite right with Hodge. At times I would catch a glimpse of who and what this character should be, but nothing was clear.

Sometimes, when it feels like an uphill grind, it pays to back off, work on something else for a while and then go back to it refreshed. Creating picture books can be a slow process.

Something wasn't working with my main character but it wasn't until I read an article about the lack of heroines in children's books that I realised why... Hodge needed to be a girl!

I let that realisation sit with me for a few days – and the more I thought about it, the more it felt ‘right’. But I also knew I couldn’t go, ‘No problem, I’ll just change it to a girl’. So, it was back to the drawing board to see what impact this shift in character gender was going to have on the rest of my story.

I would also have to rename this character. It took some time to come up with a name but I’m happy with what I’ve come up with. I hope you like it too.

Hollybee Hope character in a red coat
Hollybee Hope character sketch

So here we have Hollybee Hope - a brave little hedgehog with a huge heart!

And of course with a change of gender a few other changes had to be made too. Mum had to go, she was replaced by a Dad. This of course impacted on the scenery of the spread that involved him, as it was a little too feminine. Not major issues in either case, but something that I knew had to be done to make this story the best it could be.

So, with the main character now firmly established in my mind and in the story itself, I’ve been able to complete the roughs, barring a few minor tweaks, and start the fun part of ‘colouring in the pictures’.

It sounds so simple doesn’t it…

I’ve also had time to develop the other characters, although I’m still working on Dad, as I can't decided if he should be wearing something that signifies maleness, whatever that could be, or not. Another option would be to leave him au naturel. After all, it can be quite difficult to clothe a hedgehog in a way that looks completely believable!

I'll probably wake up at 3am one morning soon with that little dilemma resolved!

Basil Bunny and Maddie Mouse chatting to each other
Basil and Maddie

While it’s a relief to have sorted the things that have been niggling me, it also means that I can now send the manuscript and a pdf file of the illustrations through to Sue Copsey for an edit.

Another step closer…

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