Amy Ignatow, author and illustrator of the series "The Popularity Papers," discusses inspiration, how she creates characters, and her writing and drawing process. This video is part of the NBC Learn original series "Writers Speak to Kids."
Writers Speak to Kids- Amy Ignatow
JENNA BUSH HAGER, reporting:
Where do you get your ideas?
AMY IGNATOW: I get inspired by things that I see, things that I've experienced, stories that other people tell me. Just really, just being aware of your environment and seeing the potential for stories in it because the most mundane event can set off a chain of reactions that can turn into a tremendous adventure, and it's just a matter of seeing it. I wanted to write books about real friendship, you know, the sort of friendship that can weather any storm, like middle school, like junior high, and friendship that means something, not just sort of, "Oh, we're friends today and then we're not friends the next day." Friendship that grows, because I've had friends that have been in my life for you know that long since I was Lydia and Julie's ages.
BUSH HAGER: How do you create characters?
IGNATOW: I think that they are all pretty much of my imagination. Some characters are more specific and do remind me of specific people in my life, but those usually the more minor-characters. It`s more about the relationships between people, and then their characters form out of that relationship. So you can never have just a character, or I can never have just a character that says, 'Hi! I`m Lydia. I have blonde curly hair, and I can be kind of obnoxious sometimes, but I have a big heart'. You know no one says that. But you can find that out about her by the way that she interacts with her friend Julie. And the way that Julie, reacts her shows what her character is. So, I wanted a relationship between an extrovert, or someone who is really, you know, out there willing to try anything, and an introvert, somebody who is still little shier and may be not so gung ho about doing everything. But one influences the other, and that`s kind of how I write all of my characters.
BUSH HAGER: What is your writing process?
IGNATOW: First step in writing my story is that I write an outline. There's no real ritual, there is no like, ‘Oh now I'm going to write a story,’ you know, it's nothing like that. I write an outline. It's a very detailed, usually about 20 pages, just going step-by-step, what is going to happen over the course of the book. And then I look it over and I re-write it. And that's the hardest part to me, sometimes, is just figuring out the plot in a way that makes sense. But once I have that down, then I can start writing the script, and the script is really just for myself. And through that script, I know what it is supposed to look like. And so, I'll write the script in advance and I start sketching and drawing, and then when I look at what I've written in the script, then I think, well this actually isn't going to fit on the page, I need two pages, or you know, maybe I can put something else in it, or I have a better joke, or something like that. So it's really just a process of building on ideas, until you get to the point where you're drawing the buttons on someone's coat. You never had to write about that, but you have to put it in.
Kathleen Benner Duble is an author living in Boxford, Massachusetts. She writes books for children and adolescents and specializes in historical fiction novels, which are made-up stories based on true events in history. Her young adult stories take place in a wide range of time periods, including the Salem witch trials, the French Revolution, the Age of Exploration and more.
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