CHARACTER AND PLOT
In college, I learned to create a character log, or a character chart. It's supposed to help with getting to know your character for novels. I never did like it. I guess that's one of many reasons why I never finished my one YA novel (although I do have 6 of 12 chapters finished - which definitely need some serious revision, even still!)
Most of my picture book ideas come from a topic. I don't really do themes, per se. I like to leave that up to the readers (whether child, parent, or editor). Sometimes I'll think of one plot point as the beginning basis of a book. Sometimes it's a character. It just depends on each book idea.
One helpful thing I learned at bootcamp was the relationship between plot and character, especially if you're stuck, even for picture books. By doing a character chart, it can help lead to the plot. In other words, by answering definitive questions about your character (details that will probably never even show up in the text), you get a better understanding of the character and the plot will begin to unfold effortlessly. I'm definitely going to have to use this approach for a few of my books! There's a certain TONE and mood I'd like to have come across, and I'm hoping this will help that as well.
Next topic: Point of View.