Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Story Element #1: Character (Woe is Moe)

Only two days left to enter the giveaway, today and tomorrow. See yesterday's post below...

Today's book...
Woe is Moe

Author: Diane Stanley
Illustrator: Elise Primavera
Publisher: G. P. Putnams's Sons
Year: 1995
Word Count: not sure, probably 1,000+
Focus: Character

Summary: "Moe's new job in advertising at the ice cream factory brings him money, travel, and prestige - so why is he lonely and miserable?"

Jacket Flap:
     "When Moe the Dog wins the advertising contest at Frozen Cow Ice Cream, it looks as if he's finally made it: big promotion, penthouse apartment, lots of great new stuff. His best friend, Arlene, is thrilled for him.
     But Moe soon discovers the downside of the fast lane: long hours trying to sell Frozen Cow in France, accidents caused by dark sunglasses, loneliness. He hardly ever sees Arlene anymore, and he misses their Friday nights at the Happy-All Chinese restaurant. Now those days seem so far away Moe thinks he'll never find his way back.
     Lucky for him, Arlene knows a way to bring Happy-All to Moe."

Another great character book. And when I went searching for the image to include, of course I found another book about Moe. How did I know? I don't know. Character books make series books, apparently. But I haven't read about Moe's tropical adventures yet.

The four main things about character is that they must be:
  • likable
  • believable
  • imperfect
  • solves own problems
  1. Moe is likable. He has a best friend, Arlene. They both hate their jobs at the ice cream factory. They both love to eat meals at their favorite Chinese restaurant. And always at the same table. They love to spend time with each other. Watching movies. Looking at the stars. Talking.
  2. Moe is believable. Yes, he's a talking dog. But that's okay. Moe wants to win the slogan contest at the factory, but hopes the prize isn't a gallon of the disgusting Frozen Cow ice cream. 
  3. Moe is imperfect. Boy is he ever! Once he wins the contest, he never went back to tell Arlene at work. At quitting time, he tells Arlene to meet him at the new fancy restaurant. More in a minute.
  4. Moe solves his own problem. Kind of. He follows the promptings placed before him, which leads him to a happier Moe.
That's it in a nutshell. Let's revisit #3 for a moment. Moe's imperfections. He doesn't notice Arlene's insecurity about feeling underdressed at the restaurant or her less than excited reaction mixed with fear of never seeing him again. Moe didn't see or talk to Arlene all week. Arlene missed him. When he did finally call, the conversation was fast and it was all about him. Then they didn't speak for months. "Arlene had a good cry. Moe changed." In France, Moe started feeling bored and miserable, even though he was with the rich and beautiful. So he started to change back. He went home. Ordered take out from the Chinese restaurant. Read his fortune cookie, which led him on a mysterious adventure.

Life was hard for Moe. Then it got seemingly better, but really it got harder. Moe rose above it all and apologized to his best friend. She forgave him and they lived happily ever after. So we love Moe.

Do you love your character? How is he or she imperfect? How will he solve his own problems? Think of a book you love that has a great character. Identify what it is about that character and why you love him or her. Make a list of imperfections you've seen in real people. Try adding one or two to a character you've written about or want to write about. Who knows? Maybe you'll think up a brand new character for a brand new book! 

What's your favorite breed of dog? Or what's your favorite ice cream flavor? Or what's your dream job? Or how many years have you been friends with your best friend?

My favorite breed of dog is Black Labrador Retriever. Ice cream? Too many to choose. What's not to love?! Dream job? Writing and teaching about writing, i.e. author visits. Husband is my best friend. 17 years. Keep on keepin' on...


  1. My favorite dog breed is a Labrador Retriever!! What else?! I like peanut butter frosty paws made by the Mom Person. She is my best friend ever. And I have the perfect job - library dog! This Moe guy seems like an interesting character. His book about paradise looks more interesting than the ice cream factory though. I think I'll check it out. Thanks!

  2. Shih tzu is my favorite breed. They are so sweet and soft and cuddly. Tillimook Pecan Toffee Crunch is the best! My dream job would be taste tester for Tillimook Ice Cream factory. My best friend, other than my husband, is my friend Sara whom I have known for 60 years. I'll check out the book. It's a great reminder for writers that without a problem there is no story. That is the most common problem with new writers. Thanks for the post.


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