Only the brilliant Dr. Seuss could make a best selling children’s book out of something as nasty as green eggs, but that is why he is brilliant. I’ve read, Green Eggs and Ham at least a thousand times in my years teaching and as a mom. There is just something universal about the story that catches the imagination. Yes, it’s those crazy, green eggs. Yuck!
The delight on a child’s face when a plain boring named guy like Sam I Am serves green eggs and ham is astonishing. Dr. Seuss took on something relevant to a child’s life, food they don’t like, and spun it in a way that parents could accept. After all, parents wouldn’t want to say don’t eat your green vegetables, but green eggs is perfect.
So, why is Sam I Am such an ordinary name? Because Sam is not as important as the child, who is an every day kid. Dr. Seuss set minds on an imaginative path unique to no other created in children’s literature.
What can we learn about characters from Dr. Seuss?
In his own words: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
*Make your character be an average every day person with just enough of the spectacular (green eggs) in their lives to be interesting.
~The spectacular can be as simple as a unique occupation, quirky family, strange hobby, amazing talent, etc.
*Create Contrast between your character and the things that surround them. Sam I Am seems rather bland, but not those crazy green eggs and ham, or the character refusing to eat them. They compliment each other by show casing each other’s qualities.
~Contrast for your character can be shown through their friendships, foreign location to them, opposites in romance, etc.
*Build the Character Conflict by placing characters on opposite sides of a dilemma. Sam I Am is trying hard to convince the child to eat the green eggs and ham, the child is equally resistant to eating them. This is a perfect story example of the well-meaning villain. Sam I Am means well.
*Create a character that is relevant to your audience. Your character should value some similar things and share some concerns with your audience. Not all, but some. The point of view character hates green food, so does his reader.
*Make us empathize with your character right away. I mean seriously, poor kid. Sam I Am served him a plate of green eggs and ham? That tugs at the reader’s heart. Create that kind of empathy for your character early in the story by having them face something that your readers empathize over.
*Create a character of courage. This character basically says they won’t eat them in all kinds of situations, no matter what. We admire that, even if Sam I Am is not listening well. They stand up for themselves and that is something all kids admire.
~What kind of courage do adults admire? Use that in your character.
Dr. Seuss can inspire our characters to be amazing if we take a journey on his imaginative way of creating them. What children’s books characters do you love? Why do you love them?