Maddie's Maker Blog #3 - "You're such a character!" Making the Mckenszie sisters come to life.

This is "Maddie's Maker", a new series of blogs chronicling the trials and tribulations of creating a self-published children's book. Over the course of 4 months during the summer of 2012, Ronald Hennessy created a children's book and self published it through the Internet. "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and KindlePart #1 deals with the tools and workflow of the book. Part #2 Deals with the many eBook and hardcover/paperback options along with the pros and cons. I strongly suggest reading part 1 and part 2 first. This blog entry covers how the two main stars where developed for this book.

The the story is meant to be slice-of-life. There is no serious conflict, no coherent structure, no plot. It is entirely focused on Margaret's interaction with her younger sister Maddie. I wrote some ideas down that were plot driven, but I felt they weren't as strong as what I chose in the end. I decided not to include the parents in the book since I felt it would detract from Margaret and Maddie's relationship, plus I haven't made them yet! In a future book, they could make an appearance.

Original sketch of Page 9 of the book.

Along with my other original creations, I have been drawing the Mckenszie sisters since 2010 and I have shared my art online through DeviantART. Many of those early drawings were reinvented for the book. Big Sister Margaret was envisioned 1st as a "sidekick/friend" of a Princess…named Princess back in '09 (she still is). Eventually, I added a few more side characters to populate their world. Originally, I was set on making a webcomic, but somehow the Mckenszie sisters became more of a compelling reason to make a children's book. Having a sibling myself, I knew very well how frustrating that relationship can be at times. The only difference here is they're all female.

The Mind of Margaret

Margaret doing what she does best - reading.

Margaret is a bright, geeky kind of girl who dresses a little odd. To sum it up, her design philosophy is like a mullet - party at the bottom, business at the top. Not only her attire is imperfect, her body size is. An important decision I made early on that she would be overweight. There are very few young girls of size that are portrayed in a positive light or at all in media. If it is, it's the weight that becomes number 1 defining trait of that character. I really don't like that. In my book Margaret is very serious about her studies. More indirectly, she is interested in science; especially astronomy. Her passion for that is not portrayed that obviously in the book, but those hints are there. This could be something to build on in future books. Obviously, being a bookworm is also a stereotype but I don't feel it's a BAD one to have. It is her intense studies that sometimes makes poor Maddie invisible at times.

Some random sketches of Margaret

There are a lot of other interesting quirks about Margaret, but you'll have to stay tuned on that. That stuff is more reserved for her adventures with Princess.

Make Mine Maddie

Maddie is always finding ways to amuse herself - even if it's on HERSELF.

Maddie turned out to be my Donald Duck. Originally, when developing Princess, she was going to be the main character slated for a webcomic (I may get off the ground one day). Princess' history is intended to be much more developed than any of my other characters. Maddie on the other hand, quickly became my favorite character to draw. Not only she's pretty easy to draw, she is incredibly cute (at least to me). I couldn't pinpoint exactly why, but maybe it's my interpretation of my inner 5 year old girl in pigtails.

I originally envisioned her as 3 years old, much in the vein of Angelica Pickles from Rugrats but I feel back then I couldn't create a 3 year old kid in a convincing form. The only differences between the two is that Maddie is older (5) and they share the same hairstyle and color of shirt (somewhat). Angelica is mean on purpose, Maddie is absolutely not. A lot of the personality in Maddie is heavily influenced by child heroines such as Eloise, D.W. Read and Ramona Quimby, but there is no one major influence that defines her. Maddie is a fusion of many influences. I really wanted her to have a very fun, carefree personality. Completely random and weird at times. I also wanted her to be imperfect by design and persona. She is intentionally meant not to be "pretty". Red-haired, Skinny legs and arms and a pot belly. "Imperfect Perfection."

She probably dreams of this every night.

The Ice Cream thing. Once again, inspired by Angelica's passion of cookies, as a little indirect homage, I decided early on that she would have a favorite food. I knew I was heading into a overused trope, but she needed to have a "hook" that makes her uniquely Maddie. Ice cream is not the be all and the end all, but it's quite an important part. Considering today's climate with childhood obesity, I was hesitant in making her act obsessive over Ice Cream, but I feel presenting her in a Politically Correct manner would dumb her down. In my artwork and the book, Maddie eats chocolate Ice Cream exclusively as it is personally my favorite flavor. Of course, all other form of Ice Cream are fair game. I heard she is not very fond of pistachio.

Ronald Hennessy's "Maddie Mckenszie: The Most ANNOYING Little Sister Ever!" is available on PaperbackHardcover and digital formats such as iBooks and Kindle. You can follow Ronald on TwitterTumblrDeviantArt, and Google+.