So the talk I ended up giving revolved around character. Here's what I basically said:
When I'm thinking about developing a character, one of the first things I want to know is, what is the character's dream? For example, in Kate and the Horses, Kate wants to have friends. Why doesn't she? Well, this is a character who is both shy and brash. She is unable to speak when it's important for her to express herself. When it would be a good time to stay quiet, she chatters things that are not appropriate to the situation. She basically does not understand social norms. So those are her flaws that will hinder her from her goal What are strengths that can help her? She's very smart. She's imaginative. She's determined. She has moxie.
Next, I would want to look at the other characters around Kate. How do they aid and/or discourage her in going after her dream? In Kate's family, her father is a pediodontist, a children's dentist, who loves his work. Kate hears stories of other children their friends, and activities. She wishes she could be more like them. Her father is disciplined and focused and does not always welcome flights of fancy. Her mother is a singer. She is one of those charismatic people that is adored by her audience. Both of these parents love Kate. They want to be her ally. However, Kate sometimes feels that she might as well be living on a planet far away from them. They cannot possibly understand her.
Here is a place where I'm going to step away from what I said in my presentation: I have been asked if Kate is autistic. I don't know. I just imagined a girl and what she would say, and that's how it turned out. I did decide to set the story in the seventies, as this was a time when children were not typically diagnosed. Kate is figuring all this out on her own.
Now back to the talk. In every story, there are allies and antagonists. In Kate and the Horses, there are mean girls. There is a stable owner with important rules. There's a camp counselor who understands. And there are horses, sacred souls who help this girl figure out how to participate in the world and reach her dreams. That's what it's all about.