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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Picture Books Mini Workshop: Part Two: Characteristics

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

There are so many excellent picture book authors that a long list would still not be able to name all of them. Below are a few of those who have written in the three categories mentioned last week so you can study the work of one particular author, if you would like. Or you may already have a favorite author. Choose one to study and see what voice they carry throughout all their picture books. Or do they?

Bryan, Ashley.
Carle, Eric.
Lyon, George Ella. Dreamplace
Root, Phyllis.
Sis, Peter. Starry Messenger
Wells, Rosemary.

As you study them watch for the following details.

Picture Book Characteristics

  •             Text needs to stand-alone. However full meaning needs illustration.
  •             Language needs to be concrete.
  •             Story has some kind of conflict. Remember a conflict for this age might appear very simple but to them it is a problem. A timeless example is a child’s reluctance to go to bed as so softly addressed in Goodnight Moon.
  •             Light sentences for beginning readers.  For example, no description and basic specific words.
  •             Short sentences.
  •             Distinct beginning, middle, and end.
  •             End has a twist. There are some exceptions but generally the twist or surprise is why the story will sustain repeated reading.
  •             Brief or no transition.
  •             Repetitive words if they help the story.
  •             Limited setting. Illustrations will show.
  •             Simple problem.
  •             Short time frame.
  •             External conflict rather than internal—very important.
  •             Simple characters—usually only one defining characteristic such as curious.
  •             Keep audience in mind.
  •             Some sort of action.
  •             Important to keep to essence of story.

Plot Patterns

Here are a few patterns to consider as well that engage this audience.

1.     The ending is set up on very first page. Story goes up, story goes down.

2.     Circular story.  In Papa’s Bedtime Story, it opens with a baby being rocked to sleep and moves around the house and farm to see all the baby animals nestling down. The circle comes back to a mouse family in the house and through their doorway across the room is the baby from the first frame.
3.     For a series there may be small mini plots with over-arching plot such as the sister stories Zelda and Ivy.

Other patterns to consider include the structure of tone such as a “once upon a time” or modern.

Patterns include rhythms of words such as short, snappy, or long flowing.

One writer said that picture books are closest to acting while another writer compared them as closest to film making.

Action Steps:

1.     Choose one of the books you enjoyed the most and one that you didn’t connect with. Using the list above write down how each book measured up to each characteristic.

2.     If any parts were missing, how would you fill them in?

3.     Now apply the same list to your own work in progress. Or if you haven’t yet, draft a picture book of your own.

Share: What have you noticed so far that surprised you?

Read deep, marcy

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"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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