A week ago Friday, I spent a delightful morning talking about writing picture books with 3rd through 8th graders at a “Meet the Experts” symposium organized for our town’s gifted program. Since students in the program will be writing their own picture books, I focused my session on what makes picture books engaging.
During our time together we focused on four qualities and had a wonderful time looking for them in the sample picture books we read together. I then challenged them to incorporate these qualities into their own writing.
I like to think of these qualities as SUPER POWERS. That’s right, as picture book writers, we have super powers we can activate to create engaging stories. Now, with a wave of my wand, here FOUR SUPER POWERS you might like to activate in your own writing:
The POWER of the KID-FRIENDLY PROBLEM: Losing a favorite toy, wanting a cookie, being afraid of a storm, not wanting to take a bath. These are just a few examples of kid-friendly problems in the books we read. A kid-friendly problems connects the reader to your story.
The POWER of PICTURES that ADD: The hallmark of picture books, of course, is that they are illustrated. But there’s more. Good picture book writers let the pictures tell part of the story. Sometimes the pictures even include important details that are not in the text. (See Mo Willem’s KNUFFLEBUNNY for a great example of this.) As you write and revise your stories, put stars next to parts of the story that could be told (or enhanced) by the illustrations. Then consider omitting the words from the text, instead substituting a simple illustration note, but only if absolutely necessary.
The POWER of the PAGE TURN: With only a few sentences per spread, picture books include almost constant page turns. These built-in pauses provide authors a great opportunity to build suspense. Consider pausing an exciting moment mid-sentence as you write. What happens next? To find out kids will have to TURN THE PAGE! (Note: creating a book dummy during revisions is a great way to figure out how you can take advantage of page turns.)
The POWER of HUMOR: Kids love to laugh, or at least chuckle, and so do parents. So anytime you can infuse humor into your story, via text or illustration, go for it!
Happy Writing, all!