Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Makes a Great Picture Book - Tip 3

Use Voice to Make Your Picture Book Come Alive

Many editors and picture book authors will tell you that the single most distinguishing feature between a great picture book and an okay picture book is “voice”. The problem is that “voice” is hard to define. Some think of voice simply as character dialogue, but voice is much more than that.

For me, voice is what gives your story personality. It’s the way your language usage and style create the mood for your picture book and stimulates emotions in your reader.  It's the rhythm of your story. It's the way you structure your sentences. It might be how you leverage simile, metaphor, rhyme, repetition or contrasts. All of those things add up to the personality of your story and determine whether or not your picture book has the fresh, unique voice that an editor might be looking for.

The books PIGGY PIE and OWL MOON do a good job of illustrating how these elements work together to create two strong, yet very different examples of distinctive voice.

You can learn more about developing distinctive voice in your stories at the Picture Book Writing workshop I’ll be teaching at the WIFYR conference in June.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What Makes a Great Picture Book - Tip 2

great picture book characters are like parfaits

Great Picture Book Characters are Like Parfaits

great picture book characters are like parfaits
Flat, one-dimensional characters will doom a picture book. Similar to being larger-than-life, the main character in your picture book needs to be dynamic. By the end of the story, great picture book characters experience growth. Of course, for a character to actually experience growth it follows that the character must have shortcomings or flaws. A perfect character is a boring character.

It might seem obvious, but multidimensional characters need to have multiple characteristics or aspects of their personality to give them depth. Or as Shrek might say, great picture book characters are onions. Onions have layers. Great picture book characters have layers. Or if you prefer to be in the Donkey camp, you could also say that great picture book characters are like parfaits. Especially if you’re talking about parfaits with layers of melted chocolate, vanilla pudding, bananas, chocolate cookie bits and whipped cream on top. With all those delicious layers you can’t go wrong. Bottom-line, whether you prefer onions or parfaits, your picture book’s main characters need layers to make them more dynamic, interesting and irresistible.

Creating multidimensional, parfait like characters will be another topic of discussion at the Picture Book Writing workshop I’ll be teaching at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) conference from June 16-20.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Makes a Great Picture Book - Tip 1

Larger than Life Characters

Characters can make or break a picture book. Donald Maass, literary agent and author of WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, talks about the importance for novels to have larger-than-life-characters. These are characters that act in unusual, unexpected, or dramatic ways. These are characters that do or say things that we wish we could do, but don't ever dare  to do or we are not able to do.

Larger-than-life-characters are not only important for novels, but they’re important for picture books too. Think PETE THE CAT, OLIVIA, CURIOUS GEORGE, and NO, DAVID. The characters in these stories are what make children want to read them over and over again. Want to write a great picture book? Start with a larger-than-life-character at its heart. The characteristics of larger-than-life-characters might include wit, spontaneity, compassion, daring, quirkiness, perseverance, cunning, humor, likeability, and so on.

Developing larger-than-life-characters is just one of many things I’ll be discussing from June 16-20 in the Picture Book Writing workshop I’ll be teaching at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) conference in Sandy, Utah. There are still a few slots open if you're interested.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

I never knew there was such a thing until my wife just told me. But today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. I just had to blog about this momentous occasion. Chocolate chip cookies happen to be one of my favorite food groups. They're almost right up there with ice cream. Why aren't there bigger celebrations for this wonderful holiday? There should be parades. Balloon floats. Fireworks. Cookie barbecues. Paid holidays. Do your part, enjoy a chocolate chip cookie today with someone you love. :)