Hello fellow Creatives! Welcome to Week One of our five-week Picture Book Challenge.
Remember, as far as rules go, we’re keeping it simple:
1. Word count: 300-500 words.
2. Write only what the illustrator can’t illustrate. Allow room for their art (or yours if you’re illustrating your own stories) to bloom too.
3. Be kid friendly. Read on to consider what that might mean:
Ann Whitford Paul wrote a fantastic, hands-on guide to picture book writing that leads us from the tiny seeds of story creation all the way to publication. It’s called Writing Picture Books, and it is truly so insightful. Truly, if you want more help with brainstorming, structure, language, tying up loose ends, and prepping your stuff for submissions, this book. This book, people.
Let’s dive into some characteristics of children that Paul suggests we keep in mind while creating children’s books (she gives us twelve, but I’m only paraphrasing/quoting from three here; I say again, get the book):
*EVERYTHING IS NEW
“We step right over [a worm, but] children squat to watch it squirm. The world is a wonder to children, but most adults have grown blasé about it. As a children’s writer, you must tap back into the excitement of discovery.”
She offers multiple suggestions on how to do this. Don’t be afraid to look foolish. Make yourself small, get on your hands and knees and pay attention to what you notice at that level. Really pay attention to sights, sounds, smells, textures. Then, when you write, put the things you notice, the recaptured wonder, into your words.
*CHILDREN HAVE STRONG EMOTIONS
Paul makes note that “…when you are young, everything matters; everything is serious.” So while we, as adults, might be able to shrug off the fact that we dropped our favorite ice cream on the ground and it’s gross now, all grimy with chunks of gravel and dirt, a child might throw a tantrum.
“Children care deeply. Tap into their strong emotions for your stories.”
*CHILDREN LONG TO BE INDEPENDENT
“In our books, we should strive to give [kids] examples of strong girls and boys who find their own solutions to problems. Our books should empower children.”
Paul reminds us how annoying it can be when someone tells us how to do something, especially when they tell us over and over, and over and over, and over, even if they’re just trying to be helpful. Kids feel this way too. They want to do things themselves. And they want to see themselves in our stories, so let’s give them characters who are strong and brave and kind. Capable, even when they make mistakes.
So, to write kid friendly we need to cultivate wonder, tap into strong emotions, and create strong characters who will empower our young readers to learn and be independent.
No problem, right? Write.
This week, write 300 words. Text it out to a friend, scribble it on a napkin with permanent marker, journal it, spin it on the inside of a lid, turn it, tap-tap it up on your computer, whatever way helps you to get it out of your head and into the physical world. We can do this.
Go, write, win!
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