Writing Picture Books... Not the Piece of Cake Most Think

Writing picture books is not the piece of cake that some might think. It is more like pinning the tail on the donkey. You may be blinded by the fact that most picture books use fewer words and seem to have simple concepts. Don't be fooled. A picture book takes the same if not more effort to make the reader turn the page.

Picture books must have the same components as a longer story.
  • A character or characters that the reader can relate to and care about
  • A beginning hook and introduction to the problem
  • A middle with up to three tries to solve the problem with obstacles in his path.
  • A believable ending with the solution or acceptance of no solution
  • A problem that the main character must solve causing the conflict in the story
  • A reason the problem is the problem
If that sounds confusing, it might be if you  don't already understand about story arcs and what keeps the reader turning the page. Even small children must be hooked on the story or the illustrations to want to keep looking at a book over and over again.

No matter how simple the book is with the exception of simple concept books that use one word per page to teach a new idea or object, picture books need an interesting beginning. Hook the reader immediately with a clear problem in the first sentence or at least in the first paragraph.

The wind was blowing and howling. Nathan needed to find the red flashlight, now!

The very first sentence gives you several pieces of information. The character's name is Nathan, he is a boy, he has a problem ( the red flashlight is missing) and he needs it now.

Who is he?
What does he need the flashlight for?
Why is it so  important that he needs it now?
The reader should be led to the next question of What will happen if he can't find it?

The wind blowing and howling helps to put your reader in the setting of the story. What does the wind  blowing and howling have to do with the story? Does it add to the tension or the problem for Nathan or should it be deleted?

As you can see, much goes into the picture book from the very first line. Stay tuned for more as we talk about the middle of your picture book.


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