Friday, July 1, 2011

Characteristics of Picture Books--According to Emma

Week of June 26—Reflections from SCBWI, Orlando
Friday, July 1—Characteristics of Picture Books—According to Emma

Much less text, but say a lot more
—Emma Dryden

Emma Dryden is an experienced children’s book editor who began her own editorial consulting business in 2010. She is also experienced in e-books and aps. While Emma shared about picture book aps, I don’t know enough (or understand enough) yet to post about that. However, Emma’s ingredients for a great picture book are something we all can understand and implement!

1. Develop a Clear Story Line
Avoid jumping around and avoid long time periods in your stories. Pacing means the rate of progress and the pacing must be appropriate for the kind of story you’ve written. One scene should lead to the next, creating continuity. Picture books are usually concrete, simple life experiences.

2. Unique, Clear Characters
Stories happen to someone we care about. Story book characters must be active and resourceful.

3. Setting
Setting is established through the details of the story. The setting can actually become a secondary character in the story.

4. An Ending That Is Consistent with the Beginning
The story must be completed to the child reader’s/listener’s satisfaction. The reader must wonder: What is going to happen? What goal will be reached? What problem will be solved? and then get the answers to his/her questions.

5. Satisfactory Unfolding
As the story progresses, the details are revealed and the story unfolds. The goal is the unfolding process.

6. Blend of Spontaneity and Planning
A sense of uncertainty or suspense in a story is good, but that must always be resolved by the end of the story. The author must turn uncertainty into certainty. This happens as you plan and write the story.

7. Balance of Text and Art
Authors must allow room for the illustrator. The story can be puzzling, but the art cannot be puzzling.

8. Compelling Language
Kids love the sounds of words and they love rhyme, nonsense words, and strange words. New vocabulary always must be defined in context. Mood and rhythm can and should be established, even without rhyme. Only use rhyme if it is the best way to tell the story.

Remember, a well-crafted story comes before the bells and whistles are added. —Emma Dryden

It’s Your Turn!
1. Make plans now to attend a conference, a boot camp, a book study, or another writing training ASAP. Don’t wait . . . make plans now. Your writing aspirations may very well depend on it!


Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, I've considered using Emma Dryden's critique services, but her PB prices seem disproportionately high when compared to her novel critique prices.

I just attended SCBWI NJ and met your friend Heather. Loved her!

Rob Sanders said...

Corey, so glad you met Heather--she's fantastic. I don't know about Emma's critique services, but she did a stellar session. I highly recommended Lisa Wheeler for critiques and I also offer a critique service. Check it out on my web site.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I went to school with Emma Dryden! She was a year or two ahead of me and I didn't know her well but still! Now if only I could write a PB that was up to her standards :)