Tag: picture books

Learning to Think In Pictures

Picture-Driven Stories: Learning to Think in Pictures

“A picture book illustrator needs to tell a story with pictures. A picture book author needs to show the same story with words.”Jean Matthew Hall 

When I attended last year’s Write2Ignite conference, I went to Jean Matthew Hall’s discussion, What is a Picture Book. One of her main points was that a true picture book tells the story through both the illustrations and the words. Without either, the story would be incomplete.

When the illustrations build the story, rather than merely reflecting the words, it adds a layer of magic and delight to the book. But while it’s easy to recognize that pictures and words work together to make great stories, it’s sometimes hard to write a book designed to be accompanied by images (especially if you aren’t an illustrator). In order for pictures to help tell the story, the words have to leave enough unsaid.

As a beginning picture book writer, I struggle to leave details unsaid. My brain wants to describe everything, leaving no creative space for a future illustrator. The words feel like the heavy-lifters, so I don’t want to leave too much work for the pictures to do. I struggle with deciding what to show with my words, and what to leave for the pictures to tell.

What has helped me to look at my story drafts differently is reading picture-driven stories.

Picture-driven stories remind me that the words don’t have to do all the work. The illustrations are capable of taking on a larger role than I give them credit for.

One great example of this is Watersong by Tim McCanna. In this beautifully illustrated book, the words are entirely onomatopoeia. They are poetry, providing the sound track to the story told in the images. A fox runs through a storm, and though not a word is said about the fox, the reader is engaged by his experience.  The overall tone is heartwarming and satisfying. This is a story that had to be told in pictures; words simply could not have produced the same effect. Reading it reminded me that sometimes, simplicity in words creates the perfect atmosphere for imagination.

The opportunity pictures provide for imagination is even better seen in wordless picture books. I didn’t realize this genre existed until I began working at a library where patrons asked for help finding them. One fun example I found is Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman. (I was on a rainy-day kick this week). In this book, a young boy all alone in a big house finds a key, which leads him to explore and to find unexpected friends. Told in colorful images, the story guides the reader through the action and curiosity but leaves space for us to imagine as well. What is the boy feeling, thinking, saying? All that is left to our interpretation.

As a writer focused on words, reading a story without a single sentence in it lets me exercise a muscle I don’t usually use.

The advantage of reading books where the story is told mostly or entirely in images is that it trains my brain to think differently. They teach me to think in pictures. Suddenly, I’m not hearing my story being told; I’m seeing it. My narrative becomes a Pixar short film in my mind rather than a podcast.

Without steeping myself in the power of illustrations, it’s hard to let go of my pet narrations and descriptions. Cutting away the unnecessary details becomes easier when I’m reminded of the beauty of discovering the story visually. Wordless picture books like Rainstorm and picture-driven stories like Watersong help me to experience the capabilities of pictures. They teach me to be a better writer by showing me what I don’t need to write.

What are some of your favorite picture books? Do you think their stories are more word-driven or picture-driven?

 

Decisions, Decisions

Here’s a sneak peek at conference presenters with descriptions in their own words. We’ll be posting a teaser page each  Monday. You still have time to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount.

Visit: https://write2ignite.com/registration-2019/

 

Kim Peterson – Deepen Your Middle Grade & Young Adult Novels

In this hands-on workshop, explore how to make your MG and YA novels more compelling. First, determine your novel’s theme and learn ways to reveal that message to the readers, making it memorable. Then, get to know your characters better by deepening characterization: explore your characters’ goals, what motivates them to pursue those goals, and how conflict grows your characters as they overcome obstacles. Finally, transport your readers into your
novel’s setting. Whether your characters visit the past, the present, the future, or a new land, learn how to create a place your readers want to visit often.

 

Nancy Lohr – Read Like a Writer

Just as athletes watch game tapes to study other athletes, writers need to analyze the work of other writers. You should read widely and read well both for inspiration and instruction. Whether intuitively or intentionally, writers need to read with a different focus and greater awareness than the average reader does. This workshop will examine various techniques for reading like a writer.

Attention Teens! Carol Baldwin – Creating a Sensory Setting

The Lord has given us five senses. So, why do we just describe things which our characters see? In this hands-on workshop we’ll touch, taste, hear, smell, AND see things that our characters may experience in different settings.

 

 

 

How I Turned a Facebook Page Into a Weekly Storytelling Medium.

I  give you a box with an “ON” switch in the palm of your hand.
I then tell you to close your eyes and think about a couple of those
publishing ideas you’ve been kicking around. While your eyes are still closed, I task you to choose one of those ideas…the one story you feel most people have the most excitement for.

You choose that one topic and then you open your eyes! Now you immediately flip the switch and you discover that what you’ve actually launched with that switch was…your own weekly magazine with content based on the idea you chose! This magazine you just published is full color, distributed all over the nation and has an audience that loving greats you each week, ready to consume more content related to your story.

If something like this is real, it simply couldn’t be free. And it’s not. What it costs is a little time, in exchange for your first 1,000 readers. Attend “How I Turned a Facebook Page Into a Weekly Storytelling Medium” and you will leave with a roadmap that reflects how Tony converted a Facebook business page into a weekly publication with an audience of readers from 0 to 5,000 people. No tricks or internet shortcuts, but proven steps applied to a modern reading platform.

Samantha Bell – Polishing Your Picture Book

You finally have the text of your picture book down on paper. You’ve heard every manuscript should be revised, but yours is only a few hundred words long. What more could it need? You’ll find out in Polishing Your Picture Book! In this workshop, attendees may bring along a copy of their works-in-progress. As a group, we’ll read as many as time allows. Then we’ll consider ways to polish the manuscript to get it ready for submission. Even if your story is still in the idea stage, you’ll learn valuable tips for writing your own picture book!  

 

 

Daniel Blackaby – Tolkien, Lewis, & Christian Imagination

Daniel Blackaby

How would you feel if your best friends called your book “almost worthless” or a “carelessly written jumble”? This was J. R. R. Tolkien’s review of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The two dear friends are forever linked together as fathers of Christian fiction and Art, but each had a radically different idea of what Christian fiction should be. Their greatest legacy was not to establish a narrow template for Christian writers to follow, but to demonstrate that there is no template. In this seminar, Daniel Blackaby will explore these two vastly different approaches and showcase the great freedom you have as a Christian writer. 

 

Pitch Your Picture Book through a Twitter Party!

“For what event would you pack an ax, a vial of serum, and dog booties? Racing in the Iditarod! Find out what else mushers pack. #PBPitch #NF

“Jersey wishes she had spots like the other cows, so she knits herself a spotted sweater, and all the other cows want one too. #PBPitch #H

The above are just two of many pitches made to agents and editors during a past picture book Twitter party. If you have a Twitter account and a completed but unpublished picture book, join the fun of making your Twitter pitch! If you aren’t on Twitter, now’s the time to dive in and learn how to tweet so you can participate too!

Here are the rules:

  1. Be succinct. Twitter gives you only 140 characters to describe your story. You must include the hashtag #PBPitch so agents and editors can easily find your tweet.
  2. You may pitch each completed picture book twice: once before 2 p.m. and once after 2 p.m. (Your second tweet should be reworded slightly from the first.) The party lasts from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
  3. Likes and retweets should come only from agents and editors. That makes it easy for each author to see whether an agent or editor wants him or her to submit a manuscript for further consideration. So even if you want to show a fellow author some love for his or her picture book idea, don’t do it!
  4. You can include a genre hashtag if you have room. Here are some hashtags suggested by the PBPitch people: #F (for funny), #CD (for character driven), #NF (for nonfiction), #C (for concept), #L (for lyrical), #I (for interactive), and #FT (for fairy tale/folk tale).
  5. Illustrators can participate too! You must have a completed manuscript to go with the illustration you choose to share.

There are other pitch parties on Twitter, but this is the only one devoted to picture books. Participation is free and takes very little time, so what’ve you got to lose?

The next PBPitch party is scheduled for June 22, 2017, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST. You can learn more and read success stories at PBPitch.com. Good luck!

Ten Things NOT to Do When Writing a Picture Book

011Do you have a picture book in the works? If so, you know picture books are a lot harder to write than most people think. Whether you’re just starting to write your manuscript or are in the final stages of revision, here are some things not to do:

  1. Don’t write down to children. Children are smarter than we think! And since picture books are designed to be shared aloud with children, vocabulary and word choice don’t have to match reading levels.
  2. Don’t think about only the words. Illustrations are half of a picture book. The two should work together to create a story.
  3. Don’t write too much dialogue. Dialogue is difficult to illustrate.
  4. Don’t include too much description. Leave some room for the illustrator to work his or her magic with your manuscript.
  5. Don’t have a passive main character. Your main character needs to take action!
  6. Don’t have a parent or another adult resolve the conflict in the story. Your main character should be the problem solver.
  7. Don’t write stories about a dream. Endings where the main character wakes up to realize it was all a dream are often disappointing and unsatisfying to the reader.
  8. Don’t forget to include all elements of the plot. It’s a picture book, and it’s short, but it still needs to be engaging.
  9. Don’t send off your first draft. Or your second. Or your third. Polish it over and over until it shines!
  10. Don’t give up if you receive a rejection. Keep writing and submitting!

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