Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Let’s Talk Picture Books, Part 2

Show, don’t tell. In picture books, illustrations show the action so the writer needs to use words to convey emotions and reveal the action, rather than describing what is happening. If the illustrations show the action, little description is needed. Example: Jasper is riding a bicycle in the illustration. Description of the bicycle and Jasper can be eliminated from the narrative and dialog.

Action verbs are our friends. These verbs-slither, crawl, jump, throw-focus on the action rather than description. Avoid overuse of adjectives and adverbs because they describe what is happening. The mantra for picture book writers is “Think visually.” Unless we create art for our books, which I don’t, it can be a difficult task for writers to think of the action in terms of pictures as opposed to narrative description and to omit the parts an illustrator will include. Consider moving the plot forward with action via dialog, strong verbs, and character behavior.
Word choice is key to a picture book and, for me, the most fun in writing. I usually just get the bones of the story in place from beginning to end—the hard part. Once I’m over that hurdle, it’s playtime. I love taking a plain, unemotional, flat sentence and turning it on its dull little head, bounce it around, and see what falls into place. Alliteration, rhythm, similes, and metaphors are word play writers use to be creative with language designed for a particular audience. Tickle the words; tease them; poke and prod them. Enjoy the process. If you’re having fun, you’ll more likely to finish the manuscript and write more.
Next week, we’ll talk more picture books.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Figment. An online writing community from HarperCollins Publishing for writers 13 years old and older to share young adult fiction, short stories, and poetry, give and receive feedback, and enter contests.
Submission guidelines at

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Dialogual is a new magazine seeking submissions year-round on dialogue-only prose.
We seek works on all genres, except erotica. Under 300 words. However, we do not take anything that has been accepted before, or that has appeared on blogs or similar sites. In other words, we want fresh material.
Send your snappiest, wittiest, funniest talks.
Or the ones you think will make us wonder, ponder and think about life.
It can be fiction or non-fiction.  

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