Every once in a while, someone brings a manuscript to critique and says “I’m not sure if its a picture book or a magazine piece.” Until you know, you can’t do much more than rough it out. Here are some key differences between picture books and magazine stories.
- Printed in approx. 14 spreads.
- Each spread must present a new action, emotion, combination of characters, setting or mood.
- Each spread must include something to illustrate.
- A picture book is meant to be read aloud.
- Keep visual discription to a minimum. This is the illustrator’s territory.
- The illustrations tell part of the story.
- Much more variable in length.
- Can take place in a single setting.
- You can use more dialogue than in a picture book (illustrators don’t want to painting talking heads).
- You can be more discriptive.
- Text has to convey the entire story because the illustrations won’t do half the job.
Picture books and magazine stories can both be written for similar age groups (preschoolers). They can be about similar subjects (animals or holidays or shapes). They can both by mysteries or they can make you laugh out loud.
How they do it is going to vary depending on your form. You might be able to rough the story out before you make a decision but you cannot take it to final until you know where you are going.