4 Things You Need to Know to Write Picture Books

This week, I’m revisiting a picture book manuscript.  Considering the fact that the last manuscript I finished was nonfiction for teens and tweens and this is a fictional picture book, that’s a big jump.  So I’ve been looking for ways to refresh my picture book savvy.  Thankfully I found a series of video lectures by author Julie Hedlund.  Here are a few things that I’m having to consider.

Character Growth.  Even though a picture book is simpler than a novel, your character has a goal.  Through meeting this goal, or failing, your character grows or changes in a believable way.  That’s not the case in this particular book, but fortunately Hedlund also has a video on …

Flat-arc Characters.  In a picture book with a flat character arc, instead of changing themselves, the character changes their world.  Think the Little Red Hen (everyone else learns a lesson) or Johnny Appleseed (Johnny changes the face of the farms he visits). Neither one of these describes what I’m working on but I suspect mine might be what Hedlund calls…

Subversive.  This is a picture book that goes against what is considered normal for this type of literature.  It isn’t sweet.  It isn’t cute.  Quite often it is funny.  I’m going to have to look into these types of picture books but I think this describes my story.

Word play.  One of the things I love adding to a picture book manuscript is word play.  A picture book is meant to be read aloud and that means it has to sound fun. Ann Whitford Paul discusses this in her book, Writing Picture Books.  Whether you write in rhyme, use alliteration, or employ onomatopoeia, you have to create something that is fun to read aloud.

I haven’t watched all of Hedlund’s videos and there is always something more to learn from Paul’s book.  What are your favorite learning tools when you are working on a picture book manuscript?