One Writer’s Journey

March 6, 2018

Picture Books: The Ending with a Twist

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:00 am
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Picture books may be short but that doesn’t mean they are easy to write.  In addition to leaving room for the illustrations, the author has to find a satisfying ending.  One way to do this is with a twist.  Some people call it the aha moment.  Just how you pull this off depends on the book.

In Laura Gehl’s Peep and Egg: I’m Not Using the Potty, the twist is one that will really appeal to the preschool reader. Throughout the book, Peep is trying to get Egg to use the potty.  Egg wants no part of it and only sits up there when she is about to pop and because she gets to hold the storytime book while Peep gets a second book.  The twist comes when Peep wants Egg to get down so that she can use the potty.  No thank you!  Egg has books to read.

This is the type of ending that young readers are going to really enjoy.  They are used to adults having all the power but here Egg has the power to make Peep wait and she’s doing exactly what Peep wanted.

Laura Gehl creates another twist in I Got a Chicken for My Birthday.  This one is a surprise because the reader thinks they see the twist coming.  Ana wanted to go to the amusement park but Abuela gave her a chicken. Throughout the book, we see Ana trying to do things for the chicken, but the chicken has a list.  She wants to eat cotton candy. She needs a bull dozer.  So yes, she builds an amusement park.  But the twist is Ana’s last line.  Next year she is asking Abuela for a trip to the moon.

This time young readers will love the twist because Ana has learned to play Abuela’s game.  Let’s see how abuela pulls this one off!

Another story with a twist is Dan Santat’s After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again.  Humpty Dumpty explains that after his fall, he just hasn’t had the courage to get on that wall even though he longs to once again sit among the birds.  One day he’s birdwatching from the ground when he sees a paper airplane fly past.  Soon he’s making a birdlike plane.  But, as luck would have it, the plane lands on top of the wall.  Humpty has to face his fears to recover his plane.  The twist?  Not that he finds the courage but as he stands on top of the wall his shell cracks again, revealing feathers.  Humpty is turning into a bird.

This is the one that I would call an aha moment because it is more than just a surprise.  It involves emotion and heart.

There isn’t one formula for a twist or aha ending.  How you pull it off will depend entirely on your story.  Study successful books to see what they do.  Then experiment with your own stories.  Like Humpty, it will likely take you multiple attempts to soar.



February 26, 2015

Writing Picture Books: Make Your Ending Personal

Front cover for 'Home' by Carson Ellis – published by Candlewick Press

Carson Ellis found the perfect ending for his story when he brought it all home.

Recently I read an interview with Carson Ellis on Picturebook Makers.   She was talking about her new picture book Home.  Because she is an illustrator, she sketched out her ideas for the majority of the book before she had an editor.  She tells about how most of the sketches made it into the book with little change.

The one spread that gave her trouble was the final page.  How to tie this book about homes in their many forms all together?  It worked when she showed the readers the studio where she created the book.  It worked when she made it personal.

When we talk about picture book writing and how to end the book, we often talk about an AHA moment.  The idea is that you need to find a way to end the book that will make the reader say aha.

This is a concept I’ve always had some difficulty grasping.  What if my aha moment is different from your aha moment?

When I read this interview, it hit me.  Ellis is talking aha moment — the moment that sticks with the reader because she has made the book personal.

How can you make the ending of your book personal for your reader?  Part of it will depend on what you are writing.  At the moment, I am working on a nonfiction picture book on prayer.  Throughout the book, I give examples of how people pray all over the world.  Right now, the ending emphasizes this diversity.  Now I’m left wondering if it would work better if I brought it home.  How do I pray?

You can also make a nonfiction ending personal by issuing a call to action – here is what you can do. . . Or you can challenge your reader to be the next pioneer in the field.

With fiction, create a spread that ties into an emotion that will call out to your reader.  This can be home or family and security.  Again, it will depend on your story.

If you are working on a picture book, give your ending some thought.  Do you currently bring the ending home?


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