Friday, January 11, 2013

Plot Line of a Picture Book

I'm revitalizing an old post I did for a group blog a few years back, partially for my reference. A bit of useful information for any of you out there wanting to write a picture book.

If you are an illustrator like me, one of your ultimate goals is to write your own story to illustrate. Being trained in illustration and not children's writing, I love getting any helpful hints I can get. Here is a great one I learned from a writer.

Get a blank piece of paper and fold it in half.
Fold it in half again.
And again.
And one more time.
Now unfold your piece of paper. You now have 16 squares.
Number each square 1-16.

As you probably may know, most trade picture books have 32 pages, or 16 spreads- so each square will represent a spread of your book. As you have probably guessed, each square represents a spread (two pages). The following guidelines are what many good children's books go by. Remember they are just guidelines- this formula is not always used and it can be very flexible, but it's a good starting ground. Write these things in the boxes as follows:

In box #1 write: Character and setting. This is where the characters and setting are introduced to us. This is also developed in box 2 and 3.

In box #4 write: Problem shows up. This is where we start to see our conflict.

In box #5 write: Action- characters make 2 attempts to solve problem and fail. This part of the story is developed from spread 5-11.

In box #12 write: Crisis happens and everything falls apart.

In box #13 write: Feelings and reaction to crisis.

In box #14-15 write: Third attempt to solve problem and final resolution.

And then finally in box #16 write: Character's reaction to success. Sometimes here you can also add a small surprise or often times you can have the conflict starting all over again in a humorous way.

Also remember that in almost all children's picture books, there is a happy ending, or at least a hope for things to go better. So keep that in mind.

Hopefully this is a good help to you visual learners out there who would like to write your own stories.


Scott Wiser said...

Great Breakdown, Shawna. So I was in my mother-in-law's room the other night and saw your name on a book ... it took me a second, but I quickly grabbed it and flipped though. Cool to see your work ... I also didn't know you are LDS.

Shawna Tenney said...

Haha! Cool, Scott! Yes, indeed I am LDS, and I live in Utah too- I think I saw that you live in Utah also. What part of Utah do you live in?

LACI said...

Thank you for sharing this! This is all I needed! I am going to use it, and starting to make my own picturebook right now!
Keep coming this great tutorials! I learned from you a lot!
Thanks again: LACI

Luanne Marten said...

Thanks Shawna, this is great!