NAPIBOWRIWEE 2015 – DAY FOUR: Character & Plot
This is when the burnout happens. Day 4 is always the toughest for our NAPIBOWRIWEE writers because it’s the halfway point. Plus it’s MONDAY. All that weekend writing wore everyone out! And if you have a day job, you lose a whole day of writing because you’re back in the office! So this is where I stop being nice and get tough…. KEEP WRITING! DON’T GIVE UP! YOU CAN DO IT! ON YOUR FEET, WRITING SOLDIER! 🙂
There. I hope I didn’t scare you. 🙂
Speaking of scaring you, don’t be scared by this rather lengthy blog! We not only have more fabulous advice from our week-long guest-editor-in-residence, AMY CHERRIX, but we have extra writing advice from published picture book author/illustrator ERIN EITTER KONO!
MY DAY THREE EXPERIENCE: Well, I got Book 3 done! I forced myself to do another Nite Owl Writing Session because Sunday was busier than I had anticipated. I was invited by my friend, the wonderful published picture book author & illustrator ERIN EITTER KONO to see a music recital. As a violinist myself, I love going to classical music recitals. It inspires me to keep practicing! We saw the amazing concert violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn perform some of my favorite pieces – Vitali’s “Chaconne in g moll‘ and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 (the “Kreutzer”). Elizabeth plays on the famous 1720 Stradivarius known as the “Red Mendelssohn” which inspired the movie The Red Violin. It was a beautiful performance!
What does all this music have to do with NAPIBOWRIWEE? Well, it inspired me to stay up late and work on a violin-inspired picture book poem! Again, like all first drafts, it was very rough but I enjoyed writing it. I can’t wait to go back and revise this one.
And… drum roll… as a special surprise… I have an extra prize for this year’s contest! This year’s contest includes souvenirs from our NAPIBOWRIWEE STORE as well as signed books from yours truly. But I also have a bonus prize… a signed copy of ERIN EITTER KONO’s latest book, CATERINA AND THE BEST BEACH DAY, coming out from Dial Books this May 19, 2015!
Erin gracious donated a copy that she signed personally for a future NAPIBOWRIWEE winner.
EXTRA NAPIBOWRIWEE WRITING TIP: After the violin recital, Erin and I talked about what it’s like for an illustrator to be assigned to illustrate a picture book writer’s text. She brought up some great points about the importance of emotional writing. Beginning picture book writers tend to over-describe the visual aspects of their story, when that’s really the illustrator’s job. The illustrations should enhance and develop beyond what the text says. Even if you have to describe something with words, make the description more visceral than visual so the artist has more to play with. Here’s what Erin had to say…
ERIN EITTER KONO’S ADVICE:
“I think what’s important for new picture book authors to understand is that in the best examples of picture books the words move the story along or convey emotion on a different layer than the illustrations do. The text doesn’t need to describe what is going on in the illustrations and the illustrations should add more to the story than merely repeating what is in the text. As the writer it’s important to leave enough space for the illustrator to collaborate.”
For more info on the amazing ERIN EITTER KONO, you can visit her website here: http://www.eekono-illustration.com She’s also been a guest blogger for NAPIBOWRIWEE events in past years. If you want to check out those archives, here are the links: https://paulayoo.com/napibowriwee-2013-day-7-guest-blogger-erin-eitter-kono-may-7-2013/ and https://paulayoo.com/napibowriwee-day-one-guest-author-blog-erin-eitter-kono/
Please post your progress for Day 4 in today’s comments!
Reminder: I am posting daily blogs from May 1-7, 2015 at 6 AM PST (9 AM EST) here at https://paulayoo.com/category/napibo/ Our contest drawing results will be posted on May 8, 2015 featuring fun prizes from our NAPIBOWRIWEE STORE (link: http://www.cafepress.com/paulayoonapibowriweeclassic), autographed copies of my books, other surprise prizes as well as ONE free picture book manuscript critique from professional editor/author AMY CHERRIX, who is also our guest-in-residence for this year’s event! (You can follow Amy on Twitter @acherrix and her website is here: http://slushpilepress.com)
The theme for this year is EDITORIAL NUTS & BOLTS as Amy answers our questions about writing and the publishing industry. For today’s blog on “Character & Plot,” I asked Amy for her advice on creating characters and storylines. Here’s what she had to say:
QUESTION: What makes for an effective picture book plot? What types of characters work for you in picture book?
AMY CHERRIX SAYS: “Picture book plots, like their narratives work best when they are uncluttered. Consider Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. It’s a book about two kids digging a hole, but the art and text make it about so much more. Keep plots simple and leave room in the narrative for the artist to contribute, too. When it comes to character, the mantra is: show don’t tell. It’s the hardest part of writing picture books, but it’s what separates the mediocre from the memorable. What does your main character feel? Don’t tell me “she is sad.” Instead, drop her into a scene and show my what made her sad. It makes her authentic and relatable, two things that matter to kids. They are brilliant phony-detectors.”
Thanks again, Amy, for your editorial advice on Character and Plot in picture books. Everyone, let’s make sure we don’t get caught by what Amy calls “the brilliant phony-detectors.” 🙂
As for me, I also believe character EQUALS plot. You can’t have one without the other. Whenever I am brainstorming story ideas, I have a checklist:
1. Is this storyline really exciting and cool and original? If yes, then…
2. Is this storyline inspired by something my character would do because my character is also equally exciting and cool and original? If yes, then…
3. Does this storyline cause the reader to experience a super exciting and cool and original EMOTIONAL REACTION because they care about the fate of my exciting and cool and original character who is in the middle of an exciting and cool and original storyline? If yes, then…
My story is working. 🙂 You’ll notice that you cannot have a cool and exciting and original storyline if your character is not equally cool and exciting and original. Because the character’s CHOICES and EMOTIONAL REACTIONS and DESIRES all take him/her on their adventure.
If you would like to study more about how to write compelling storylines and create engaging characters, I highly recommend these writing books:
Well, time to leave the Blogging Batcave and head back into the Writing Batcave. Remember to follow me on Twitter @paulayoo for updates. I will post tomorrow’s Day 5 Blog on May 5, 2015 at 6 AM PST/9 AM EST here with thoughts from our guest AMY CHERRIX about her OWN experience going from book editor to book author with her upcoming non-fiction book, LANDFALL: THE HURRICANE SCIENTISTS, as part of the award-winning Scientists in the Field series, coming out this Spring 2017 from Houghton Mifflin.
Until then, remember… HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂