Thursday, July 3, 2008

An Idea Takes Shape! by DL Larson

Last week I talked about Disney and sea turtles hatching along the coastal beaches of Florida. From that simple vacation tale sprang an idea for a children's book. So I did a little research on sea turtles, plus the techniques used for writing children's books.

I already have the premise of my story, a dab of make-believe wrapped up in the life cycle of the sea turtle. I've decided a picture book would work best to tell the story I have in mind.

Mama turtle swims along the shore, waiting for the tide to rise.

Using a storyboard technique, two pages facing open, I can better comprehend the flow of my story. Most picture books are 32 pages, with only a sentence or two on each page. I will write the words first but I'll keep in mind the different colors needed on the page, as well as the drawing that will enhance the two-page spread.

With the one statement above, I've already decided if this will be a character driven story or plot driven. Action will further move the story along. Kids want to be involved with the stories read to them. Even with brilliant illustrations, the words need to draw a picture in each child's mind.

The bright moon shines on the sandy beach and a big blue wave carries her to shore.

The thing about many Disney books, is there are too many words on each page. I've discussed this with other librarians and we are left wondering how Disney sells so many books, when most are too long to read in one setting. The goal for most authors of children's books is to have the book read in a short period of time. In this book, my book, I want to accomplish that too.

Another decision I have to make is what message do I want to deliver via my story. Is this topic strong enough to have a cause? A moral message? Perhaps educating others would be best. Or is this book just for fun and to develop a love of the written word? My story can have more than one purpose as long as it isn't presented in a heavy-handed manner. Nobody wants to be preached to, even small children.

So I've completed my first spread of pages. I'll continue on in this fashion, keeping in mind the final layout of the book in my mind. And just when I think I'm finished ... it will be time for editing! I'll undoubtedly have mistakes, too many words or not enough pages. I'll evaluate the flow of the story, examine the wording and tighten up the text. I may add a glossary. Kids love discovering the meaning behind new words. In my first line I've already discovered many children may not know what a rising tide is - it would be fun to explain that. I might even add pictures of the many sea turtles. The possibilities are endless.

All within 32 pages, of course.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

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