Tip of the Week: When writing a children’s book, your plot must have action.

In an adult book, the character can spend the entire 80k words of the novel watching a raindrop run down the outside of a window. While he watches this drop, he has a great epiphany about his life inspired by about 50 flashbacks of his childhood in which nothing happens except verbal fights with his father. Still, this book wins a bunch of awards and is a NYTimes bestseller. So now, we need to change the hero’s age to 17 and republish this book as a YA right?

Absolutely not. I can’t imagine anything more boring, and I’m an adult. Just imagine those hyperactive, short attention-spanned, stereotypical kids trying to stay interested in a book that takes the first five pages to describe the color of the water on the window. Kids and a lot of adults require books that have things that happen. There’s a reason why Holy Blood, Holy Grail was a bestseller, but DaVinci Code was a bestseller many times over despite both of them having the same controversial premise. (Okay, one was a nonfiction and the other a fiction, so there not entirely comparable, but you understand my point.)

So give your characters stuff to experience. Introspection may be good for the soul, but it’s boring if it’s the only thing your character does. (This is especially true in picture books. The illustrator has to have something to illustrate. You can’t have the same pictures on every page.)

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
%d bloggers like this: