This fall, I’ll be teaching a workshop at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference (September 18th, San Luis Obispo) called “How to Craft Successful Picture Books”. In preparation for that, I’ve started to think about the key elements that many successful picture books share. Here’s a peek at four traits that I think are some of the most important (my workshop will cover additional traits):
- Rhythm and Repetition
- Lyrical language and pleasing rhythm are important, especially for younger picture books. Young children are mesmerized and enchanted by a predictable pattern of language which is easy for them to say and fun for them to hear.
- Pattern and/or repetition. Many successful picture books have a memorable refrain that’s repeated throughout, or repeated with a slight change each time. For example, Robert Munsch’s, Love You Forever, has the refrain: “I’ll love you forever/I’ll like you for always/As long as I’m living/My baby you’ll be.” It reappears throughout the book, but in a different context.
- Read-Aloud Appeal
- As picture books are most often read aloud by parents or teachers to children, strong read-aloud appeal is a must. Picture books are meant to be performed!
- Visual Interest and Illustration Opportunities
- Is there high illustration potential? Even if you only write (as opposed to write and illustrate) you should always be thinking about what the illustrations might look like. Leave room for the illustrations; don’t describe in the text what could be shown in the illustrations.
Will this story stand up to the 100th reading? Because children tend to want the same book read to them over and over again, they have to be something that a parent is going to want to read over 100 times.
If you happen to be going to the Central Coast Writers Conference this fall, please check out my workshop for even more on “how to craft successful picture books”. And bonus–you get to meet me! 😉
In the meantime, Happy Writing!