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Posts Tagged ‘Princess in Training’

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The Art of Arc picture book writing course Cyber Monday sale ends on Sunday, December 5.

WHAT DOES YOUR MAIN CHARACTER BELIEVE? DISCOVERING THE TRUTH

by Alayne Kay Christian

On Wednesday, I shared a bonus post where I talked about your main character’s want vs need. If you missed it, click here. I want to expand on character’s motivation just a little bit. Another way to approach this is to ask yourself what your character believes in the beginning and what she believes in the end after she has experienced her story journey. Some people find their character’s beliefs by thinking in terms of lie and truth. What is the lie that your character believes in the beginning? And what is the truth that your character discovers in the end?

Sometimes it works to think of the lie as motivation (the fuel that moves the character forward through the story) and the truth as the story goal (the thing that creates change.)

So, following the want and need post, with the lie and truth method, there is only a small shift in the way one might look at the story they are writing. But I figure that small shift may be the thing that hits home for some writers. And once it hits home, they will find growth in their writing.

As I did in the last post, I challenge you to grab a stack of books and see if you can find stories that start with one belief (a lie) and end with a new belief (the truth). Very often, what the main character believes in the beginning of the story leads the character to the belief that transforms her by the end of the story. Just as with the want and need, knowing the truth/belief that will be revealed at the end before you start writing will be your guiding light in writing the rest of the story.

Think “before” and “after”. Who was your character when she first stepped over the inciting incident threshold into the story world? And who is she when he steps over his darkest moment into his turning point and new world?

Not all picture books have the lie and truth with a change in the character’s belief thing going on. But I urge you to analyze as many picture books as possible to see what you discover in this area. Also, consider analyzing your own stories to see if you already have it. If your story isn’t built around lie/truth/beliefs, offering that to your character might leave you surprised at the transformation you created in your own story.

FOLLOWING ARE SOME EXAMPLES

Using the same books as I did for want and need, and then adding some, I will talk about lie and truth.

NO BEARS ALLOWED by Lydia Lukidis and illustrated by Tara J. Hannon is a perfect example. In the beginning, Rabbit believes the lie that all bears are scary and will eat rabbits. In the end, Rabbit discovers the truth that some bears aren’t scary at all and they can actually make good friends.

NUGGET AND FANG by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Michael Slack is similar to NO BEARS ALLOWED. In the beginning, Nugget believes the lie that he can no longer be friends with his best friend Fang because sharks are toothy and scary. And they eat minnows! In the end, Nugget discovers the truth. Sometimes minnows and sharks can be friends.

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLEDO CHRISTMAS WEED written by me and illustrated by Polina Gortman.

In the beginning, Weed believes the lie that being seen or noticed will make him feel more important than an unseen weed. But would satisfying that belief have been enough to keep the story going in an active and compelling way? Would it have transformed Weed in any way on a deeper level by the end of the story? Or would he remain the same Weed that is just a little happier for a moment until he starts feeling “unseen” again? Would that have been the best message to offer readers? Would it have been the most satisfying ending? I think not.

What if, through his story journey Weed discovers the truth. It is much more satisfying to look outside himself and see others instead. In discovering the truth, Weed doesn’t only experience a change within himself; he effects positive change all around him. Even though Weed never gets to see it, in the end, he is more important than he ever imagined. And this is what the reader gets to see and understand. So, the lie that Weed believes fuels him to move forward in the story, but the truth that he discovers through his struggle to protect his belief in the lie is the real heart of the story.

BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA by me and illustrated by Joni Stringfield

In the beginning, the lie that Emily believes is the only way to feel close to her grandparents is to live closer to them, but since this isn’t possible, she must change in some way. She discovers the truth when she learns a way to feel close to her grandparents even when they are miles away from her.

PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Joe Berger

In the beginning, Princess Viola believes the lie that the only way to be a princess is to be a “proper” princess and the darling of the kingdom. But in order to experience real change she must discover the truth. The only way she can be Princess Viola is to be true to herself. There’s more than one way to be the darling of the kingdom. And once the truth is revealed, she can let go of the belief that created her struggles throughout the story.

JEREMY DRAWS A MONSTER by Peter McCarty

In the beginning, it’s not clear what Jeremy wants, but the illustration gives a sense that he wouldn’t mind going outside where all the other kids are. So, I’m going to guess that the lie he believes is that he is better off staying inside by himself. Then it seems he wants to keep the monster he draws happy. But even more important, he wants to get rid of the monster, which leads Jeremy outside. And though the story seems like it’s about imagination and fun and games, what it’s really about is Jeremy discovering the truth that there’s a world outside that just might be better than a safe and lonely room where imagination is his only friend.

'Tis the season!

The holiday season is a perfect time for penguins. An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin makes a beautiful Christmas gift for your favorite child or teacher, or to donate to your library, Toys for Tots or other “giving” opportunities and places. Below you will find a video about the true story followed by the book trailer.

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All books Christmas

CHRISTMAS GIFT AND STOCKING STUFFER IDEAS ABOVE!

I promised a bonus post for writing effective endings. So, here it is. If you missed the Kid-Lit Writing Wisdom team’s free three-part mini-course, click on the following links Part 1, part 2, part 3.

Bonus Post

YOU JUST MIGHT GET WHAT YOU NEED

by Alayne Kay Christian

As authors, teachers, and critique writers, we talk a lot about what the main character wants. We ask, “What is his goal or desire?” And sometimes, we think about what he needs that drives the story. I challenge you to grab a stack of books and see if you can find stories that have both a want and a need. Very often, what the main character thinks he wants in the beginning of the story isn’t what he needs to transform by the end of the story. But his “want” is what motivates him to take action and move forward in the story. And most often, the main character nor the reader really knows what that need is until the turning point in the story. But as a writer, it is super helpful to know the need before you start writing your story. Knowing the need that will be revealed in the end will be your guiding light in writing the rest of the story.

Your character’s want is usually something he is seeking externally. And while the need is usually shown in the end as something external/physical, it stems from something internal. This is where what I call the turning point comes in. He has a realization, change in thinking, change of heart—whatever it might be—that causes him to think differently about his approach to things. Then he takes action on that new way of thinking. Once the character gets what he needs, he is a changed person who likely views his problem/goal or the world around him a little differently from that point on.

Think “before” and “after.” Who was your character when he first stepped over the inciting incident threshold into the story world? And who is he when he steps over his darkest moment into his turning point and new world? How has he changed in the end?

Sometimes it works to think of “want” as motivation (the fuel that moves the character forward through the story) and the “need” as the true story goal (the thing that creates change.)

Not all picture books have this “want” “need” thing going on. But I urge you to analyze as many picture books as possible to see what you discover in this area. Also, consider analyzing your own stories to see if you already have it. If your story only has a “want,” might it strengthen your story to give your character a need as well?

FOLLOWING ARE SOME EXAMPLES

THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLEDO CHRISTMAS WEED written by Alayne Kay Christian and illustrated by Polina Gortman.

In the beginning, Weed wants nothing more than to be seen or noticed. But would achieving that in the end have transformed him in any way on a deeper level? Or would he remain the same Weed that is just a little happier for a moment until he starts feeling “unseen” again? Would that have been the best message to offer readers? Would it have been the most satisfying ending? I think not.

What if, what Weed needs is to look outside himself and see others instead? In doing so, Weed doesn’t only experience a change within himself; he effects positive change all around him. So, his want fuels him to move forward in the story, but the need that he discovers through his struggle to get what he wants is the real heart of the story.

BUTTERFLY KISSES FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA written by Alayne Kay Christian and illustrated by Joni Stringfield

In the beginning, Emily wants to live closer to her grandparents, but since this isn’t possible, she must change in some way. She needs a way to feel close to her grandparents even when they are miles away from her.

PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Joe Berger

In the beginning, Princess Viola wants to be a proper princess and the darling of the kingdom. But what she needs in order to experience real change in the end is to be true to herself. And once this need is revealed, her want is satisfied as well (but not exactly how she expected it).

MOSTLY MONSTERLY by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott Magoon

In the beginning, Bernadette wants to make friends and fit in. But what she needs is to be true to herself in a way that also gets her what she wants. And once this need is revealed, her want is satisfied as well.

JEREMY DRAWS A MONSTER by Peter McCarty

In the beginning, it’s not clear what Jeremy wants, but the illustration gives a sense that he wouldn’t mind going outside where all the other kids are. Then it seems he wants to keep the monster he draws happy. But, even more important, to get rid of the monster. And though the story seems like it’s about imagination and fun and games, what it’s really about is Jeremy’s need to leave his apartment/room and make friends. And everything that happens in the story, eventually leads Jeremy to what he needs.

SAM AND EVA by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

In the beginning, Sam wants to draw solo. Eva wants to draw with him. But until they get what they need, which is to cooperate as a team, drawing isn’t quite what they wish for.

'Tis the season!

Even though, THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS: THE MOSTLY TRUE TALE OF THE TOLDEDO CHRISTMAS WEED is a great book all year round, I learned that people tend to buy it at Christmastime, which means I only benefit from sales once a year (if I’m lucky). It’s currently on sale at Amazon for 43% off. Following is a two-minute YouTube video about the inspiring true story of the Toledo Christmas Weed, which is followed by the book trailer. A lovely Christmas gift for your favorite child or teacher, or to donate to your library. I give books to Toys for Tots. How many copies could you buy to donate at this great sale price?

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sub six series 2

When submitting a manuscript, you want to submit your best work. One way to make your story shine is by learning from others. Marcie Flinchum Atkins shows us how to study other authors’ picture books to improve our craft. Thanks, Marcie, for this lesson in using character-driven picture books as mentor texts. Click on the images of the printables to get PDFs.

Using Character-Driven Picture Books as Mentor Texts to Improve Your Own Writing

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

What is a Mentor Text?

A mentor text is a stellar text that is used as an example of good writing technique. If you study a mentor text, not just reading it as a reader, but reading it as a writer, you can improve your own writing. It’s like learning from the experts.

Professional athletes watch the techniques of others in their field. Artists look at the paintings of others artists and study HOW they created that work of art. Writers should be no different. We can read for pleasure, and we should. But reading with a writer’s eye is critical in improving at your craft.

The Most Important Thing

We can read and read and study phenomenal books for kids, but if we never apply what we’ve learned to our writing, then it’s not much help. Let me give you an example, when I teach kids about using sensory words in their writing, we spend time looking for how authors incorporate sensory language into their writing to help the reader really feel like they are experiencing the story. However, the most important piece of this lesson is giving kids time to actually try it out. After we’ve learned about it, we take a piece of writing that they are already working on and we try to find places to add sensory details. This is the application part.

As a writer for children, we need to do this too. If you are having trouble creating endings for your picture books (I have this problem), the first thing to do is to study a lot of different ways to end it by looking at real books. But the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to TRY IT OUT in your own manuscript. You may have to try many different ones before you nail it, but you must try it.

Character-Driven Picture Books
In this particular “Mentor Texts for Writers” session we are going to take a closer look at character-driven picture books.

What is a character-driven picture book?

The focus of the picture book is on the character and, in most cases, something unique that that character has/does/is.

If you want a great definition and examples of character-driven picture books see Pam Calvert’s website: WOVEN WITH PIXIE DUST.

Why Character-Driven Picture Books?

I read a lot about what agents and editors want because I’m still looking for an agent and/or an editor. Something that I keep seeing over and over again in their wish lists is CHARACTER-DRIVEN PICTURE BOOKS.

I have some character-driven picture books in my work-in-progress stack, but I know they are not quite there yet. So I set out to study them—what makes them character-driven and what were some of the common characteristics.

The Process:

1) Look for books in the area where you need work. In this case, character-driven picture books.

How did I find the picture books I wanted to study?

Trust me, I don’t have the time the go to the library and scan the shelves. I do a little bit of online research and I ordered them on my library’s online catalog.

Book Cover Mosaic

I did scan my kids’ bookshelves. I asked my friend Google: “character-driven picture books.” This led me to a few.

Amazon.com Amazon has this awesome feature that shows you what other books people bought who bought the same book you searched for. Sometimes it’s not helpful, but most of the time, it’s a goldmine.

Screenshot of Amazon

I narrowed my study to ONLY books that were written and illustrated by two different people because I’m a writer only. There are a ton of great character-driven picture books by author/illustrators (OLIVIA by Ian Falconer and MR. TIGER GOES WILD are just two great examples from author/illustrators). But so much of their books are revealed through the pictures, so I knew if I wanted to study writing technique, I’d need to look at books written and illustrated by different people.

2) Read those books.

First I read them just to read them—mostly to myself or to my own kids. I made some notes about things I noticed about them as a genre.

Things that I noticed:

  • Many of the character driven books are author/illustrator books
  • Girl characters outweigh boy characters by a LOT (note to self: hole in the market). There are some boy characters, but many of them upon reading them are not about the character, they are all about action. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Some of them have turned into franchises or multiple book deals and branching into other areas. For example, Fancy Nancy has multiple books and now is in beginning readers. Pinkalicious has brought about Purplicious and many others.
  • Many of them are stand alone titles and are really good all by themselves.

3) Pick a handful of the ones you thought worked really well. You probably will not LOVE all of them. But really delve deeper into the ones that you wouldn’t mind reading again and again.

I have provided a printable form as a guide for some of the things you might want to notice.

screenshot of character analysis chart blank

Screenshot of Explanation Slide

Here’s one that I filled out for LITTLE HOOT by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Screenshot of Little Hoot analysis

4) The form I created is only ONE way you could study your favorite texts. Here are some more ideas:

Photo of Ribbit with sticky notes

5) Apply what you learned to your own writing

REMEMBER: This is the most important part. There are a number of ways you could apply it to your own writing, but a lot of it depends on where you are in your writing.

  • BRAINSTORMING. If you are just thinking about a new book but haven’t drafted it yet, this is a great time to brainstorm more about your character.
  • ANALYSIS OF A CURRENT DRAFT. If you have been noodling around with a character-driven picture book draft(s), and you can’t put your finger on what’s working or not working, it might be time to analyze your draft to see where you can improve.

I’ve created a printable for you to insert your own idea or analyze your own draft.

Screenshot of brainstorming chart blank

If you want some suggestions for character-driven picture books (written by different authors and illustrators), here is a list.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BIG MEAN MIKE by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

DESMOND AND THE NAUGHTYBUGS by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Anik McGrory

FANCY NANCY by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

LADYBUG GIRL by David Soman, illustrated by Jacky Davis

LITTLE HOOT by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

MY NAME IS NOT ISABELLA by Jennifer Fosberry, illustrations by Mike Litwin

PART-TIME PRINCESS by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cambria Evans

PINKALICIOUS by Victoria Kann, illustrated by Elizabeth Kann

PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Joe Berger

PRINCESS PEEPERS by Pam Calvert, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning

THE RECESS QUEEN by Alexis O’Neill, illustrated by Laura Hauliska-Beith

RIBBIT! By Rodrigo Folgueira, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

SPOON by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

TALLULAH’S TUTU by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

VAMPIRINA BALLERINA by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Le Uyen Pham

THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier

If you’d like a printable PDF of this list click here.

I’d love to know how this exercise worked for you. Leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail (MARCIE [AT] MARCIEATKINS [DOT] COM).

What are your favorite character-driven picture books? I want to study more of them (preferably ones written and illustrated by different people). Leave a comment below to tell us your favorite character-driven picture book.

Want More Information on Mentor Texts?

If you want more information about how I use mentor texts in my classroom, you can visit my website and/or sign up for my teacher useletter. I also do workshops on teaching with mentor texts in the classroom.

If you want more information about using mentor texts as a writer, you should watch the webinar I did with the WOW Nonfiction Picture Book group. I also created a resource page to go along with that webinar with links and printables.

Bio:

marcie 15 for web small

Marcie Flinchum Atkins teaches fourth graders how to write by day and writes her own books for kids in the wee hours of the morning. She can also be found wrangling her own kids and reading books with them. She blogs about making time to write and using mentor texts at www.marcieatkins.com. Marcie holds a MA and MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University.

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