HOW TO WRITE STORY BOOKS WITH PICTURES
What Makes a Good Story Book With Pictures?
A storybook with pictures is a very unique type of book. The best ones are a perfect symbiosis of words and pictures, each element supporting, furthering, or deepening the story in some way. Storybooks with pictures are mostly for children. Pictures help children understand what they are reading and allow young readers to analyze the story. Picture books help develop story sense. They are multi-sensory, which aids a child’s growing mind and stimulates their imagination
The best picture books have several key elements:
- A unique story. A unique story or a unique take on a familiar theme is what often gets an editor’s or agent’s attention.
- The text and illustrations work together to tell the story: For a writer, this means looking at every sentence, every phrase, and asking if it can be better served in an illustration.
- Illustrations that are colorful, varied, and full of movement: Successful picture books surprise the reader by the art on the next page — whether it’s by using an unexpected image for humor, or using a different perspective, or using mixed media in ways artists haven’t done before, etc.
- Lovable, identifiable characters: Kids read picture books to see other kids (or kid-friendly characters) accomplish big things.
- Universal appeal: The book carrying a universal appeal will connect more with the readers.
- Humor. Funny picture books that take a new/unique look at something old do wonderfully well.
- Pattern and/or repetition: Some books are successful because of a refrain that kids like to hear repeated.
- Re-readability: Because picture books have to be read to the child by the parent and children tend to want the same book read to them over and over again. Part of re-readability is the visual interest in the illustrations, which is why an illustrator will put a small visual subplot for readers to notice perhaps on their second or third reading. The other part of re-readability comes from some of the elements above — either a refrain, or humor, or wordplay.
How to Write Story Books with Pictures?
It might be tempting to think that writing a children’s picture book is easier than writing a full-length novel. However, a picture book requires all the same major storytelling elements that a novel does just in a much smaller space.
- Come up with your idea: Successful picture books are the ones that strike the right balance between appealing to two different audiences: while a picture book is intended for children, it’s ultimately the parents who decide whether or not to buy it — or to read it aloud. Luckily, coming up with an idea for your picture book is essentially the same as coming up with an idea for any book, for any age category. It’s how you present that idea that will differ.
- Identify your reading category: Picture book reading categories, including reading ages, word count, and examples as mentioned before, the way you tell your story should depend on the intended reading age of your children’s picture book. This includes everything from illustrations and marketing, to almost every other aspect of your book.
- Work out your narrative voice: Even though many kids can read to themselves by the time they’ve graduated to the picture book and early reader categories, all books that rely heavily on illustrations are often still read aloud. That’s why rhyming in children’s books is pretty common — it creates a fun and engaging vocal storytelling experience. Besides prose that sounds good out loud, there are several other factors to keep in mind regarding the narrative style of your picture book:
- Vocabulary: It is important to tailor the vocabulary of your picture book to the age range of your readers.
- Repetition: The use of repetition allows children to anticipate what the next word or sentence of a story might be, encouraging them to participate in the act of reading and following along.
- Rhyming: As with repetition, rhyming can help children anticipate upcoming elements in a story. It can also contribute to a more fun, memorable reading experience.
- Point of view: Deciding what POV you want to use is a big decision when it comes to how to write a children’s picture book, and all of them have their strong suits, depending on the story you’re telling.
- Develop engaging characters: Writing a picture book is an opportunity to scale back the work that goes into creating realistic, well-rounded characters with their motivations, struggles, strengths, and weaknesses. Yes, you’re telling a story with far fewer words than a novel, and you have the benefit of using illustrations to help convey meaning, but your characters should still feel like real people.
- The show, don’t tell: A piece of advice extended to all authors, “show, don’t tell” actually puts picture book writers at an advantage because of the illustrations that accompany their books! And you should rely on your illustrations to convey things to readers, allowing you to save your limited word count for other things. Of course, the concept of “showing” by employing sensory details in your writing still applies to children’s picture books, too.
- Edit and seek feedback: Every word needs to count in a book with so few words. So the first step of your editing process should be to go through your book line by line, and for each one consider: is this line crucial for my story? If the answer is yes, carry on. If it’s no, remove it. Once you’ve gotten your manuscript as polished as you can, it’s time to seek out feedback from the most honest beta readers out there: children! Finally, if you want to be sure that your picture book is ready to capture the imaginations of young readers, consider working with a professional editor.
- Illustrate your picture book: If you’re hoping to have your book traditionally published, you can skip this step and go straight to the next. Now, if you’re planning to self-publish your children’s picture book, you will want to hire a professional artist to do the illustrations.
How Do You Begin a Story Book?
A picture book needs to start somewhere significant, build up the tension, resolve the conflict and come to an unexpected climax, and end with a reassuring touch. It needs to tell the story in as few words as possible. The illustrations do tell the rest of the story. The first sentence becomes very important. Looking through some of the older picture books, first lines are not always on a page-turn. But they still carry a bigger responsibility than the subsequent lines.
- Introducing the character: Some opening sentences introduce the character and the setting of the character, giving no hint about what the story is about. But the images that accompany the words, the choice of words can give you hints – on what is about to transpire.
- Introducing suspense: Some famous writers’ first sentences do tell you who the character is. But the lines do not tell you what is about to come. They lull you into a reassuring comfort that everything is alright at this moment. But you turn the page and you are jerked into something fun, imaginative, or even sinister.
- Begin an adventure: Every adventure has got to begin somewhere. Adventures need triggers, something that hints at the events to come. When you read these lines, you know that you are going to find the protagonist set off on a journey of fun, chaos, and more. The adventure can be simply in the high street or it can be in castles, dungeons, and even in outer space. The important thing is to start the story off, with that clue.
How Do You End A Story Book?
Turn things around: Picture book endings often include a little wink to the reader. It’s a line that leaves you wanting more.
- Analytically read picture books:Think about the endings of the books you read. Did you like it? Did you not like it? What worked? Why did it work? Why didn’t it work so well? Endings can be ‘Happily ever after’ endings that leave a warm fuzzy feeling. These often work well for cozy bedtime stories but be careful that they’re not overly sentimental. Likewise, with moral or ‘lesson’ endings – make sure the message is subtle.
- Consider using the endpapers: Increasingly, picture book illustrators are using endpapers to set up and resolve stories. Ben Mantle used endpapers in our book Little Red Riding Hood to make the reader consider what Wolf’s next story could be.
- Center stage and spotlights:For our end, we will want to make sure that our main character takes center stage. It’s the main character the little readers have come to know and love, so it should be this character that brings the story to a close. That’s what will ultimately help you make your story feel complete to the reader.
- Your message & purpose:Weaving our book’s message or purpose into the ending will make our story feel complete like it has come full circle. Not only will it satisfy our little readers, but also the grownups that are reading this book with or to their children.
How to Publish Story Books?
- Have an approved manuscript: You can’t have a book without a story! It took me 30 drafts to get the story right, but once I had an approved version, I was able to move forward. (Picture books have very few words so it’s important to make every word count! Don’t be afraid of editing your own story multiple times to get it right.)
- Find the illustrator: An author usually needs someone else to draw the images for the book for me. If you’re working with a publishing house, they will find the illustrator for you. However, if you’re creating your book, then you’ll need to find an illustrator that fits the story.
- Approve the cover design & dummy layout:After the illustrator has had time to play with the story, it’s time to approve the layout so they can begin to finalize the art. One of the first things we want to be finalized is the cover so the marketing team has time to promote the book while the rest of the final artwork is being completed.
- Book marketing begins:Even before the book is finalized, the marketing team has started to promote it. This normally starts with cover reveals and sneak peeks, and eventually, branches into interviews and press releases. No matter if you’re publishing your book yourself or working with a publisher, you’re most likely going to need to help market your book.
- The book is finalized: Once the illustrator has finished all the artwork, then the text is arranged on the pages. This is also when pages like the copyright, dedication, and about the author/illustrator are decided. It’s time to lay everything out perfectly so you can officially publish your picture book.
- It’s sent to the printers:One may go through many digital files and multiple hardcover samples to make sure everything is exactly the way we want them. But once the files are approved, it’s time to publish.
- Launch the book: The book launch requires a lot of planning. You need to decide when, where, and how you want to do things. Just remember to have fun and celebrate!! Your book just came out.
How Can We Help You With Publishing Your Book?
At VERONICA LANE BOOKS we are always happy to help aspiring writers with their book-writing adventures.
Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into storybooks with pictures.