#summersparks. DAY 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar

First, let me apologize. My laptop isn’t charging properly and I’m formatting this post from my tablet. Please excuse any and all formatting problems. Now, onto Tara’s post:


Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books
by Tara Lazar


No, I didn’t mean for the title of this blog to rhyme. Sadly, I don’t write in rhyme. So if I don’t bang out a jaunty beat with fancy-schmancy stanzas, how I do inject FUN into my manuscripts?

With my word choice. (Choices? Choice? Whatevs. You get what I mean.)

We writers hear a lot about the importance of voice, but what exactly does “having a unique voice” mean?

Let’s ask some of our favorite cartoon characters.

“What’s up, Doc?”


“Curse you, Perry the Platypus!”


Now, did Bugs say, “How are you doing?” Nope. That’s too boring and expected, right? Anyone can say that. But the moment you hear, “What’s up, Doc?” you KNOW who is speaking (and crunching on a carrot).


Voice is all about your word choice. (Darn, there goes that pesky rhyme again.) And when I say word choice, I don’t just mean how your characters speak. I mean the entire linguistic tempo of your tale.


See? That was word choice right there. I could have said “rhythm of your story” but instead I chose to alliterate with “tempo of your tale”. That’s far more entertaining, right? Your tongue gets to tango with the t’s.


Besides alliteration, there are other trusty techniques to try:

· Onomatopoeia—BAM! BASH! KA-BOOM!

· Internal Rhyme—“A monster threesome is more gruesome than a twosome.” (from my book THE MONSTORE—hey, maybe I do rhyme!)

· Repetitive Refrain—a phrase that’s repeated so your readers can anticipate its appearance and join in the read-aloud. Instead of a character catchphrase, this is your book’s catchphrase.


Also check out word tools, like the book “L is for Lollygag: Quirky Words for a Clever Tongue” or my own list of 200+ cool words [link to http://taralazar.com/2014/06/09/list-of-200-fun-cool-and-interesting-words/%5D.

Contrary to popular belief, you CAN utilize difficult words in picture books, as long as you don’t add too many and cause your reader to stumble and give up. The placing of the word in context helps teach it. And if it’s a word like hootenanny, it’s a heckuva lotta fun to say, too.

I always keep a thesaurus handy when I’m writing. If I stick in a boring word like RUN, I can always go back and consider DART, SCAMPER or SCURRY instead.

(And if you have an iPad, try the Wordflex app. It’s a visual thesaurus that lets you climb word trees and branches with a swipe of your finger.)

Remember these things when your language feels too common, as if anyone could write what you did. You want your manuscript to stand out, to be remembered, to be irresistible.

You want an editor to say,  “Sufferin’ succotash! What a story!”

Tara Lazar



Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous PICTURE BOOKS featuring magical places that adults never find.

Her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, is available now from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Her other BOOKS coming soon are:

  • LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (Random House Children’s, 2015)
  • 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY (Disney*Hyperion, 2016)
  • NORMAL NORMAN (Sterling, 2016)

Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on TeachingBooks.net. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

5 Unusual Facts About Tara:

And the not so unusual stuff…


Tara loves children’s BOOKS. Her goal is to create books that children love.

She writes PICTURE BOOKS and middle grade novels. She’s written short stories for Abe’s Peanut and is featured in Break These Rules, a book of life-lesson ESSAYS FOR teens, edited by author Luke Reynolds.

Tara created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as the picture book writer’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). PiBoIdMo is held on this blog every November. In 2013, PiBoIdMo featured 1,150 participants and over 100,000 web hits.

Tara was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 and has permanently lost feeling in her feet and legs. She has an inspirational story to share about overcoming a devastating illness to achieve your goals and dreams. Tara can speak to groups big and small, young and old—just contact her for more information.

She’s a member of SCBWI and speaks at conferences and events regarding picture books, brainstorming techniques, and social media for authors (backed by 20 years experience in internet marketing, from the time when gophers and usenet trumped the web). Her former career was in high-tech marketing and PR.

She also teaches for The Writer’s Circle Workshops.

Tara is a life-long New Jersey resident. She lives in Somerset County with her husband and two young daughters. If they had a dog, it would be a small white fluffy thing named Schluffy.


Tara is the author of:



Writing Prompt:

Hey everyone! Tracey here. For today’s writing prompt I thought it would be fun to give you a set of words. Choose at least three to place in your story.

fire works

Happy writing!

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know what type of lyrical language, linguistic lingo, or catch phrases get your attention.


Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

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