#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

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9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

 

Donna Earnhardt wrote a terrific post, Burning Down the House, that covered how reading out loud helps to revise. Then, saputnam had a great comment about how she color-codes her submissions, and that reminded me of another way to revise. Then that got me to thinking of other ways to revise. That lead me to thinking, just how !any ways are there to revise. Here’s my list:

  • Read out loud (thanks Donna)
    This not only gets your brain working, but your ears as well. You will stutter and stumble over words and phrases that are out of place and don’t belong.
  • Read backwards (thanks again Donna)
    This will help see gaps in your plot, where you need to rearrange or add to build the right sequence.
  • Read to an audience (Donna is the bomb)
    This is where you can see how people react. Did they laugh? Was there an Ah-ha! moment.
  • Observe a reading.
    Here’s where you combine watching you audience reactions with listening to the story to see of things are off, Make notes. Don’t have a reader? Record yourself and play it back.
  • Highlight your text.
    Use different colors for dialog, action, passive texts. This will give you a color-coded visual of your story.
  • Cut up text and place in a storyboard.
    This will show pacing. you can see where there are holes and where text !at be too heavy.
  • Draw it out. (thanks Alison)
    You can also use doodles of your text to make sure your story is moving forward and hasn’t stalled out. In picture books, every word counts!
  • Draw a story arc. (thanks Alayne)
    This is also called ‘The W Factor’ or ‘The Heartbeat of the Story’ and shows pacing well too. Here you go up and down determined by the conflicts and resolutions -aka Cause and Effect– of your story.
  • Read, read, read.
    Yes read your story, parts of your story, and then read it some more. Make it flow effortlessly!
  • Set it aside.
    How is this revision?Think of wine, if you taste it right away, sure it will be good, but if you put it away. Don’t open it. The body develops. When you taste it again, there will be notes that highlight the flavor. The body will be fuller. It will be like tasting it for the first time. The same can happen with your story. You will have separated yourself from the text and can see it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will pop out. Things will make you smile. You will get the goosies when you read THE LINE.

So what are some of the ways you revise? Do you have a routine that is different from those listed?

:::Leave a comment:::
Let me know how you tighten a story.

 DON’T FORGET:

You have one more day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est. THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!

 

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

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#summersparks DAY 11: Burning Down the House by Donna Earnhardt

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Burning Down the House (aka Revision)
By Donna Earnhardt

 

In 1958, George Plimpton interviewed Ernest Hemingway and asked about his rewriting process. This is part of that interaction:

INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?

 

HEMINGWAY:  It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

 

INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

 

HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.

— The Art of Fiction No. 21,

Paris Review, Spring 1958, No. 18

 

It is my opinion that revision can be just as hard as writing the original story. And sometimes, even harder.

 

The Process

There’s this thing I do that drives my kids batty enough to grow wings and hang upside down in caves.

I don’t make them dissect Hemingway’s work or memorize Shakespeare over the summer. I don’t make them scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush or wash their clothes by hand in the creek.

So what is the terrible, horrible, no good thing that I do?

I ask my kids to listen to all manuscript revisions. It’s part of my process. And they usually indulge me. I pay them in chocolate, so it’s a win-win. But does it really help? Yes… and no.

My early process looks something like this:

1. Write part of the manuscript, reworking it as I go.

2. Finally finish it. Then shuffle a few more things around.

3. Read it aloud to my kids.

4. Watch their faces, then have them give feedback

5. Rewrite parts that were not received as they should have been. Rearranging what I can.

6. Reread it to the kids.

7. Note their giggles… and their silence.

8. Feed them chocolate.

9. Promise I won’t read it but a couple more times.

10. Tweak again, then read it aloud one last time

11. START TRUE/DEEP REVISIONS.

Notice that my true revisions don’t start until after the early revision. And if I’m being honest with myself, my early revision is more like rearrangement.

Rearrangement of my manuscript is the equivalent of moving around my couch, lamp and table in my house. Same stuff, different place. Maybe I get rid of the junk on top of the entertainment center. It feels a lot cleaner. But it’s the same ol’, same ol’.  In my manuscript, (just like in my house), moving stuff around happens all the time. So that can be part of the process of revision. But it is NOT true revision.

My true revisions don’t start until after I’ve already written a rough draft, read it aloud a few times and rearranged some stuff. True revision looks like more like a new couch, newly painted walls and new rugs. (And maybe a few demolished walls!)

Truly, there are days that my revision looks like gutting the whole house. I might salvage the beginning, middle and end. But even those are subject to the recycling pile. I’ve even considered burning the whole thing down and starting from scratch. Unless, of course, I have a perfect first draft.

But let me be honest… that’s never happened.

So while I’m gutting my masterpiece, what are some things that help me work through the process without banging my head against a newly painted wall?

· I ask my critique buddies for honest (and sometimes brutal) critiques. They can see things that I am temporarily blind to. I get a type of “see-sickness”. They help bring my vision back in focus.

· I am willing to hear with my head AND my heart that my story has parts that stink. If my characters are shallow, I need to know. If my plot is weak, I need to strengthen it. If my premise is tired, it’s my job to fix it. I don’t need to waste precious time trying to defend my manuscript. Either it works, or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, I need to make it work.

· I read my work backwards. Yes, it sounds weird. But reading the storyline backwards helps me see things that might be out of whack. Reading backwards also helps visualize timeline issues and plot holes.

· If I’m writing a picture book in rhyme, I try to rewrite it in prose. I might end up sticking with the rhyming version, but putting it in prose helps me see where plot issues might be. It also helps me determine if rhyming or non-rhyming is the best vehicle for the story.

· I get rid of characters that don’t move the story along. Even if I love a character, he (or she) might serve only one purpose – such as comedic relief. I can attribute that one characteristic to a more important character, especially if I find out one of my characters is shallow. This could help give that character depth.

· I make sure the beginning, middle and end are solid. If the first page of a book doesn’t grab a reader, the rest of the book might not get the chance to redeem itself. The beginning needs to be unforgettable. The ending needs to make me sad the book is over, but still be satisfying. The middle of the story? It’s like the kitchen. It supplies the reader with the “meat”. Without it, the readers are hungry and angry — hangry. And we know that never ends well.

· I get rid of situations that aren’t appropriate for the story. For instance, in Being Frank, the “carnival scene” was once a school dance. But as my wonderful editor pointed out, this book was aimed at 3-7 year olds. They don’t have to deal with school dances for at least a few more years.

· I make sure my big girl panties are on. This business is tough. We can’t settle for “okay”. We can’t settle for “it’s better than what’s on the bookshelves now”. That is a slippery slope that leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity is not what agents or editors are looking for. I am not suggesting losing your vision in exchange for someone else’s. But we need to be willing to re-vision our story to make the vision come to life.

Some great go-to resources for help with revision:

1. Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel by James Scott Bell

2. 9-1-1 help for Revising your Picture book by Cynthea Liu http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/revision/revision-9-1-1-for-fiction-picture-books/

3. Second Sight — General Help for all writers of children’s books by Cheryl Klein http://cherylklein.com/second-sight/

 

One last thing… I ran across an interview that Kelly Barnhill gave on John Brown’s blog. She makes a good point that is worth printing and pasting on our computers…

“That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.”  — Kelly Barnhill

(for more of her interview, check it out here: http://johndbrown.com/2011/02/interview-with-author-kelly-barnhill/)

 

p.s. And if you’re wondering, I read this post aloud to my oldest kiddo. She’s now demanding chocolate.

 DONNA EARNHARDT
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Bio: Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani (Flashlight press, 2012). When Donna isn’t homeschooling her three children, chauffeuring them from place to place, or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family (while simultaneously keeping an eye out for Bigfoot) or visiting her hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.
DONNA IS THE AUTHOR OF:
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FIND DONNA:

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Twitter: @Donna_Earnhardt
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Writing Prompt:
Hi everyone. Tracey here.
One writing exercise I like to do is called scenes from the hat. I gather different characters in one pile, different problems in another one, and setting in a third pile. Place your character pile into a hat, swish around, and pull one. Remove the pile and do the same with the problem and setting piles. Now look at your character, his or her problem, and their setting… Now GO!

Characters
King
Chipmunks
Girl
Boy
Farmer
Skater

Problem
Heir to thorn
Winter
Food
Broken ?
Scared
________

Setting
Forest
Beach
City
Moon
Country
Store

 

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#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:

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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?”

“D’oh!”

“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

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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:

  • I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK (Aladdin/S&S 2015)
  • 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…

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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:
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FIND TARA:

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Twitter

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.

sparked
ka-pow
crackle
juicy
splash
bounce
sun
fire works
search
skreeeeeee

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 7: Inspiration Station by Susanna Hill

 

Summer SparksInspiration Station
by Susanna Hill

 

 

We’ve all been there.

Staring at that blank page, watching our precious writing time tick away, unable to come up with

One.

         Single.

                      Word.

. . . never mind a whole story!

Grrr!!!

Doesn’t the muse realize we’re on a schedule?

Our day jobs demand attention.

There is laundry and vacuuming to be done.

The kids will be home soon.

There will be ballet and scouts and flute lessons.

The guinea pig cage is due to be cleaned.

There will be homework and dinner and baths and bedtime.

If we’re going to write, this is our chance!

Think, darn it!

But somehow, the harder we try, the tighter our brains lock up until we’d be hard-pressed to write down a reasonable grocery list.

We all lead busy lives.  Our writing time is precious and we can’t afford to waste it.  So how do we get the words flowing when they seem determined to stay dammed up?  Where do we go for inspiration?

 

Inspiration Station, of course!

 

Check out the destination board for story sparkers of all kinds!

 

Track 1: Departing for the Recollection Connection

Mine your memories:

  • Think back on your own experiences. What are some of the amazing/fun/scary/thought-provoking/silly/disturbing etc. things that happened to you when you were little? Make a list. It will be there for you to refer to when you need a topic.
  • What important people or relationships would your childhood not have been the same without?
  • What sports/activities/interests/hobbies did you participate in?  (Little League, ballet, piano lessons, archery, science camp, tae kwon do, etc…)  Did you like them?  Hate them?  Learn anything valuable about yourself from them?
  • What family events do you look back on?  Camping trips? Family vacations to Europe or the beach or the Grand Canyon?  Holiday happenings and the surrounding traditions?  Weddings or family reunions?  Moving to a new home?

 

Mine your children’s/grandchildren’s childhoods and experiences:

  • What kinds of things have your kids or grandkids gone through?  What have they triumphed at?  Achieved? What have they struggled with?  Coped with?  Overcome?
  • If you’re a teacher, pastor, doctor/nurse, or other professional who works with children, what kinds of experiences have your students, patients, clients, etc. had?

 

Track 2: Departing for Observation Station

All day, every day, you have the opportunity to keep your eyes and ears open.

  • What do you see on your way to the grocery store?  A robin’s nest?  A road being paved?  A child wobbling along on a two-wheeler for the first time?  A stray cat?  A street musician?  A spooky old house?  A leaf shaped like a star?
  • What do you hear on your way to work?  Two children arguing over a seat on the bus?  A mother explaining to her toddler why he can’t eat candy for breakfast?  A little girl talking to the pet hamster in a cage on her lap?  The rich song of a saxophone from just inside the subway station?
  • How would a child see the things you’re looking at? or interpret the things you hear?  How could these little pieces of life become a picture book?  What new, fresh angle could you look at them from? What could you combine them with?

 

Track 3:  Departing for Communication Station with connections to Bookburg, TV Town, Movieville, Musicport, and News Street

Inspiration is all around us in the work of other creatives.

  • The stories we read in books, or watch on TV and at the movies, are all potential sparks for our own ideas.  What would we have done differently?  How would the story have worked if this happened instead of that?  What if the main character had been a trombone-playing giraffe instead of a rebellious teenager?  What if the story had taken place on Mars instead of in New Jersey? Fairy tales and nursery rhymes are good sources here.
  • Song lyrics and music can also inspire us through the associations they have and the moods they evoke.
  • News articles in the paper, in magazines, and online are a steady source of potential inspiration, for example, the story of Owen And Mzee, the hippo and the tortoise who became inseparable friends after the Indonesian tsunami, or Jerrie Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world.

 

Track 4:  Departing for Location Station

Places we visit can inspire us.

  • quaint New England fishing villages
  • the Rocky Mountains
  • the beach
  • Central Park
  • the San Diego Zoo
  • the Mississippi River
  • New Orleans
  • the Swiss Alps
  • the redwood forest
  • Norwegian fjords
  • a General Store that smells like licorice and orange soda
  • the circus
  • the Museum of Natural History
  • a dusty used book shop
  • Grandma’s homey kitchen, etc…

All of them have stories to tell, or could be the home for a story you have to tell.

 

Track 5:  Departing for Population Station with a quick stop at Occupation Station

People we meet/see are full of inspiration!

  • a boy in New York City wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap
  • a girl with one red knee sock and one striped knee sock
  • a dog riding on the front seat of a taxi cab
  • a postmistress who gives out lollipops
  • a school bus driver with purple hair and a tiny dragon tattoo behind his left ear
  • a nurse with roller skate sneakers
  • a girl who only speaks in rhyme, etc…

Different jobs people do can also give rise to ideas.

  • How do people become sanitation workers, tugboat captains, crane operators, or window washers?
  • How could someone with an unusual occupation fit into a story? Or BE a story?

 

Track 6:  Departing for Imagination Station

One of the most powerful idea generators is our own imagination.

Play the “what if?” game.

  • What if a shark and a train had a competition to see which one was better.  Oh, wait.  That’s been done 🙂
  • What if a dinosaur came to dinner?
  • What if it was upside down day?
  • What if a bear got on the school bus?
  • What if you found a magic penny?
  • What if your mom was a spy?
  • What if a kid became town mayor?
  • What if the family dog could talk? (Uh… I guess that’s been done too )
  • What if ponies grew on trees?

Whatever you can think up, there are lots of ideas here!

 

Track 7:  Departing for Creation Station

Some days, none of the other stops on the line are going to work.  Maybe your toddler was up all night teething, or you had a fight with your spouse over whose turn it was to make sure the garbage can lids were on tight enough to keep the raccoons out (no, of course that has never happened at our house ).  On those days, try one of these tried and true methods for getting words flowing:

  • Other people’s work – type out a picture book you love.  The act of typing will get your synapses firing and before you know it, your own words will be flowing.
  • Start writing anything – what you’ve done so far today – what you hope to do this summer – your opinion about a movie you saw or a book you read recently that you liked/didn’t like – what you would say to someone you’re currently mad at or worried about – a list of flower names or Crayola crayon colors or birds or animals – a recipe for vegetable soup – anything – just start writing.  You’ll be surprised at what might suddenly start to take shape in your brain.

Writing Prompts:

Need some actual writing prompts? Try one of these:

  • What is the saddest thing that happened to you when you were a child? Did you lose a grandparent? A pet? Have to move away from a beloved neighborhood or school?  Write about it for 10 minutes – everything you can think of.  Details of the time and place, who was there and how you felt.  Everything you can remember.
  • What moment in your childhood made you steaming, hopping, gut-busting mad?  Did your brother put a dent in your brand new bike? Did someone make fun of you when you couldn’t spell “environment” or solve a math equation? Did your best friend lie to you?  Write about it for 10 minutes – everything you can think of.  And remember that anger is usually a secondary emotion caused by hurt, insecurity, sadness, or fear.  Think about what the underlying cause of your anger was.
  • What is your fondest childhood memory? Something that made you deeply happy?  Or a moment when you achieved something or triumphed over something?  Or a moment you shared with someone special? Write about it for 10 minutes – everything you can think of.
  • What is something you saw or heard today that made you wonder? If it made you wonder, chances are it would make a child wonder. How can you make it into a story? Write about it for 10 minutes.
  • What news headline did you notice today that might make a good story? Write about it for 10 minutes, including what intrigues you, questions you might have to research a bit, and possible ways you could shape the story.
  • Spend 10 minutes writing about a place that has meaning to you. Describe it in as much detail as you can. If your reader were there, what would she see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? What activities might she do?
  • Spend 10 minutes describing an interesting person (real or imaginary) in as much detail as you can. What does he look like? What are his personality traits? What does he do? Who does he love? Make your description so vivid that your reader would recognize this person if she saw him on the street.
  • Ask yourself, “what if?” and think up the silliest, or the most outrageous, or the scariest, or the sweetest, or the most mysterious scenario you can.

 

Inspiration is all around us. You can find it – I promise!

All aboard! 

 

SUSANNA HILL

Susanna is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice),No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)  Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean.  Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015.  She teaches Making Picture Book Magic, an online writing course, and is available for picture book manuscript critiques. She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs. 

SUSANNA IS THE AUTHOR OF:phyllis cover

CSWS

 

FIND SUSANNA:

Website
Blog
Face Book
Twitter
YouTube
Making Picture Book Magic (online writing course)
Picture Book MS Critique Service

 

Susanna is giving away one of her pbs!
Enter THIS RAFFLECOPTER HERE if you have qualified by being PRE-REGISTERED, completing the CHALLENGE, and take the PLEDGE.

 

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 6: The Final Word by Jodi Moore

Summer Sparks

The Final Word
by Jodi Moore

 

There’s a lot of attention paid to first lines. As readers, we undoubtedly appreciate them. As writers, we strive for them, revising over and over until we capture the Very Best One. They can be the gateway between snagging an agent or editor (possibly a contract!) and a near miss.

An opening line not only serves as a first impression, it’s also a promise of what’s to come. You make a pact with your reader, one on which you must deliver. If the first line hooks readers, but there’s not enough substance to keep them there, they will abandon you.

Now, imagine the first line sparkles. The body builds to an exciting climax, captivating readers, imploring them to invest their time, their minds, their hearts. And then…the denouement. The readers’ takeaway. The promise fulfilled.

At least that’s the plan.

How many times have you immersed yourself in something completely…only to have the final line fall flat? You may feel underwhelmed. Disappointed. Even cheated.

In my opinion, a last line is just as – if not more – important than a first.

A good book is a feast for the soul: the first sentence analogous to a delectable appetizer; the body of the work, the sumptuous main course; the final line, a rich dessert. The closing words should melt on the tongue like a fine confection, offering just the right amount of substance, just the right amount of sweetness. But if the ice cream is granular, the cheesecake dry, and/or the coffee bitter, your guests leave with a bad taste in their mouths.

Not exactly the last, nor the lasting, impression you want.

So, how do you write a grand finale? Sadly, there’s no magic formula. As with any line, you first need to write it down. Then you must revise, revise, revise. When it’s the best you think it can be, share it with your critique buddies. What is their takeaway? Is it what you’d hoped? If not, repeat the process.

Of course, it helps to learn from the experts – those authors, and their works, that resonate with you. Here’s the fun part. You get to research, a.k.a. READ!

To get you started, I’ve offered some examples here. And while this blog series is predominantly for picture book writers, I’ve included samples from a variety of work to “illustrate” my point. A good line is a good line. Keep in mind that the final (punch) line in a picture book can be an illustration. Don’t be fooled. It is a line in every sense of the, um, non-word. A great example of this? Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos. Make sure you give your artists the freedom to make a statement.

 

Last lines can be:

  • Affirming: “I thought I could.” – The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper)
  • Inspiring: “We can all dance,” he said, “when we find music that we love.” – Giraffes Can’t Dance (Giles Andreae)
  • Empowering: “Let me tell you about it.” – Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
  • Reassuring: “Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him – and it was still hot.” – Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)
  • Quiet: “Good night noises everywhere.” – Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown)
  • Loud: “When you join in, there’s so much noise I have to leave the room!” – Yip! Snap! Yap! (Charles Fuge)
  • Humorous Twist: “I suppose there’s another nightmare in my closet, but my bed’s not big enough for three.” – There’s A Nightmare In My Closet (Mercer Mayer)
  • Persuasive: “Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.” – The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)
  • Hopeful: “I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.” – Looking For Alaska (John Green)
  • Uplifting: “I turn away, knowing that I might never get to see Julie Murphy ever again. But I will know her for the rest of my life.” – One For The Murphys (Lynda Mullaly Hunt)
    (I know, I know. *hangs head in shame* I’ve presented two lines here. But when two lines are so dependent upon each other, featuring one without its mate would be, well, wrong.)
  • Cautionary: “And after dinner…we take the principal’s note very seriously.” – Too Much Glue (Jason Lefebvre)
  • Thought Provoking: “We’ll leave the kid with the raised up shoe; what do you think that kid should do?” – Hey, Little Ant (Phillip M. and Hannah Hoose)
  • Silly: “We were all having so much fun on the hill while Little Bo Peep got the blame.” – Little Bo Peep by the Sheep (as told to Priscilla Lamont)
  • Circular: “And chances are if he asks for a glass of milk, he’s going to want a cookie to go with it.” – If You Give A Mouse A Cookie (Laura Numeroff)
  • Rhythmic: “They rock and rock and rock to sleep.” –The Going To Bed Book (Sandra Boynton)
  • Sad (yes, even picture books can be poignant): “I watched the water ripple as the sun set through the maples and the chance of a kindness with Maya becoming more and more forever gone.” – Each Kindness (Jacqueline Woodson)
  • Happy: (Don’t we all love a happy ending?) “And everyone was all smiles. Especially you-know-who.” Nugget & Fang (Tammi Sauer)
  • Esoteric: “Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now.” – The Spectacular Now (Tim Thorp)
  • Infinite (promising new adventure): “And off she went.” – Cloudette (Tom Lichtenheld)
  • Universal: “All the world is all of us.” – All The World (Liz Garton Scanlon)

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. (Many thanks to my local library and bookstore for allowing me to camp out in their aisles and to my awesome writer buddy friends for chiming in with some of their favorites!)

What makes these lines so strong, so timeless, is that they leave us thinking about the book and its characters long after the last page is turned. They melt on our tongues, tickle our funny bones and/or nest in our hearts.

Look, I know how exciting it feels to see the finish line looming ahead. But writing isn’t a race. It’s a journey. There’s no need to rush. Savor those last strides to the end. Chill for a bit. Have some chocolate. Let things marinate. Observe what’s around you. Check with trusted readers to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. Then, when you’re ready to continue, plant your feet carefully. You want those final footprints to have a huge impact.

Finally, as you rework your ending, remember that resolutions in stories do not have to tie up all loose ends. In fact, I believe they shouldn’t. Real life doesn’t work that way. We don’t want or need you to fix everything.

 

Except maybe your last line.

 

What are some of your favorites?

 Jodi Moore

Jodi Moore

Jodi considers books, along with chocolate, to be one of the main food groups. She writes both picture books and young adult novels, hoping to challenge, nourish and inspire her readers by opening up brand new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking.

Jodi is the proud and (admittedly) neurotic mother of two incredibly talented young adults and never ceases to be amazed at how far the umbilical cord really will stretch. She lives in central PA with her always supportive best friend/husband, Larry, two laughing doves, and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. In addition to reading, writing, and chocolate, Jodi enjoys music, theater, dancing, the beach, and precious time spent with her family.

Finally, Jodi thinks it would be really cool if one of her stories eventually became a Disney or Universal movie or theme park ride. Or a Broadway musical.
Just puttin’ it out there.

Jodi is the author of:

DRAGON hi res cover 2When Dragon Moves In

Good News Nelson hi res
Good News Nelson
&

WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN (Flashlight Press) is coming Fall 2015

FIND JODI MOORE:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Writing Prompt:

It’s been said that hindsight is 20:20. Can you write a story based on a final sentence? Try it with this prompt:  “I told you so”, she said, and flashed a smile a mile wide.

 

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End by Julie Gribble

Summer SparksA Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End.
by Julie Gribble

 

Visual learning

In a recent post here on her blog, Tracey encouraged us to include videos in our marketing strategy. MONDAY MARKETING: YOUTUBE  *VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR*

https://traceymcox.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/

“What better concept to get your message across. Let’s face the facts. MOST PEOPLE ARE VISUAL LEARNERS. This means a picture is worth a thousand words (which makes me sad … I’m an author! I live on words). You can tell someone something (directions/recipes/variations of color/yadda yadda), but if you SHOW them…It clicks!”

 

As one of those visual learners, I can tell you her words ring true to me.

Like most kids, I had a vivid imagination (still do) and an active body that always seemed to be in motion (not so much anymore). You’d usually find me up a tree, on a bike, or in the municipal pool – I just didn’t want to sit still. However, I would sit still for a moment to read a book, if that book was filled with pictures. Illustrations sparked my imagination – I’d think up a story of my own that I wanted to tell, and then scribble this version of the story next to images in the book. Upon reflection, I realize now that pictures prompted my interest in writing.

 

Endings are hard

Working in television for many years, behind the scenes on comedy shows, gave me a rare perspective on the creative writing process as skits were drafted, rehearsed, rewritten, rehearsed again, revised, and then performed live. This perspective could best be described as a master class in comedy writing. And indeed, I learned that a good ending, although difficult to write, is a critical element in every good skit or story. I also learned that even the pros have trouble with endings because endings are hard.

 

Using visuals to write satisfying endings

One of the best writing prompts I’ve ever come across, was taught in a screenwriting course. Each student was given a different photograph then asked to place it on the table in front of him or her. The teacher asked us to imagine that the picture in front of us depicted the last scene in our film – it was the last image seen by the audience before the credits rolled. We were asked to describe what was happening at that very moment, in as much detail as we could imagine. Then we were asked to tell the story that ended with that scene.

This exercise made us focus on just the ending of the story – no need to think about how the story might end, because we were already there.

 

Since good endings are hard to write, why not start with them first? So let’s try doing that here on Summer Sparks!

 

Choose your favorite picture below then imagine that it’s the last image in your story – don’t think about how the subject(s) got there, just think about what they’re doing, thinking, or feeling at the very moment this picture was taken.

 

Let’s begin with this image:

**click picture for better viewing**article-1207590-061B1271000005DC-144_634x838©Specialist Stock/Barcroft Media

What’s happening here?

Is the whale happy to meet this skinny walrus?

Or perhaps the whale now believes mermaids are real?

Have the hunter and whale come to a truce?

Or did this diver wish to meet the last whale in the sea?

 

1 – Chose your ending.

2 – Ok, now that you have your ending, tell us how they got there – think about what happened to the characters before this scene. That is your story to tell.

Writing Prompt

So, let’s continue the exercise. Imagine the last image in your story is depicted below. How does your story end? Let your imagination run wild and let the Summer Sparks fly!

**click pictures for better viewing:

ladybug-landing-with-style1© Source Unknown

 

original© Jay Malone

 

Bearbreakfast©ChubbyCheekPhotography

 

slide_326400_3140268_free©Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

 

mantis-bike_2191258b©Eco Suparman

cute-baby-animals-37©Andreas Butz

 

baby01© Source Unknown

 

Here are a few resources to help get you off to a good start finish:

 

Sources for visually-inspiring writing prompts:

http://www.pinterest.com/mseringannon/visual-writing-prompts

http://www.pinterest.com/lilmarbar/pictures-and-writing-inspiration

http://www.piclits.com/compose_dragdrop.aspx

https://www.behance.net

http://thedesigninspiration.com/articles/70-cutie-baby-animals-bring-your-a-good-mood

http://visualprompts.weebly.com

 

Articles on using visual writing prompts:

http://www.carriemumford.com/using-photos-to-inspire-your-writing

http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/eringannon/we-love-visual-writing-prompts

http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2009/11/piclits-inspired-picture-writing.html#.U6jPz15ebud

 

Articles on visual learning:

How Visual Learning Supports Writing | Thinkspiration™ The Inspiration® Software Blog

http://www.inspiration.com/blog/2011/03/how-visual-learning-supports-writing/

“Pre-writing is essential to producing quality writing. Research indicates that skilled writers spend significantly more time organizing and planning what they are going to write.

So, when teachers ask students to create a bubble diagram, a web or any other visual diagram in the pre-writing process, it’s utilizing visual learning to help students clarify their thinking and organize their writing.”

Sensory Learning Styles | Grapplearts

http://www.grapplearts.com/Blog/2012/04/sensory-learning-styles

“Visual learners prefer to watch demonstrations and will often get a lot out of video taped instruction as well. You can sometimes tell you’re dealing with a visual learner when they ask, “Can I see that again?” Other types of learners would ask if you could do it again, or explain it again, but visual learners will often say they want to see it. It’s just a little sign that the person you’re coaching may be a visual learner.”

 

Articles on good endings:

How to Write Successful Endings | WritersDigest.com

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/how_to_write_successful_endings

“The most-asked question when someone describes a novel, movie or short story to a friend probably is, “How does it end?” Endings carry tremendous weight with readers; if they don’t like the ending, chances are they’ll say they didn’t like the work. Failed endings are also the most common problems editors have with submitted works.

Making your ending a success involves two things. The first is content; the events of the ending must satisfy everything that has gone before. There’s no easy way to tell anyone how to do this; it depends entirely on what the work has seemed to promise the reader. Whatever that was must be delivered.”

Teaching That Makes Sense!

www.ttms.org/PDFs/01%20Writing%20Strategy%20Guide%20v001%20(Full).pdf

 

“• Feel finished. A good ending has a certain feel to it, and that feeling is one of completeness: there’s nothing else the writer needs to say, the piece has been wrapped up, summed up, and tied up so completely that the reader feels completely satisfied.

• Give the reader something to think about or do. Readers like to ponder a bit at the end of a piece, they like to have something to consider, something to reflect on, something to take with them for the future. Ideally, your ideas will linger in their mind long after they’ve read your last sentence. That’s the test of truly effective writing.

• Meet your reader’s expectations. With the beginning and middle of your piece, you’ve set up certain expectations in the minds of your readers. Your ending has to live up to those expectations, it has to fulfill the promise of everything that has come before.

• Too often, readers feel let down by the ending. And that can ruin their entire experience of a piece. It’s not that readers are mean people with impossibly high standards. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your readers want you to have a great ending so badly that they often can’t help but disappoint themselves. This is just another reason why endings are so important and why good endings are so hard to write.

• The ending is the last thing your audience will read. As we’ve talked about before, you have a lot of responsibility when it comes to ending your piece effectively. After all, the ending is the last thing your readers will read and that means they’re quite likely to remember it better than other parts of your piece. But this means you have an opportunity, too. You can use your ending to say something very important with the knowledge that your readers will be listening closely to your every word. There are only two places where you can count on having your reader’s full attention. One is at the beginning, the other is at the end.”

 

Photo Credits:

 

JULIE GRIBBLE

Julie Gribble

 

After 19 years and 2 Emmy nominations, Julie left a successful career at NBC Universal to launch New York Media Works. As an award winning children’s book author, screenwriter, and independent filmmaker, she provides narrative fiction and documentary content for NYMW projects. She enjoys collaborating with other artists and bringing creative people together.

Julie was the first picture book author accepted into the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Fellows program and has been mentored by Emma Walton Hamilton and Cindy Kane Trumbore. She’s a full-time writer and a member of BAFTA-NY Children’s Committee, SCBWI, ChLA, and is founder of KidLit TV an online visual resource for the greater kid lit community which launches in the Fall.

Julie and Tracey run KidLit TV’s Facebook group – Join us!  https://www.facebook.com/ groups/KidLitTV
Julie is the author of:
Bubble Gum Princess

Bubble Gum Princess

 

FIND JULIE:

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter

 

Julie is giving away one copy of BUBBLE GUM PRINÇESS. Go ”HERE” for your chance to win.

:::LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW:::
Let us know if you are more visual.
What other things can you do to get the juices going? Listening to music? Take a walk? Take a shower?

 

 

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks Day 3: Cause and Effect by Alayne Kay Christian

 

Summer Sparks

CAUSE AND EFFECT

by Alayne Kay Christian

*** Win a free picture book critique. Details at the end of this post. ***

WHAT IS CAUSE AND EFFECT?

Cause and effect is the thread that holds a story together. If that thread is weaved straight through the story with some tension, the reader will be engaged from the beginning of the story all the way to the end. If done right, it will leave the reader feeling like the reading journey was well worth his or her time.

A series of events that are linked by an unbroken chain of cause and effect is often called “plot.” I liken it to weaving a thread through a piece of fabric and then pulling the thread, causing enough tension to create a ruffle. Pulling that fabric toward the end of the thread is the perfection of the finished product. If the thread breaks, the ruffle will go flat. The same thing can happen if the thread of your story doesn’t stay on track with a continuous ramp of increasing intensity via cause and effect.

If you’ve never made a ruffle or seen one made, here is a link to a short video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUwCYYpLyGk

To get a perfectly aligned ruffle, gather B must follow gather A and gather C must follow gather B, and on and on it goes. In a cause and effect story, event B must be caused by a character’s reaction to event A, and event C must be caused a character’s reaction to event B, and on and on it goes. If event B has absolutely nothing to do with event A, then you are not plotting a story; you are creating a patchwork of unrelated or standalone episodes. This is sometimes called an episodic story.

AGAIN, WHAT IS CAUSE AND EFFECT?

  • Cause is the event that “causes” things to happen
  • Effect is the result of the cause/event.

The most important thing to remember is this type of story has a continual chain of cause and effect where the previous effect becomes the cause. An event causes an action, reaction, or result that leads to another event that causes another action, reaction or result, which in itself is the cause for the next cause and event cycle.

 

 

Cause and Effect Cycle

 

^click image above for better view^

EXAMPLE

Mother’s flowers break when Ella kicks her ball into the garden. (Ella kicks her ball into the garden “causing” Mother’s flowers to break.)

Ella kicks her ball into the garden is the “cause.” The flowers breaking is the “effect.”

What might that effect cause to happen next? Mother’s flowers break when Ella kicks her ball, so Mother scolds Ella, “I’ve told you ten times, not to play ball near the flowers.”

She takes the ball away and goes in the house, leaving Ella alone. I take the story further below.

A: Cause/First Event: Ella kicks ball

B: Effect/Result of A – Mother’s flowers break

C: New event caused by B – Mother scolds Ella and takes ball

D: Effect/Reaction to C – Ella is upset with Mother and breaks the rules by going to play in the dangerous creek

E: New event caused by Ella’s choice to break the rules in D – Ella jumps in water to play, but water is rushing due to recent rains. It washes her away

F: Effect/Result of E – Mother can’t find Ella

And on and on it goes until a satisfying ending.

 

Following is a cause and effect cycle diagram of the beginning of the familiar classic JACK AND THE BEANSTALK.

 

CAUSE AND EFFECT CYCLE JACK

 

 ^click image above for better view^

ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT CAUSE AND EFFECT

1. Normally, conflict (or an obstacle, problem or desire) is the motivation/CAUSE that puts a series of events in motion. NOTE: SMALL PROBLEMS NEED TO SOMEHOW RELATE TO BIG PROBLEM

2. The EFFECT that the conflict has on the main character occurs when the character reacts (actions driven by the CAUSE) to those events.

3. Each time the character responds to conflict (an obstacle or problem) his response becomes the CAUSE of the next action and then EFFECT follows.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t have space to go into the topic of story arc in great detail, but I want to touch on it briefly. Although story arc is a different subject, it is loosely related to cause and effect, and it is important to a story. Each new event should be more powerful than the last. This is what some people call “tension.” A protagonist who wants something enough to take action against all obstacles creates “the story” – especially when the reader feels emotion related to the character’s failures or successes in overcoming those obstacles. There is usually a darkest moment before the main character takes his most important action (he has a turning point). That tension, those successes, the emotion, and the turning point can all be built into the cause and effect pattern.

 

Cause and Effect Big Picture  v2

 

 ^click image above for better view^

TIPS

  • If you struggle with cause and effect, try analyzing your story backwards. Look for the final “effect” (the final result, reaction, or action). And ask, what “caused” it. Look for the next effect and ask yourself, what caused it? Continue until you get to the beginning of the story. Is your thread running through nice and straight with a tension?
  • Test out “cause” by putting the word “because” or “since” in front of it.
    • (cause) “Since” Mother was angry and went inside with Ella’s ball, (effect) Ella was angry and went to the creek to play.
    • (cause) “Because” Ella broke Mother’s flowers, (effect) Mother scolded her and took her ball away.
    • (effect) Ella broke the rules and went to the creek, (cause) “because” she was angry at Mother for taking her ball.
  • Test out “effect” by placing the word “so” in front of it.
  • (cause) Mother left Ella outside alone with nothing to do, (effect) “so” Ella broke the rules and went down to the creek to play.
  • (cause) Jack was too tired and hungry to keep going, (effect) “so” even though he might be eaten by the giant, he begged Cook to let him in.

 

The following PDF gives a cause and effect analysis of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. This is an example for the writing exercise below. Please note that in this example, I went into the small details of JACK’S story. I did this to show how everything in a story is related/linked from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene. In the writing exercise, you may choose to look at the story from a broad perspective (scenes, or three acts) or you may choose to look at it in detail. It is all up to you and what you want to get out of it.

CAUSE AND EFFECT WORKSHEET JACK AND THE BEANSTALK PDF

 

WRITING EXERCISE

 

Tracey asked me to provide a writing prompt. But I have decided to provide an exercise instead because I believe it can lead to writing in the form of edits. It can also be helpful in developing new stories.

  1. Use the following worksheet to analyze cause and effect in your favorite books. Not all books are written using cause and effect, but many successful ones are, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding some to analyze.
  2. Use the following worksheet to analyze cause and effect in your own stories.
  3. If struggling with cause and effect, use the following worksheet to try analyzing your work backwards, starting with effect and working into the cause for each effect.

CAUSE AND EFFECT WORKSHEET BLANK PDF

 

©Alayne Kay Christian 2014

 

ABOUT ALAYNE

Alayne Christian

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio, Alayne Kay Christian is an award-winning children’s book author, a certified life coach, and a blogger. Her independently published picture book

butterfly kisses coverButterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa
(Blue Whale Press, LLC)

received the Mom’s Choice Awards gold medal and an IPPY Awards silver medal. The anthology Jingle Bells: Tales of Holiday Spirit from Around the World (Melusine Muse Press) includes two short stories by Alayne, Christmas Spirit and Christmas in June.

Alayne is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and numerous children’s book writing courses. Her full resume may be found on her website . Alayne is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is the founder and administrator of Sub Six, a Facebook group intended for supporting and motivating picture book writers with their submission goals. In 2014, she launched the blog series ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS  for which a team of experienced writers answers other writers’ questions regarding submissions. She is a contributor to KIDLIT411.com, which is a fantastic website designed for making kid lit writers’ and illustrators’ lives easier by taking the best information about writing and illustrating from the Internet and putting it all in one handy spot. She is also a member of Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER blogging team who answers monthly questions about writing.

Alayne has been highly praised for her in-depth picture book critiques. Click here to learn more about her critique service.

After twelve years of helping women move toward their desired lives, Alayne recently hung up her life coaching hat to focus 100% on her writing career. Alayne often combines her coaching skills with her writing knowledge when giving critiques and writing blog posts.

To learn more about Alayne visit her website  and her blog. You can also find Alayne Kay Christian on Facebook, LinkedInTwitter, and Google+.

 

PRIZE! For those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge. Alayne is offering a chance to win a highly detailed, prose-only picture book critique

click HERE to be entered into the prize raffle for Alayne’s post.

 

 

 

 

LAST REMINDER: DON’T FORGET TO JOIN THE SUMMER SPARKS FB GROUP!

 

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
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

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