A Competition!!! My author copies of Moon and Sun (illustrated beautifully by Malene Laugesen and published by Upstart Press) have arrived and I am so pleased! The book is out February 11 and to celebrate it's imminent arrival I am giving away a copy. Tell me what your favourite science fiction movie (kids or adults) is, and why. I'll pick my favourite answer to receive the book. You can give your answer here on the blog, or in response to this blog post shared on twitter, instagram or facebook. One entry each only. Competition closes January 31st.
And to kick the year off I thought I'd address one of the topics I'd suggested at the end of last year. So today I'm going to talk about ...
What your plot cannot live without. Not all picture books have to have a plot. Some are concept books that look at the world around us, or important issues or ideas, and a plot isn't always necessary for these. The following list isn't exhaustive and may be added to over time. And if you think there is something I need to include, let me know :-)
So a plot needs...
1) A story that is from a child's point of view, or is of interest to children. Something I have noticed is writers assuming an adult's view of children will be of interest to children and I don't think that's true. An adults view of children (or grandchildren or other topics) is of interest to other adults. So what is of interest to young people? The list is actually pretty long but includes friendship, confidence, fear, fear of the dark, being lost, being lonely, being different, difference in others, a new sibling, loss of a loved one, learning to be adventurous, being brave, sharing, sibling relationships, blended families, new experiences, firsts (as in going to kindergarten, school, to the doctor, to the hospital, on a plane etc...for the first time), traditions, family, worry, sadness, immigration, facing challenges, and there are a whole lot more. But you do always need to consider whether the approach you've taken works for a child reader.
2) A purpose. What are the characters doing in the story and why? What is their goal and what stands in the way of them achieving it? I have read some lively, fun, cleverly worded picture book texts where there was no actual point to the story, and the bottom line is, this will be a hard sell to a publisher. A collection of events is not a plot.
3) A resolution or revelation. How have the issues presented been resolved, the goal been achieved or what has the character discovered on their journey. A summary is not a resolution.
4) A change in the main character (s). What do they know or understand now that they didn't know or understand at the beginning of the book? Is it relatable for a young reader?
5) Satisfaction. Is the plot enjoyable? Does it feel 'right'? Would a child want to hear the story again? Is the story durable? Is it timeless? Can it be enjoyed by different ages? The more of these boxes you tick the better your story will be.
Pick up any good picture book and ask yourself what is this story really about? What is the topic at the heart of the story and how does the plot explore that topic? How many layers are there? What sort of things might a child take away from reading this book? In Moon and Sun the story centres on the sibling relationship between the Moon and the Sun. There is misunderstanding and jealousy and loneliness. But the text also touches on the Moon's impact on Earth. The Moon's gravity is important to tides and crops, our concept of a calendar was initially based on the lunar cycle, and the orbits of the Earth and Moon allow the story's resolution. And humanity has been inspired by the Moon for centuries in art and music and literature. A child will be able to explore these scientific and artistic concepts for themselves.