Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Picture Book Plot Patterns

I'm still working my way through Anastasia Suen's book Picture Writing: A new approach to writing for kids and teens. I confess my progress is super slow. I'm trying to digest and assimilate each section as I read it. And the exercises take quite a bit of time. But all serious learning does.

I'm digesting the chapter on "Seeing Nonfiction." Suen offers a helpful list of "Plot Patterns For Young Nonfiction" that is really clicking with me. Have you noticed that I relish LISTS?

I am deep into the process of writing Picture Books. I've finally gotten it through my head that fiction PBs MUST have a plot with conflict and an MC with a story problem and the gumption to solve the problem for himself. Conflict. Story Arc. The darkest hour. Satisfactory resolution.

But what about all of those successful Board Books and Picture Books that DON'T have a plot and story arc, etc.? Especially books about holidays and seasons and such.


Suen's explanations answer some of those nightmarish questions for me. Here is her list of Plot Patterns for Young Nonfiction. [I love it!]
  • Question and Answer (a variation of the problem-resolution pattern)
  • Sequence (numbers, letters, days of the week)
  • A Day in the Life [of] (begins in the morning, ends at night)
  • Predictable (a clue in the text tells you what happens next)
  • Cumulative (repeats and builds, like The House That Jack Built)
  • The Journey (travels from one place to another)
  • Cause and Effect (one thing leads to another)
  • Compare and Contrast (an elephant is big, a mouse is small)
  • Definition (tells what something is)


Is that not as obvious as the Big Bad Wolf's snout?


But to a PB novice like me this lifts the sacred veil from the mystery of PBs that don't have a well-defined story arc.

Thank you, Anastasia Suen!

You think THAT'S something; wait until you see what she says about Concept Books...

4 comments:

Linda A. said...

Hi Jean,

That's quite an interesting list. Keep gathering facts about PBs and yours will definitely benefit. I'm glad you're enjoying the self-study.

Toyin O. said...

Thanks for sharing Jean; very informative post. Just wanted to also thank you for visting my blog and a big Amen to your prayer!

Toyin O. said...

Thanks for sharing Jean; very informative post. Just wanted to also thank you for visting my blog and a big Amen to your prayer!

WordWrangler said...

I absolutely needed to read this today. I worked on some pb ideas yesterday, but couldn't find where I wanted to be. They didn't have a plot - but I felt like they WERE PBS. Thank you for lifting the veil for me.

I have GOT to get her book!