How I Write a Children’s Book – Part 4

We’ve come to the part where we actually get to start writing our story. Yay! Okay, page one, once upon a time. Page thirty-four, and they lived happily ever after.

I’m sure many writers wish it were that easy. It’s not. Keep in mind, as I write these articles, I am also writing this story. This is not something that was entirely written that I am showing you a behind the scenes view of.

When I write, I usually place a summary of the story, locations, goals and characters that are important at the top of the page.  As I enhance these aspect, I then alter the information.

Summary : A penguin wishes he was a bird. He loves watching birds fly through the air. Nearby a baby pigeon falls from it’s nest into a lake. The mother frantically calls for help, but no ones comes to her aid. Our penguin hears her cries and dives into the water, flapping his flippers like bird wings, and saves the baby pigeon.

Location : Central Park

Goal : Teach about being yourself and embrace who you are.

Characters :

  • Slappy – our protagonist, he is a small penguin who wishes he could fly.
  • Mama pigeon –
  • Baby pigeon –
  • Sam the ice cream man –

Right off the bat, I’m going to make one change. I know we spoke about using Central Park as the park for the story. Here is why I’d like to change it. My using a known location, people will expect more factual information in the story. I can hear the people now, “There are no trees like that in Central Park.”, “Pigeons don’t have nests in the area by the water because of the … blah blah blah.”  Let’s silence those nay sayers before they get the chance to write. Let’s just call it, “Sunshine Park”.

Location : Central Park Sunshine Park.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s start writing.

When I write, I try to visualize each page. I write a page at a time and, if I have any ideas on how it should be illustrated I include that.

For example :

Page 1 : It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents.
(An wide aerial view of the landscape below. Rain is falling hard, and lightning fills the sky)

Keep in mind this is my format, not necessarily something you need to follow. Some writers write the whole story, then break it down into pages.

Hmm. So how should we start? Once upon a time is no longer really used for story books. Although artist and illustrator Dani Jones created a great story titled, “Once Upon A Time“. You can read the story online, or purchase a print copy. Be sure to check it out. Remember, inspiration comes from everywhere. For our story, I think we should describe Sunshine Park. Let’s set the stage for our star and then introduce him.

Page 1 : Sunshine park is the most beautiful park in the world. People and animals from all around come to spend time in this wonderful place.
(Sunrise at the park. A view from above,as if in a tree, looking down on the park. The park has trees, bushes, paths, people are about, as well as birds, squirrels and rabbits.)

Page 2: But for one of the residents, the park is a place filled with great happiness and great sadness.
(Inside view of the ice cream cart. Our little penguin is waking up to his alarm clock. It’s dark, but light shines though certain areas.)

Page 3: His name is Slappy, and he is the only penguin in Sunshine Park.
(View from the outside of the ice cream cart. You see the legs of Sam the Ice Cream man, ICE CREAM written on the cart. The side door of the cart is open and we see Slappy leaning out smiling at the day.)

Let’s look at what we’ve done here. We’ve established “where” the story is taking place We’ve established that our main character’s name and that he is sad about something. We’ve also established that he lives in an ice cream cart, without openly saying “… who lives in an ice cream cart …” This is why jotting down illustration ideas is a great way to get your vision across.

Next, we will establish his love for birds, and why he also sad.

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