You have written your picture book, but does your beginning grab your readers attention? Editors and agents to whom you are pitching your book specifically look for how you hook your reader. You want your reader to want to turn the page and keep reading. Here are a few suggestions.
Picture books are only 32 pages and the word count is usually under 750 words. Your opening needs to be quick and exciting in order to grab your readers attention. You don’t have time for lengthy explanations or set-up. You have such a short space to tell your story that you can’t waste any time. The pacing of children’s stories generally moves lickety-split, so don’t write at a tortoise pace. Start your plot or conflict as soon as possible, preferably on the first or second page.
Engage the reader
Writers can make their openings more effective by giving children a relatable character. Children tend to enjoy stories where they can identify with the main character. Within the first two pages give your reader the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY? Add a last line to your first page that will have your readers turning the page wanting to know more.
Find your characters voice
Voice is very important in a picture book. Voice means that your writing sounds childlike. The language children use, the tone of the story, and the authenticity, should feel real to young readers.
Each character has a unique voice. Your main character may be strong, quiet, cranky or funny. In those first pages you want your reader to identify with the character. That is a good way to hook young readers. Good writing for picture books includes voice.
Putting it together
The best way to put this together is to take action. When I was writing Gertie Saves the Day I needed to take action and use mentor texts to help me write my first page. Here are a few things that will help.
- Take a look at several picture books and analyze the first page Are you able to answer the Five Ws about this book? Does the author clearly establish character voice?
- Take a look at your first pages. Are you able to answer the Five Ws? Do you clearly establish the characters voice?
Bonus: Begin your story with a snappy first sentence and include a last line that will have your readers excited to turn the page.
I am so glad you’re here and so grateful that I can share this journey with you. I really do believe that the world needs your story to be told.
I’m looking forward to helping in any way that I can. And speaking of helping — please leave a comment below and let me know what questions you have about picture book writing.
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There will be no blog post next week. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone who celebrates a very Happy and safe 4th of July.
Enjoy your day!