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Linear Stories for Picture Books

Unlike stories with a plot, linear stories (AKA incident stories) are made up of a series of incidents flowing from one to the next, each incident having about the same weight/importance. The protagonist moves through the incidents without really changing or learning anything. So linear stories tend to be about typical days in the protagonist’s life, rather than extraordinary days required for a plot. Linear stories are often bookended by a beginning (waking up, arriving at Grandma’s house, leaving for the beach) and an end (going to sleep, leaving Grandma’s, watching the sun set at the beach before going home) to create a satisfying structure. However, linear stories only work if they do something special. The language may be rhythmic and beautiful, the series of events surprising or absurd, or the incidents themselves infused with humor.

I seldom attempt linear picture books, but most are for ages 3 to 5, and are hard to write for. Brian Lies has a series of books about bats. Bats at the Beach comes to mind.

turtle

 

Seven W’s for beginning a novel:

WHO is the main character: Bring the main character out soon. Starting with a secondary character confuses readers.

What does the character WANT: Problem, goal, or conflict (oneself, outside world, nature).

WHEN is your story taking place: Time is not always necessary, especially if it’s in the present. Hints are usually enough.

WHERE is your story taking place: The reader needs to know the where, but hints are sometimes enough. “Farmer Jones” tells the reader it’s on a farm.

WHAT is the story’s tone & what obstacles does the character face: Funny, serious, sad, etc. Word selection and rhythm are important. Make the main character suffer until the climax.

WHY the character does what they do: The main character reacts for certain reasons, possibly back story the reader never sees.

WOW!: Hook the reader!

Finishing a novel: Seven plot points for the story arc

GOALS: What the main character wants to achieve.

OBSTACLES: Hurdles to overcome or to make the main character suffer.

MOTIVATION: Why does the main character want it? Or not want it?

FEARS: What fears must the main character overcome? Or live with?

STAKES: What happens if the main character doesn’t get their wishes?

REWARDS: If the main character gets what they want, how does it affect them?

BLACK MOMENT: Toward the end of the story arc, the main character should have a crisis of faith that causes them to give up all hope. (just before the solution appears)

Eights Mask2

 

Six’s for picture books

Six hints to start your picture book, and six more hints to finish your picture book.

 

Six W’s for beginning a book

Who is the main character: Bring the main character out first. Starting with a secondary character confuses readers.

What does the character want: Problem, goal, or conflict (oneself, outside world, nature).

When is your story taking place: Time is not always necessary, especially if it’s in the present. Hints are usually enough.

Where is your story taking place: The reader needs to know the where, but hints are sometimes enough. “Farmer Jones” tells the reader it’s on a farm.

What is the story’s tone: Funny, serious, sad, etc. Word selection and rhythm are important.

WOW!: Hook the reader!

 

Six plot points for the story arc

Goal: What the character wants.

Obstacles: Hurdles to overcome.

Motivation: Why does the character want it?

Fears: What fears must the character overcome?

Stakes: What happens if the character doesn’t get their wishes?

Rewards: If the character gets what they want, how does it affect them?

carmichaelskids1

22 Rules adapted from Pixar

 

My take on these wonderful rules. They are good for adult writing, too:

Rule 1: How hard a character tries counts more than his/her success.

I.e. it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all (Bill Shakespeare maybe?).

 

Rule 2: Make it fun for the reader, not fun for the writer. I.e. keep the reader in mind, keep them engaged. I am sometimes guilty of that.

 

Rule 3: Themes are important, but they often aren’t apparent until the end of the story. Worry about theme on your rewrite.

 

Rule 4: Once upon a time…Daily…One day…Because of that and that…Finally. A story progression more for cartoons or picture books than YA or adult.

 

Rule 5: Keep it simple. Maybe even combine characters. If you stumble on something in your story, go around it, come back later(of you decide to).  I heard it as KISS-Keep It Simple, Stupid.

 

Rule 6: What are your main character’s strengths? Throw the worst at them. Can they handle it? (I always heard it as ruin your POV character’s day)

 

Rule 7: Figure out the ending then worry about the middle. I’ve been told that at workshops.

 

Rule 8: Even if it’s not perfect, finish your story. Learn from it. What’s the prefect story look like?

 

Rule 9: When you get stuck, make a list of what won’t happen next. Hopefully the next step will appear. Take your reader where they’re not expecting to go.

 

Rule 10: Dissect the stories you like, understand story structure. Your story will be a part of you, but you have to understand it before you can write it.

 

Rule 11: Don’t leave a story in your head, get it on paper even if it’s flawed. It may be a late bloomer.

 

Rule 12: Plot twists—don’t use your first idea or the second and so on. Surprise yourself, but make the plot twist believable.

 

Rule 13: Make your character strong, even opinioned, but never wishy-washy. (Charlie Brown had opinionated secondary characters)

 

Rule 14: Why do you have to tell this particular tale? If you don’t have a reason, maybe you shouldn’t. (but read rule 8)

 

Rule 15: You have to experience your POV character’s emotions, feelings etc. as if it’s really you. I.e. suffer or celebrate with them.

 

Rule 16: Raise the stakes. Even if the character fails in the middle of the story, raise the stakes anyway.

 

Rule 17: Don’t throw away manuscripts that don’t work. Someday you find a need for them.

 

Rule 18: Do your best and don’t worry about failure. Thomas Edison always said he had a 1000 failures for every success.

 

Rule 19: You can use coincidence to get a character in trouble, but not to solve their problems. Make it believable.

 

Rule 20: Exercise: Take a story you don’t like. What would you do to make it a good story? Or do the opposite, what would ruin a story you like?

 

Rule 21: You have to identify with your POV character. You have to understand why they act and say the way they do. Be them.

 

Rule 22: Do you understand the heart of your story? Is your story buried in your manuscript? I.e. have you overwritten? Decide the plot arc and subplots, then and delete that doesn’t advance the plot.

 

Eights Mask2

2016 Writing Contest

 

Contest Guidelines and Rules

All work must be original, typewritten on 8 ½ x 11 white paper.  Poetry must be single-spaced; all other genres must be double-spaced.

Submit two copies of each entry.

Number and title of category must appear in upper left corner of first page of each entry.  DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON ENTRIES.

On the cover sheet include your name, address, email and/or phone number followed by a list of category numbers, category names, and titles of entries. Please indicate whether or not you are a member of Green River Writers.

No submission may be entered in more than one category.

No more than three (3) submissions per category.

No work will be published or returned; keep copies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since winning entries are not published, all rights remain with the author.

Entry fees:

Grand prize categories- $3 each entry for GRW members; $5 each entry for non-members.

All other categories- $2 each entry or $12 maximum for GRW members; $3 each entry for non-members, but they may join GRW and receive the member rate.

Overpayments will be considered donations to GRW and will not be returned.

Make check or money order payable to Green River Writers, Inc.  Mail fee and entries no later than September 30, 2016 to:

Green River Writers, Inc.

2016 Writing Contest

c/o Charles Suddeth

9815 Farnham Drive

Winners will be announced on the GRW website,                                                         http://www.greenriverwriters.org, December 31, 2016.

 

Louisville, KY 40223

 

 

For information regarding upcoming events, contact: Green River Writers, Inc.  membership@greenriverwriters.org   (502) 552-9578.

 

Grand Prize Categories, sponsored and judged by Green River Writers, Inc.

GRW members: $3 each entry. Non-members: $5 each entry

 

#1 President’s Prize—Fiction                         #2 Green River Grande—Poetry

Short fiction to 2000 words.                                 Any subject, any form, to 50 lines.

Prizes: 1st, $175, 2nd, $100, 3rd, $50                            Prizes: 1st, $175, 2nd, $100, 3rd, $50

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Fiction and Poetry Categories, sponsored by individual writers and writing groups

Fees for these categories are in addition to Grand Prize entry fees.

GRW members: $2 each entry or $12 maximum for up to three (3) entries per category

Non-members: $3 each entry, but non-members may join GRW and receive the member rate

 

 

Fiction/Prose Categories

 

#3 Green River Lean—Short-Short Fiction Maximum 1000 words.

Prizes: 1st $50, 2nd $30, 3rd $20, 1 HM $10

Sponsor/Judge: Marj Bixler

 

#4 Novel: Novel First Chapter—Fiction

Open to the first chapter of any unpublished or self-published novel. Entries should be typed, double spaced, in 12-point font. Length limit: 26 pages.

Prizes: 1st $75, 2nd $50, 3rd $25

Sponsor: Virginia S. Anderson

Judge: To be announced

 

#5 Rubye Fowler Memorial Prize in Creative Nonfiction

Limit 3000 words. Do not send short stories based on fact.

Prizes: 1st $50, 2nd $30, 3rd $20

Sponsor/Judge: Elaine Fowler Palencia

 

#6 Suzanne Suddeth Memorial Prize—Children’s Prose

First chapter of a novel or a short story for children ages 10 to 18. Maximum 1000 words.

Prizes: 1st $30, 2nd $20, 3rd $10

Sponsor/Judge: Charles Suddeth

 

Poetry Categories

 

#7 Jim O’Dell Memorial—Poetry

One limerick, standard form (5 lines), wild and absurd.

Prizes: 1st $30, 2nd $20, 3rd $10

Sponsor/Judge: Mary O’Dell

 

#8 Sometimes You Can’t Be Saved from Yourself—Poetry

Poetry, 40-line limit. Poems using rhyme and meter will be held to exceptionally high standards.

Prizes: 1st $30, 2nd $20, 3rd $10

Sponsors/Judges: Judy Milford & Terri Alekzander

 

#9 I Heard It On the Radio—Poetry

Poet’s interpretation, any style, no line limit.

Prizes: 1st $50, 2nd $25, 3rd $15,                  1 HM $10

Sponsor: Jack Robin

Judge: To be announced

 

#10 Flaunt Your Images—Poetry

Write a poem that has one or more images of the body: Human, animal, insect, alien etc. 32-line limit, no rhyming.

Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd $15, 3rd $10

Sponsor/Judge: Pam Hirschler

 

#11 The Thing Under the Bed—Poetry

36-line limit, no rhyme, let the imagination run wild.

Prizes: 1st $30, 2nd $20, 3rd $10

Sponsor/Judge: Christine Strevinsky

 

#12 Small-Town Observations—Poetry

Where thoughtfulness meets whimsy. Up to 40 lines, unrhymed but orderly and well crafted.

Prizes: 1st $30, 2nd $20, 3rd $10

Sponsors/Judges: The Thursday Poets

 

#13 Waste not, want not—Poetry

A poem with no adverbs, at most 3 adjectives. Any style. Minimum 16, maximum 30 lines.

Prizes: 1st $30, 2nd $20, 3rd $10

Sponsor/Judge: Jean Tucker

 

#14 Strange Duck, in Honor of Sue Bayes—Poetry

Our Sue had a keen sense of humor, so please send poems of a witty or clever nature. Take an ironic view of life. Or document one of life’s tragic moments—just remember to add a smile. No limericks. Up to 32 lines.

Prizes: 1st $46.19, 2nd $30, 3rd $20

Sponsors/Judges: Barroom Bards

 

Postmark Deadline: September 30, 2016

 

Green River Writers, Inc. board members and officers are ineligible to enter the annual contest for the duration of their term(s).

 

Holidays can be fun. Mama always warned me: Choose your friends & holidays carefully. I never listened.

  1. Only the Horses are Sane Day: In Louisville, the Kentucky Derby is THE holiday. Partying over a 2-minute race goes on for days. I love the Derby, but by the 1st Saturday in May, I am more tired than the horses. And I always bet on nags that never find the finish line.
  2. Too Much Candy Day: Okay, I really don’t hate Halloween, but I never get trick-or-treaters. I end up eating all the candy. I could buy candy that I didn’t like, but the little ones wouldn’t like it either. Besides, what candy don’t I like?
  3. Cute Little Critter Day: As a writer, I want something more attention-grabbing than Ground Hog Day. How about Skunk Day or Porcupine Day? And in the south, ground hogs are dinner. My grandparents often dined on them, so those groundhogs never saw their shadows.
  4. Boss’s Day: Really? Really? Aren’t the other 364 days Boss’s Days, too? It’s listed as October 16 or the nearest workday. How about Employee’s Day instead? We deserve one stinking day a year.
  5. You Gotta be Kidding Day: The third Saturday in October is listed in some states as Sweetest Day. We need more candy a few days before Halloween? Frankly, the day was invented by several candy manufacturers years ago. Wonder why?
  6. Stay Home and Hide Day: AKA Black Friday. The Friday after Thanksgiving is the day everyone but me shops. Except for bookstores, shopping is more painful than root canals.
  7. What Happened to Secretary’s Day: On Wednesday of the last week in April is Administrative Professionals Day. I have nothing against secretaries, but this name implies something is wrong with secretaries. Am I a Word Professional?
  8. The Fourth of July: I love Independence Day. I love parades & fireworks. Patriotic songs make me cry. But they voted for the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, they wrote it up on July 3rd, and signed it on July 4th. My birthday is July 3rd, so as a compromise, it should be The Third of July. Who said writers aren’t egotistical?
  9. Winter Solstice: The Shortest Day of the Year, a few days before Christmas. AKA the Longest Night of the Year. It’s too dark and cold to do anything on this day. I always write late & sleep in, so I see almost no daylight. Maybe it will inspire me to write a vampire novel.

     10. Tax Day: Need I state the obvious? Every April 15th Uncle Sam demands his share of the booty. I don’t mind paying, but questions haunt my mind: Did I forget anything? (Of course I did) Did I include everything? (Even the IRS doesn’t know) What if they didn’t receive my tax forms? I’ll end up in a prison cell with a guy named Killer Joe.
Don’t be surprised if you read my novels and some these of holidays show up. I always wanted to do a horror story. How about, Zombies on Black Friday?  Or Derby Horses Get Even With the Jockeys? Or Killer Ground Hogs from Outer Space.

Eights Mask2

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Happy 4th!!!!

Happy Independence Day! May the Fourth be with you!

American flag flying in the wind

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