Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Beginnings, Middles, and Endings?

In an interview with 2009 Children’s Writer”s and Illustrator’s Market, my editor, Allyn Johnston said:

Whenever I am working on a picture book, I try to remain as mindful as I can of the actual experience an adult and a child will have reading it together. I think of the shared feelings of connectedness they’ll have as they listen to the story—as much for a raucous book as for a quiet one.

I try to have those thoughts inform all of my decisions—especially about pacing, and most especially about that Mother of All Page Turns: the one from pages 30-31 to page 32. That’s the most important part of a picture book, the place where the arrow goes right into the reader and listener, and that’s where I want the book to have its strongest emotional impact.

Whenever I write a picture book, I keep this in mind. The ending as an “arrow” to the heart of the reader. Does this mean I will begin with an ending? Currently I have lots of picture book beginnings, middles, but the endings are waiting in the wings, waiting for that emotional impact. When I began writing Winter is the Warmest Season I had the first line: “Winter is the warmest season. Most people think it’s summer with its long steamy days, but not me, my world is warmest in winter.” It was a good beginning, but good picture books need a good beginning and a good ending. The ending is what I did not have. I made lists of warm things in winter with opposing lists of cool things in summer. The comparisons began to bounce off of each other creating a sense of passing time. Suddenly my story was passing through a typical snowy winter day with a party at night, bath time, bedtime with books and hugs. It was not until I put my character to sleep that the ending came to me and when it came, it made me laugh out loud. That is when I knew it was ready to send to my publisher.


Christy said...

I will always remember this now, Lauren. Great visual--an arrow to the heart.

I love how your ending came to you through process. Your Winter is the Warmest Season is a wonderful, satisfying story from beginning to end.

Lauren said...

Thanks Christy. This is also true for the illustrations and how they end as well-- that emotional impact, whatever the emotion, has to be strong.

betsy woods said...

Lauren, in that quote you offered me piercing insight into a picture book I'm writing. Thank you and thank you and thank you.

Lauren said...

Excellent! And if you want to read more wisdom from Allyn (and Marla) go here:

Edie Hemingway said...

I agree with Christy and Betsy. What amazing insight you've provided with the ending of a picture book having the most impact-- an arrow straight to the heart of the reader!

betsy woods said...

Lauren, I am working on the ending of a picture book that is begging for a wittier ending. It is there, vaguely floating around my mind, but I struggle with accessing it, as if there is a opaque screen between the that ending and my mind.

David LaRochelle said...

It IS just the perfect ending, Lauren.

You are right about a picture book ending needing to be strong. That's why I like knowing the ending from the start...it's more unsettling when I don't know it, and have to hope that I can eventually nail it, the way you did with WINTER IS THE WARMEST SEASON.