WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS TIP #4: ELEMENTS OF FICTION
What is the difference between a book that stays on the Bestseller list for years and the one that is dumped after the first three chapters? What is the difference between the book that keeps you up all night, flipping the pages, when you have 1001 things to do and the one that you need to be bribed to read? What is the difference between the truly memorable and unputdownable books and the bleh ones? 5 elements!!! Like a good pot of soup, every story needs some essential ingredients (elements) to create a memorable sensory feast for the consumer. Can you imagine making tomato stew without tomatoes? 😊 In the same way, you cannot create a good story without these elements. Here they are: The five MUST-HAVE elements of a good story. Character: Every good story must have a character or characters. These are the persons, animals, creatures or things who perform the action in the story. Our stories revolve around them. There are two main types: the main character(s) (the protagonist) and the supporting character(s) (secondary and tertiary characters). You can have multiple main and supporting characters. Plot: In simple terms: What happens in your story? The plot is the series of related actions that make up your story. What happens to the characters in your story? What do they do? Setting: Three things to consider: Place, Period and Mood. Place: Is your story set in Nigeria, Japan, your village? Earth, Mars, an imaginary world? What about the period: 2000 years BC, 3014 AD, the 16th century? Some place where time means nothing? Mood: Is the atmosphere ominous? dark? hopeful? peaceful? tense? Theme: This is the heart of your story. The story itself. Often the reason why readers will love your book and return to it over and over again. What universal truth does your story proclaim? Love conquers all? One good turn deserves another? Unity in diversity? Point of View (POV): Who is telling the story? A narrator? The main character? The main character and several supporting characters? Or wait for it!! The narrator, the main character and the supporting characters? How is this person telling the story? Are they talking to themselves? Talking to another character? Telling a story or talking directly to the reader? There are 3 types of POV: First, Second and Third person point of view. Other important elements: Humour: Is your story humourous? If yes, what type: dark? satirical? ironic? hyperbolic? Juvenile? The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen Literary Devices: Do you employ literary devices to make your words sing or to make your story lyrical? The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson Scenes: Are the scenes in your story action packed? Do they have a clear goal and a beginning, middle and end? Love, Sophia on the Moon by Anica Rissi Poetry: Is your story in verse: that is, structured like a poem? Is it free verse or does it rhyme? Star Fish by Lisa Fipps Structure: What is the layout of your story? Does it use the rule of threes? Is it a parallel story featuring 2 stories playing out at the same time? Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Noble. Does it feature the 3 or 4 act structure? Or the hero’s journey? Is it an epistolary? Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague 1. Action: Identify these 5 elements in the books you love Is there a book you have read more than once? Yes? That’s the one you need. 😊 a. Identify the 5 elements in this book b. Figure out how the author used these elements to make this book memorable. 2. Read. Here are some of my favourites: For characters: Children of Blood and Bone (YA) by Tomi Adeyemi: Prince Inan and Amari and The Junie B Jones Series (CB) by Barbara Parks: Junie B Jones. Note that books with memorable characters will most likely be part of a series. Memorable characters form the backbone of most series. For setting: Zahrah the Windseeker (MG) by Nnedi Okoroafor and Amari and the Night Brothers (MG) by B. B. Alston; Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky (MG) by Kwame Mbalia For Theme: How To Find What You’re Not Looking For (MG) by Veera Hiranandani and Echo (MG) by Pam Munoz Ryan For POV: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (PB) by Mo Willems and Hello Universe (MG) by Erin Entrada Kelly For Plot: Holes (MG) by Louis Sachar and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team (MG Nonfiction) by Christina Soontornvat Some of these books ticked multiple boxes for me. Want to write a story for children, don’t know where to start? Tell me all about it and we can figure out the theme and some mentor texts for you! Get the next tip in your inbox. Click on the link below to subscribe to my newsletter!!
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