Tag Archives: children of the quicksands

30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 11


Shall I share one of the best kept secrets of truly unputdownable books? Yes?  Creating great scenes! Great scenes keep the reader hooked until the very end of a story. They are often one of the reasons why we find ourselves reading under the bed, with a tiny torch, deep into the night, in spite of the fact that we know we will wake up with the father of all headaches the next day.

How are these scenes created? By knowing and mastering the elements of the extraordinary scene.

They are:

  • setting,
  • the senses,
  • character development and motivation,
  • action,
  • dramatic tension and
  • scene intentions.

If these essential elements make it into every scene in your story, you are on your way to creating a truly memorable story.

NB: This list is a great tool for revisions too. Break your novel down into scenes and go through each scene to ensure that all the elements above are present.


  • Setting: Setting is described as encompassing a physical description of the place where the scene takes place and other characteristics such as the mood. Ensure that the setting of every scene is well spelt out. In Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traore, almost, if not every, single scene started with a paragraph on the setting. This was well done because these paragraphs immediately situate the reader in the character’s location in the story.
  • Senses: The senses breathe life into written words. This is true of all the senses other than sight and sounds. Surprise your readers! Use at least three senses at a time per scene, particularly the sense of smell! When describing the setting for example: describe the beauty of the flowers (sight) their scent (smell) their whispers as they swirl in the wind (sound), etc.
  • Action: This element is described as including both physical and emotional actions taken by characters. Your character must be in motion in every scene; physically or emotionally. They must have agency. These actions move the story from plot point to plot point.
  • Dramatic Tension: Best described in the dictionary as, “… a feeling of worry or excitement that you have when you feel that something is going to happen …’ (A. S. Hornby). It is achieved if the reader is faced with the unanswered question “What will happen next?” This question keeps the reader hooked until the last paragraph.
  • Character Development and or Motivation: A good scene also shows character development and or motivation. Why does your character perform certain actions in a particular scene? Is each new scene a natural progression from the previous scene?
  • Scene Intentions: Every good scene must contain the goal(s) of the scene. Why is this scene relevant to this story? What goal does it achieve? For example, if the scene is made up of a flashback, does the flashback show us why your character thinks the way she does?

NB: The Functions of a Good Scene

Effective scenes serve one or all of the following purposes:

  • reveal character,
  • advance the plot, and
  • create tension.

Here are some of my all-time favourite books for writing great scenes:

Picture Books

  • Anica Rissi, Love, Sophia on the Moon

Middle Grade

  • Efua Traore, Children of the Quicksands

Young Adult

  • Tochi Onyebuchi, Beasts Made of Night (the final scene was out-of-this-world. It gave me goose bumps! I highly recommend Onyebuchi’s book as a mentor text for writing scenes for MG and YA. He’s a scriptwriter after all!)

Craft Book

  • Jordan Rosenfield. Make a Scene, Crafting A Powerful Story, One Scene at a time.
  1. Action: Read like a Writer

Pick up some of your favorite books and try to figure out the elements the author utilized in each scene to make it stand out for you. Can you see any of the elements above?

2. Read.

So, want to write good scenes? Start reading mentor texts. You can start with some of the books on my list. 😊

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!

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For more information: read my essay here:

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30 TIPS for Writing Delightful Children’s Books Day 9


Ever thought of the story structure of most of the books you’ve read? Or the structure of the book you’re reading or writing right now? In other words, how is the story laid out for the reader?

There are many types/structures of books but in this post, we will discuss the 3 most common types, and my personal favorites.

1. Traditional. This is the easiest and most popular story structure utilized by most kidslit authors. It is usually laid out as follows; main character has a problem, he/she tries to solve the problem, faces an obstacle and fails. He/she tries again, faces another obstacle and fails. Then just when they are convinced that they will never solve the problem and the worst is about to happen, eureka, they figure out how to solve it. The main character experiences some form of emotional growth and the story ends. Think of some of your favorite books: picture books, chapter books, middle grade, YA, even adult, most of them are structured in this manner.

2. Parallel: This is my absolute favorite. How does it work: the author tells multiple stories with multiple plots at the same time. However, these stories are usually connected/intertwined and sometimes, finding the connection between the stories enables this structure create indescribable suspense. The best examples for this structure are Holes by Louis Sachar (middle grade) and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Hakes Noble (for picture books).If you want to learn more about this structure, read my essay here.

3. Hero’s Journey: Here, the main character starts the story in Point A, goes to Points B, C, D and or E and returns to Point A at the end. Most stories which utilize this structure are adventure stories featuring a hero/heroine who leaves their home, goes on a journey to achieve a goal (usually to save someone/something or the world and returns to their home having experienced some form of emotional growth. Think Harry Porter, Percy Jackson, etc. See also Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (picture book), and Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traore (Middle Grade).


Cumulative: The classical form of the cumulative structure is peculiar to shorter works, especially picture books. It features a story with a plot that builds upon itself using repetition and sometimes, rhyme. It is particularly loved by writers of poetry or lyrical picture books. Some prime examples are most Room on the Broom and other picture books by Julia Donaldson, The House that Jack Built and The 12 Days of Christmas poems. For Igbo kiddos who grew up in the 1990s, think of the folksong Nwanyi Iga.

Note that for picture books, the list of story structures is even longer; Question and Answer, Alphabet, Timeline, Counting, Circular, etc.

1. Action: Read some of the books listed above to get a feel of the types of story structure.

2. Read (Like a Writer) and then Write!

Determine the type of structure you would like to try and read as many books as you can written with that structure. Then try writing one. You can start with a short story and then try longer works. Good luck!

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!

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