Tag Archives: Parallel narratives

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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Title: Holes

Author: Louis Sachar

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Publishing

Number of pages: 233 

Type of Book: Middle Grade, Fairytale, Folktale, Adventure, Mystery. 

Age: 10+

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/Holes-Louis-Sachar/dp/0440414806/ref=pd_sbs_1?pd_rd_w=T5aro&pf_rd_p=965b754e-4670-4322-863d-d4929773ec49&pf_rd_r=KGQV70T7HK8VM5JYXH37&pd_rd_r=17b1b8b7-2dcc-45ab-8e21-fe1cfd2bfdb0&pd_rd_wg=HdnfV&pd_rd_i=0440414806&psc=1 and @thebookwormcafeng on Instagram.

Price: $ 8.49 or N3000


Stanley Yelnats and all his family members have bad luck, it is so bad that Stanley ends up in a juvenile detention centre in the middle of the desert for a crime he didn’t commit. At Camp Green, he must dig holes every day under the hot sun: back-breaking and totally boring stuff until he finds a tube of lipstick in one of his holes and then he goes after a runaway. Then, the adventure begins. The author goes back and forth between three stories: Stanley’s story, a fairytale and a folktale, spinning a thrilling, humorous and powerful story about friendship, crime and punishment.


UP: I enjoyed this book as a reader and a writer! The reader in me LOVED the parallel stories; one contemporary, one fairy tale and one folk tale, each with its own fair share of excitement, adventure and suspense. The deadly yellow-spotted lizard, “Kissing Kate” the outlaw, the search for the treasure, and the warden (this woman slapped someone with a snake’s venom) were some of the highlights of the book. This book is a must read for children and adults alike!!

For Ugo, the writer, the highlight was the parallel structure and how all three stories tied up neatly in the end. Just wondering how they were connected and trying to figure it out added to the mystery of the book. Sachar is a wonderful writer with the power to thrill with words. The blend of fairy tale, fantasy, adventure, mystery, humour, folktale and realism in on package is mind-blowing. It is a great mentor text for parallel narratives.   

DOWN: Nada …


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  1. Read an excerpt here: https://www.npr.org/books/titles/204896601/holes 



  1. Write a 1,000-word story with 2 parallel stories.

Send your answers to ugochinyelu.anidi@gmail.com.

Entry requirements: Entrants must be within the 10 – 12 age range. The first correct entry will be announced on this page and will win a copy of this book.

Answers must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 7th 2021.

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