Category Archive: Children’s books

Pictures and Books

By Pamela Love

One of my book covers

Whenever people find out that I write children’s fiction, they immediately ask, “How do you find an illustrator?”  As a matter of fact, I don’t.  Nearly all publishers want to hire their own illustrators for the manuscripts they purchase.  Even if you do find your own illustrator, a publisher may love the manuscript, but not the illustrations, or vice versa.  They often just reject both to avoid trouble with an author or illustrator who begs them to use the other person’s work.  If you want to write picture books, send them in without illustrations, unless you can do them yourself at a professional level.  (Even then, be prepared to hear, “We want to buy the story or use you as an illustrator for someone else but we don’t want both.”)

In a way, all books are picture books—although in many cases, the pictures reside in the readers’ brains.  Especially for children’s books (and short stories), think of the illustrator.  What are you giving him or her to work with?  (Even if the reader is the one imagining it all.)  I don’t just mean adjectives, like black hair or dry leaves.  I’m talking about action.  If your story contains mostly dialogue, can you have the characters doing something while they talk?  Are they joking while standing in line?  Whispering backstage while waiting to make their entrance in a ballet?  Arguing while building a tree house?

      Make the picture in your readers’ minds a detailed one!

 

What if your characters don’t talk?  I have published books about non-talking animals and a short story about a child who was non-verbal.  In that case, movement and sound become even more critical. Think of all the ways your characters can move in their environment:  climbing, running, jumping, diving, swimming, digging, sliding, etc. Also, think of all the ways the environment can be moving, potentially affecting the character.  If you have two people just talking in a room, you might try making the scene less static by having a breeze come through a window and blowing one character’s hair, and she keeps moving it back behind her ear.  Meanwhile, the other person goes to the refrigerator to take out a soda—and maybe shuts the window on the way.  Possibly the refrigerator has only soda in it, or maybe someone spilled milk in it and hasn’t cleaned the shelf yet.  All these details make the scene more realistic. Make the picture in your readers’ minds a detailed one!

Tips for Titles

Title time

by Pamela Love

What do these works have in common?

Black Beauty; The Princess and the Pea; Anne of Green Gables.

Answer:  Alliteration.  It’s the repetition of a beginning sound in words, and it’s a quick and easy way to make your titles memorable.  I’ve been writing children’s fiction since 1995, and I’ve sold nearly four dozen pieces with alliteration (for example, my picture books A Loon Alone and A Moose’s Morning) or some other form of word play in the title. It can be useful to think of a common saying or phrase and substitute a word for something relevant to your tale (as I did in my short stories “Where There’s a Well, There’s a Way,” and “Glide and Seek”).

One way to do this is by naming your protagonist something which will make forming an alliterative title easy.  That’s why the little boy with autism is named Simon in my short story “Simon Says,” (also a common phrase , obviously) in the anthology Family Matters: Thirteen Short Stories.

Target the audience with a sly wink in the title.

Overall, use these techniques with care when writing for adults; you will find the adjustment easy to make. You can produce a humorous or ironic effect; just consider the sexy contemporary romantic comedy Charmed and Dangerous by Lori Wilde, or Jasper Fforde’s hilarious satire First among Sequels, or Wishful Drinking, the uproariously sober memoir by Carrie Fisher. All of these titles target a more mature audience with a sly wink in the title.

And don’t forget famous alliterative titles like The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Angela’s Ashes, Love’s Labors Lost or Fahrenheit 451.

Titles in general are very important. Do what you can to make yours stand out from the others in the pile of manuscripts on the editor’s desk, and (with luck) the row of books on the library or bookstore shelf!

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After working as a teacher and in marketing, Pamela Love became a children’s writer in 1995. Scholastic/Children’s Books published her easy reader Two Feet Up, Two Feet Down. Down East Books published her four picture books: A Loon Alone, Lighthouse Seeds, A Cub Explores, and A Moose’s Morning. Her stories, poems, and plays have appeared in such magazines as Highlights for Children, Ladybug, Cricket, Pockets, and Jack and Jill, among others, and in two anthologies. She lives in Columbia, Maryland.