The Write Way
23 October 2009
"Tell Me a Story ..."
While I was sitting here, chewing the end of my metaphorical pencil and trying to think of a title for this week's newsletter, those words just popped into my head. And then, hot on their heels, came the rest of the little ditty I can remember my mum and I singing back in the 50s:
"Tell me story, tell me story,
Now I won't tell you just how long ago it was that I used to sing that with my own children, suffice to say it's been decades since I've even thought of it, and yet my little grey cells dredged it all up in a split second when I gave the pot a bit of a stir.
You already know what a hoarder I am when it comes to books -- I can't bring myself to part with any, which is why nearly every wall in our home is covered in bookshelves (and the Shed is lined with boxes of books that don't fit on the shelves). Dusting takes me forever some weeks, because I get sidetracked so easily (and it doesn't even have to be by shiny objects!)
I find the kids' books are the most distracting ... ones I had as a child as well as those my own kids used to love. There are all the politically incorrect books, like Little Black Sambo (what a gorgeous little book that is -- those beautiful colours and just a perfect size for tiny hands).
The classics -- Beatrix Potter's Tale of Jeremy Fisher was our son's favourite, while our daughter preferred the craziness of Dr Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham.
But the hands-down family favourite during those bedtime-story days was Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?
Are you familiar with it? It's a big book, but every page is packed with lovely illustrations about ... well, what people do all day in Busytown. We see what goes on in a shop, a bank, a post office, and then we go into railway stations, fire stations and police stations. We see how to dig coal and then make electricity; how to build houses and make paper from wood; how to harvest grain to make flour to make bread in the bakery ... And lots and lots more.
It's an absolute delight. I'm sitting here now with the book open next to me and reliving all those times little fingers pointed to some part of a drawing that tickled a childish funny-bone, or a little voice recited the words from the next page because we'd read it so many times.
What makes this (and all the other books I've saved) so lovely is that the illustrations are attractive -- the little characters have smiles on their faces, they're all being kind to each other, they're happy and fulfilled in their work. (Yes, I know ... definitely a message there!)
I read that Richard Scarry (originally an illustrator) met his wife, Patricia Murphy, while they were collaborating on a book (she was the writer). They did well as a team and in the early 70s, moved to Switzerland and bought a chalet, where he set up his office to write and illustrate his books. Apparently, he was a man who knew all about the work ethic (as is obvious in his books!) because he used to sit down at his desk at 8 every morning and would work until 4 each afternoon. The only interruption permitted was his lunch hour.
In the course of his career, Richard Scarry published more than 300 books and sold 300 million copies around the world!
Doesn't that sound like an idyllic lifestyle?
People often think that writing a children's story is a piece of cake, after all, you just need a few pictures and a couple of lines of text, right?
Kids, as we all know, are a demanding audience, so you need to know how to appeal to them and how to deliver what your highly critical audience wants (no, demands), and that's why you need some help. Just imagine how great it would be if you could have Richard Scarry (or Beatrix Potter or J K Rowling) sitting next to you, telling you what to do -- and even more importantly -- what not to do when writing for children.
Well, have I got a surprise for you, girls and boys, because that's exactly what you can have, right now! But you'll have to wait until you get to this week's Little Something Extra to find out what it is ... (But if you're the impatient type, you can just click now.)
And a story you've probably already heard from your children ...
"Waiter! There's a twig in my soup!"
"My apologies, sir, I'll inform the branch manager."
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This week's quiz:
Here are some of the things children love in literature ... are you familiar with them all?
hyperbole, enjambment, alliteration, onomatopoeia, ambiguity, assonance, ballad, couplet, euphony, limerick
1. two consecutive lines of poetry that usually rhyme and have the same metre
2. song, transmitted orally from generation to generation, that tells a story and that eventually is written down
3. light, humorous style of fixed form poetry; usual form consists of five lines with the rhyme scheme aabba; lines 1, 2, and 5 contain three feet, while lines 3 and 4 usually contain two feet
4. repetition of the same consonant sounds in a sequence of words, usually at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable
5. word that resembles the sound it denote
6. two or more simultaneous interpretations of a word, phrase, action, or situation, all of which can be supported by the context of a work
7. boldly exaggerated statement that adds emphasis without intending to be literally true
8. language that is smooth and musically pleasant to the ear
9. repetition of internal vowel sounds in nearby words that do not end the same
10. when one line of poetry ends without a pause and continues into the next line for its meaning
Q: What do cowboys use to signal each other during a midnight round-up?
A: Communication Saddle Lights
Q: What would happen if everyone in the country bought a pink automobile?
A: We would have a pink carnation
Last week's quiz:
Portmanteau words - separate these into their bits:
1. chortle (chuckle and snort).
2. smog (smoke and fog).
3. splatter (splash and spatter).
4. squish (squirt and swish).
5. blurt (blow and spurt).
6. splutter (splash and sputter).
7. grumble (growling and rumbling).
8. flaunt (flout and vaunt).
9. flare (flame and glare).
10. squawk (squall and squeak).
Clownfish rely on the anemone for protection from predators. But a young clownfish decided to find a new home and left his anemone. He searched the coral reef for somewhere to hide. Eventually he found a bed of coral with fern-like fronds.
The next day, his worried friends searched for him. After hours of searching, they assumed the worst and decided to go home. Just then, they heard the clownfish calling them. They looked around but didn't see him -- the coral hid him perfectly.
He showed himself to his friends, who tried to convince him to return to his anemone. But he refused saying, "With fonds like these, who needs anemones?"
A Little Something Extra
So, do you fancy having a book published, being able to give the children in your family a book that you've written, seeing the envy in the eyes of that pushy person you used to work with ... the one who always ridiculed your writing ideas? (Hmmm ... OK ... maybe that was just me ...)
Maybe, like me, you've put that little dream into the Too-Hard basket, but wouldn't it be t'riffic to actually have a Plan to follow so you could really and truly write that story that's been drifting around your little grey cells for so long? Just think how easy it would be if there was a list of the top 10 mistakes made by people writing stories for children (so you could avoid them).
Just think how great it would be if there was a list that set out the different types of book that appeal to different age groups, and if this same list showed you the specific length, format and content for all of these different books.
And what if there was an outline to guide you through the 7 character types that succeed in children's stories? And if there was a list of the 7 basic storylines that all kids love? And the 20 basic plots on which all successful stories depend?
Pretty nifty, eh?
And to top it all ... what if there was a step-by-step, day-by-day guide that took you through the stages in planning, writing and preparing your bok for publication?
I started working through this last week and began to wish I'd waited until I had more spare time so I could sit all day long and do it ... It's one of those tasks that really takes over your mind. Even when I was eating, I found myself coming up with ideas I could use in my story.
If you're feeling a bit depressed for any reason, this is a perfect cure! No need for pills and potions, just start writing a children's story and all your problems vanish! Click here to find out more about what's in this little ripper of a course.
Word of the week: Cacophony (n) Language that is discordant and difficult to pronounce, such as this line from John Updike’s "Player Piano": "never my numb plunker fumbles." Cacophony ("bad sound") may be unintentional in the writer’s sense of music, or it may be used consciously for deliberate dramatic effect.
by John Updike
My stick fingers
click with a snicker
Oxymoron of the week: computer-illiterate teenager
This week's Latin phrase is for when the ankle-biters push you too far ...
Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis
[poh-STAH-taym ohb-SKOO-ree lah-TAY-rees nays-KEE-tees]
(You do not know the power of the dark side)
Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)?
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2009
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com