Thursday, 6 November 2014

Plot Twists that Zing! - by Natascha Biebow


So you’ve written a picture book and it’s got a beginning, middle and an end, but it doesn’t yet zing . . .  You’re still left asking, "So what?"

What can you do?


Lately, I’ve been noticing that the picture books that tickle my fancy are those that have something extra – a twist.




Remember I blogged about creating a breakout premise? Well, if you can surprise the reader and add some humour or unpredictability to your premise, you are definitely on your way towards creating a premise that is extraordinary.


Children love extraordinary flights of the imagination. They relish the unpredictable!
Here are some ways to add a twist to your book:



1. Give your premise a twist:



If you can turn the predictable on its head, you are headed for a premise that equals a distinctive USP (unique selling point). Editors, sales people, booksellers, librarians, children and all kinds of readers just love that!



Aliens that love underpants . . .

Aliens Love Underpants by Freedman & Cort


Pirates that are . . .

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Andreae & Ayto






                                                                                         . . . dinosaurs!


from Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Andreae & Ayto

2. Give your characters a twist:


The Gruffalo really does exist . . .
from The Gruffalo by Donaldson & Sheffler

. . .  plus the tiny mouse is cleverer and braver even than this fierce-looking beastie!

The Gruffalo by Donaldson & Sheffler



This is Goldilocks’ story . . .

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

. . . but no bears live here!

from Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

This crocodile . . .

I Really Want to Eat a Child by Donnio and De Monfreid

. . . needs to eat bananas to get big and strong after all – not a child!

from I Really Want to Eat a Child by Donnio and De Monfreid

3. Give your plot a twist:



Two families plan to swap houses for their holiday . . .



Pirate House Swap by Longstaff & Chambers
But one is not quite what they expected . . .

Pirate House Swap by Longstaff & Chambers

Grandma mustn’t find out about the lion . . .

How to Hide a Lion from Grandma by Helen Stephens



 . . . but she has a secret too – she's hiding a bear in her bedroom!


from How to Hide a Lion from Grandma by Helen Stephens
4. Give your ending a twist:



Daisy doesn’t like peas!

Eat Your Peas by Gray & Sharratt


But she will only eat her peas if her mum eats her Brussels. 
And Mum doesn't like Brussels . . .  
from Eat Your Peas by Gray & Sharratt
But they both like pudding!

from Eat Your Peas by Gray & Sharratt
 The mammoth actually belongs to the boy . . .

A Mammoth in the Fridge by Escoffier & Maudet


. . . and he's not the only animal in the boy's bedroom!

from A Mammoth in the Fridge by Escoffier & Maudet
 A gorilla has come to visit . . .

Ding Dong Gorilla! by Robinson & Lord

. . . but not only did he make the mess – he left with the last of the pizza!

from Ding Dong Gorilla! by Robinson & Lord
Billy warned Dad that there were all kinds of sea creatures in his birthday bucket . . .

Billy's Bucket by Gray & Parsons
. . . but Dad borrowed it to clean the car anyway . . .
from Billy's Bucket by Gray & Parsons

What others can you think of?



Give it a twist and it will zing!
_________________________________________________

Natascha Biebow
Author, Editor and Mentor

Blue Elephant Storyshaping is an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission. Check out my NEW small group coaching courses!

Natascha is also the author of Elephants Never Forget and Is This My Nose?, editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Regional Advisor (Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.  www.blueelephantstoryshaping.com



10 comments:

  1. Always fun to have a twist - but it's so hard to get exactly the right one that's a surprise, but feels natural and understandable, and unforced.

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  2. Wonderful examples, but, as Jane says, it's so hard to do that sort of clever twist! Hats off to all of those authors.

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  3. What a great list of examples. You are quite right - a reader loves a twist. I also notice that I feel great satisfaction with my own writing when I manage to come up with a creative twist. :)

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  4. This will definitely inspire me today.

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  5. These are awesome examples! Thank you for sharing. :)

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  6. Great examples ;-) I agree, a witty and suitably unpredictable twist is the thing that can make a good book idea tip the scales to become a classic, and it's often what makes repeated re-reading a pleasure. I can't think of an example off the top of my head though. . .

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  7. Thanks, everyone! Yes, finding that elusive twist, particularly for an ending, can either come in the middle of the night inspiration when you least expect it - or even take years!

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  8. Big fan of twists in picture books! In books and movies of any genre :D

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  9. Loved your post. You can write a beautifully written manuscript, but it needs something special, a twist maybe, to get the attention of the publishers. You've got the gears in my brain turning.

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