Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Thinking in scenes - Lynne Garner

  One of my dad's shots - he used to take promo shots for the theatre
So guess where I spent some of my childhood? 
Earlier this month as I read Abie’s fab post ‘Ten ways I use panto for picture books’ I began remembering one of my first jobs and how it now helps me write my picture books.
During my late teens and early twenties I worked in the local theatre as wardrobe mistress. It was a job I loved, even if it was hard work. When we had a visiting company I often helped with their costumes. This meant late nights (repairing costumes on the run and once the curtain fell collecting those that needed washing) then early mornings (mending and washing/drying costumes so they were ready for that evenings performance). However it also gave me to opportunity to watch a huge variety of plays, both good and bad.

Why am I telling you this? Well I now use some of the knowledge I gained from watching those plays when I work on a new story. I relate each double page spread in a picture book to a scene in a play. In a play each scene must:
  • Keep the audience entertained and make them want to continue watching the play
  • Move your character a step closer to their goal
  • Encourage the audience to invest in the characters, even if they don’t like them
  • Give the characters something new to do and say
These points are exactly the same for each double page spread in a picture book. If each spread doesn’t entertain your reader, different enough to advance your story line towards a conclusion, make your reader want to turn the page, create some form of emotion in them then they’re not going to finish reading your book. They’re also unlikely to want to purchase your next book. So perhaps when you’ve finished your current work in progress why not try breaking it down into scenes. If the scene you've created doesn’t fulfil the above then tweak until it does. Hopefully in this way your finished story will wow your reader and just as importantly that commissioning editor or agent.  

Lastly if you give this a go please let me know if it works for you, I'd love to know.


Don't read unless interested in blatant plug:
My latest short story collection - Coyote Tales Retold is now up and selling on Amazon in ebook format.

My online courses with Women On Writing:
How to write A children's book and get published
5 picture books in 5 weeks
How to write a hobby-based how to book


Moira Butterfield said...

A great way to help visualise a picture book, Lynne. (And I love the sound of that job. You could something based on your experiences of clothes changing and possible costume disasters!)

Lynne Garner said...

Moira - thanks hadn't thought of that. I've always had an idea about the theatre cat (Oliver because he always anted more) but it's missing something so have never put it to paper.

Moira Butterfield said...

Sounds like something that would reward you playing with the idea.