Power Up Your Picture Book Text
Make Picture Books More Interesting with Strong Nouns and Verbs
How to create dynamic text in a children's illustrated story.
“When the quality that the adverb indicates can be put in the verb itself (they ran quickly = they raced) or the quality the adjective indicates can be put in the noun itself (a growling voice = a growl), the prose will be cleaner, more intense.”--Ursula K. Le Guin
Depend on Muscular Nouns and Verbs
Why depend on nouns and verbs? Every common or proper noun creates a specific word picture. Every action verb creates a picture, too. Bumping one image (noun) against another image (verb) creates one specific moving picture.
Many writers refer to nouns and verbs as the muscles and bones of sentences--and with good reason. By working together, muscle and bone create dynamic action that each one working independently can't accomplish. A noun and a verb creates a sentence. Sentences build scenes, scenes build stories and so on…)
Use Adjectives Sparingly, Use Adverbs NEVER!
Adjectives, on the other hand, are like fatty tissue: too much fat or too little fat can cause problems. Adjectives, therefore, should be used very sparingly--and only when necessary because very often the illustrations can accomplish the work of an adjective--and do a better job of it.
When should a picture book writer use adverbs? As drastic as it may sound, the answer is preferably (adverb alert!) never because too often writers use adverbs to shore up wimpy verbs that are lurking nearby.
See for yourself. Check out those “ly” words. If you draw flags on the tops of those l’s, you will have staked out the verbs that need to be revised because guaranteed, slouching nearby, you’ll find sorry excuses for action words. These flabby parts of speech need to lean against adverbs to stand up at all! Chuck out these spindly specimens and replace them with singular strong verbs.
Create Space in the Text for Illustrations
Eliminating adverbs from picture book texts makes sense for another reason, too. Adverbs, like adjectives are descriptive words, but describing and showing action is the job of the illustrations. Take a survey of your favorite picture books. In the best picture books, the illustrations are not redundant to the text. Instead, the illustrations extend the text. Text and illustrations work together like nouns and verbs, like muscles and bones. Each one is discrete and separate, but critical to the function of the other.
Three Tips for Text Revision
When revising a picture book text:
- Ramp up your sentences by bumping muscular nouns against verbs.
- Open up illustration opportunities by eliminating all unnecessary adjectives. Allow the illustrations to visually extend the text.
- Replace wimpy pairs of verb/adverb with singular, strong action verbs.
The strongest picture book texts are lean texts powered by muscular nouns and action verbs.
Read more at Suite101: Power Up Your Picture Book Text:: Make Picture Books More Interesting with Strong Nouns and Verbs | Suite101.com http://suite101.com/article/writing-a-picture-book-a45220#ixzz1yevurlS2