Sometimes I just can't get enough of school. Okay, maybe not school per say, but I do love taking classes on subjects I love. Yesterday I had my first class on Illustrating Books for Children. Now I've had classes on Illustration and classes on Children's Literature, but never specifically Illustration for Children's Books. Woot! Needless to say, I'm pencil gnawingly excited.
Last night, our teacher said something that made me think: Picturebooks often work as circles. The first page, many times, is the same as the last page but maybe from a different point of view. Sometime it's the same setting but with a different character...or vice versa. In WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Max is sent to his room without supper. When it ends, he's back in his room but now with (still hot!) supper. In MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, the ducks just travel from one end of Boston to the other, all together in the beginning and all together in the end, but just in different settings. (I'd go into my daughter's room for more examples, but she's still asleep.)
Even though picturebooks are often not as complicated story wise as adult, YA or MG novels, I think this circular start to finish can be successful no matter the genre. Heck, one of the major goals of our stories is to find a way to CHANGE our characters from shy to brave, weak to strong, or bad to good (and sometimes the other way around. Hello, Dr. Horrible!) Sometimes good closure is found when our characters go on journeys, change, and then find themselves in the same situation as before. This doesn't ALWAYS work, of course, but rarely will we find hard and fast rules in the world of writing. (Except "don't be an awful person.")
It's the hero's journey all over again. Oh man, EVERYTHING is the hero's journey, isn't it? Caaaaaammmpbelll!!! (shaky fist)
Graph courtesy of the lovely Nancy J. Parra. And Joseph Campbell, of course.
So, fabulous readers, think of your WIP's first and last scene. Does your story move in a circle, putting the hero right back where they started, if not emotionally, then physically? Or does your hero find him/herself in a completely different world than s/he started in?
Spoilers from your WIPs not necessary but, as always, I'm interested in what you guys think!
I hadn't thought about it before, but yes! The story opens with my MC on a boat, leaving his home forever. It ends with him mentally and emotionally "leaving" his old home in favor of his new one. How interesting...
Awesome! Isn't that crazy? I didn't even think about it until the teacher said that last night. In my WIP, MC starts by bidding her father farewell as he goes off to war. In the end, he's bidding her farewell from the same setting. I love getting those little "aha" moments.
Yes! In fact, I use some of the same imagery (cuz images are powerful) in the opening and closing scenes. It can't always work literally, but figuratively it can be awesome. Also: screenwriters do this all the time.
Screenwriters, of course! I totally didn't think of tha. Man, I need to read Snyder's Save the Cat again! Thanks, Susan.
I've heard the same thing in a writing picture book class before-- I hadn't thought about it in reference to the pictures themselves! I'm going to have to go take a look at a bunch of picture books now.
And, yeah. I guess I did the same thing in my WIP, too! Except spread out a bit more. The first two chapters come in full circle with the last two. Maybe it's that way because it makes things feel more complete, so we tend to write that way, and kind of feel cheated if we don't get it when we're reading.
Peggy, that's interesting...I didn't think of it that way. I DO feel a little cheated if a book doesn't come to a solid end, despite the promise of sequels. I don't like waiting three books for at least SOME closure, hence the satisfaction when it comes to circle. Thanks for stopping by!
Hm, interesting points! V was VERY circular... so was SEVEN LITTLE DEADLIES. The Neolithic Book won't be, though. But only because it's a tragedy.
Still, something to think about. Now I'm going to start noticing this in everything I read, haha. Thanks. :)
Very interesting! We'll have to see if my WiP works out like this :)
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