Collaboration, Picture Books, and Characters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is an interview with local children’s writer, Anne Wan. For her latest book, Manners Fit for the Queen, she teams up with local illustrator, Sally Goodden.

The interview looks at the colloborative process needed to produce a picture book and why picture books matter.

For most of us, one of our first introductions to the wonderful world of stories would have been through a picture book. I still love a well illustrated book. (The maps in the Lord of the Rings are fab!).

NB.  I love it when a title for a post just “comes” to me and I particularly like this week’s one.  Picture Books and Other Hooks has a good rhythm to it!

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Looking forward to having a go at the writing prompt for this week from my diary. The prompt is to show the groundhog’s point of view as it prepares to meet his/her public for Groundhog Day (great film incidentally)!

Will have a crack at that challenge over the weekend. Should be fun! I can categorically state I’ve never created a groundhog character before! Am probably unlikely to do so again but it will be fun to find out what comes from this.

Later in the year, there‘s another prompt asking me to list 10 words associated with a train journey. People could have a lot of fun with that depending on which train operator they use regularly! (I think there should have been a comment in the prompt to “keep it clean” but that’s just me!).

As you will have gathered, I love this writing diary!


My CFT post this week will be an interview with children’s writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden. They recently had a story and craft event at Chandler’s Ford Library based on Anne’s most recent book, Manners Fit for the Queen, which is a picture book.

The ladies discuss how they worked collaboratively and how they met. Picture books look “easy” but are notoriously difficult to get right. The pictures need to convey enough of the story but without giving it all away. The text needs to be pitched right for the age range.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When did you first come across flash fiction? I ask as my latest CFT post looks at picture books and interviews Anne Wan/Sally Goodden on their colloborative work here. It made me realise that my way into reading, as it would have been for many of us, was via well cherished picture books. So on to my great love now – flash fiction – how did I get into that?

For me, it was via the 100-word challenge issued by Cafelit. Prior to that, I’d not heard of the form, yet alone had a go at it! I think part of the “not hearing” about it was due to the term used. I HAD heard about micro fiction but had not been clear about what that meant. I know now!

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A good story will always make you react in some way. I’ve read (and written) stories that are meant to make you laugh or chill you to the bone.

So if a story isn’t working for you as you draft and edit it, look at what impact it is making on you as you read it. Is there an impact at all? If not, there is where the problem is! So think about what impact do you want it to have? How can the characters generate that impact?

If a character isn’t strong enough, ask why. Are they the right character for this story? Do you need to outline them in more depth to get right into their soul and really find out what makes them tick and react?

I’ve found a good way to get started is think of an extreme situation and look at how your character responds to it. For example, a fire breaks out in the character’s house so what do they do? What do they HAVE to save before they get out and why?

One of the nice sides to writing is you never lose the joy of hearing when something has been accepted! One huge advantage to writing flash fiction and short stories is being able to produce work and, hopefully, get it out there, building up publication credits, while working on a longer project.

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to get a novel out there but that doesn’t mean flash fiction and short stories should be considered “easy”. They’re not! You still need to craft the stories very well in order for them to have a chance of being accepted. You still need to pitch them to the right competitions/markets. They should also be recognised as a joy to write in their own right.

Ironically, it can be harder to write short than it is to write long. I always overwrite my stories but the advantage to that is I get off to a flying start with my editing pen! I find it a good acid test of whether a story is strong enough that I need to cut it back. If I’m having to pad (and I’ve only done this rarely), then the story idea isn’t strong enough in the first place (and I’ve always ended up either abandoning the idea altogether or finding ways of improving it. It never stays as it was).

Fairytales With Bite – What Matters to Your Characters?

What matters most to your characters and why? Get your characters to face losing what matters to them most and that will increase the tensions in your story considerably.

The nice things with this is whatever it is that matters most can vary considerably. For one character, it could be a life or death situation. Another character could be terribly worked up because they’re late back with their library book. The potential for humour is here too.

The one proviso is that your characters have to have very good reasons for why these things matter. A life or death scenario has an obvious “why it matters” inherent in it. In the case of the library book scenario, could it be that your character has never been late in their life for anything and fears losing control over their neat little life if they ARE late at all? Maybe they worry about what the librarian will think – other people’s opinions matter to this character. You get the idea.

Have fun and play with this. Work out what could make your character lose what matters most. For someone with a controlled life, what on earth has happened to make the possibility of being late back with their library book happen at all? Something catastrophic (to them) must have occurred. Hopefully it will be very entertaining for a reader!

This World and Others – Collaboration

Collaboration is vital when producing picture books, as discussed by local writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden in this week’s CFT post. (I must admit I was pleased with the title for this one – Picture Books and Other Hooks!).

Working in partnership matters even when you write on your own!  How and why?

For me, this means seeing writing as two distinct processes.  One is the fun creative side of getting everything down on paper or on screen.  The second is the editing process where you tighten your story up and really give it muscle by getting rid of anything and everything that does not contribute to moving your tale onwards and upwards to its conclusion.  I love editing.  I love the sense of the story improving as I spot repetitions etc I didn’t see in the giddy delight of creating new characters etc.  I love the sense of getting rid of what isn’t helping the story.

So where does the collaboration come in?  By accepting these are two distinct processes and not trying to do both at the same time.

Give your creative side free rein and enjoy the ride. Don’t let your inner editor spoil that.  It’s not time for them to come in yet.  Once that side is finished, then recognise the fact that all stories are improved (and therefore stand a better chance of publication) by good editing.

See editing as what gives your stories the wings to fly!  I do and find this side of things fun as a result.  Nothing is going to beat the heady thrill of creating something new but it helps enormously to know nobody has ever produced a truly terrific story in one go!  Everyone needs at least a second draft!  Good luck.














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