Book Review―Classics: Moby Dick

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville and published in 1851, is one of the simplest written classics that I have read. It does not have the modernist twists and turns or intricate literary techniques popular in the late 1800s, however, Melville employs great dialogue and soliloquies. The novel packs a good punch with vivid imagery that draws readers into the world of a whaling romp at sea.

Captain Ahab, (the mad fiend) is a demented man obsessed with capturing and killing Moby Dick, a great white whale. Why the obsession? The whale had bitten off his right leg up to the knee on a previous voyage. Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, set sail to harpoon whales for whale oil. It has a motley crew and surprisingly a multicultural one for that time period―two Aboriginals, a negro, some Caucasians including Ishmael, an oriental, and the secret group of five men from the Philippines.

The story is narrated in first-person by Ishmael―a schoolmaster who goes on sea voyages when he is feeling down. Ishmael doesn’t play a major role in the events of the story and we are only privy to his point of view based on what he sees and hears. While he seems well versed in whaling, his bias/ignorance about other cultures is evident. He refers to the tattoos (a part of Polynesian culture for more than 2000 years) on Queequeg as squares, calls him an innocent savage and a heathen, but in the end, they become good friends. It is ironical, that it is this “savage” who saves the lives of at least two crew members by diving fearlessly into the churning seas to rescue them.

Names are important in this novel and Ahab, Elijah, Gabriel―all biblical names―inject Christianity into the narrative. In fact, Captain Peleg tells Ishmael that before he allows the aboriginal, Queequeg, to come on board the Pequod, “We don’t allow any pagans [on board ship] unless they’re converted.

But although Queequeg is an interesting character, it is Ahab who is most intriguing. Early in the story, the narrator states that he “seems to be troubled by some mighty woe.” Later he describes The Cape of Good Hope as “That place of tormented seas, howling winds and leaping waves,” a description which aptly matches Ahab’s personality. Unknown to the crew, this voyage is all about revenge for Captain Ahab and he is willing to allow the valuable whale oil that his men have worked hard to collect and place in barrels, to be ruined while he relentlessly pursues Moby Dick. His overconfidence leads him to disregard common sense. He even orders his blacksmith to make a special harpoon to kill Moby Dick which he baptizes with the blood of his three harpooners!

In the end, the predictions by the mysterious Fedallah that Ahab will have neither hearse nor coffin at his death comes true. The pleading from first mate Starbuck, “Oh my captain, do not go,” falls on deaf ears. Ahab is too driven to give up the chase. Eventually, Moby Dick attacks the boat head-on, a rope catches Ahab around his neck and he is shot out of the boat and gone forever. Of the entire crew, only Ishmael is saved and is, therefore, able to narrate the story. An easy read and an absorbing tale.

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BOOK REVIEW―CLASSICS: TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

To The Lighthouse, written by Virginia Woolf and published in 1927, is a well-respected and acclaimed novel but it is not for the reader who desires an easy read. It was only after undertaking some research that I was able to grasp the story and what Woolf was trying to accomplish.

While the title To The Lighthouse suggests a story about such a structure, the narrative is not about a lighthouse but one is represented as a strong motif in it.

First, we must acknowledge that To The Lighthouse is a modernist novel and therefore one that is experimental, innovative, and pushes the boundaries of narratives. In other words, Woolf resisted the established norm such as continuity and closure. The story, told by a third-person omniscient narrator, shifts from one consciousness to another and this is one of the reasons why the book is difficult to read. Many times readers will ask themselves whose mind are we in now?

The story is a simple one and takes place over a ten-year period. Set on an island in the Hebrides, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and their eight children (Prue, Nancy, Rose, Andrew, Jasper, Roger, Cam and James) spend their summers here with a bunch of acquaintances. The guests all have their idiosyncrasies and are not all adoring fans of Mr. Ramsay, a college professor who is obsessed with finding a way to make sure his work lives on after he dies.

The greater part of the story deals with the dynamics between the Ramsays and the guests: Mrs. Ramsay is a selfless, beautiful wife who does all she can to console her self-doubting, egotistical husband; the Ramsay children have little love and affection for their father and he has no time for them; one of the male guests is secretly in love with Mrs. Ramsay; the artist, Lily, is trying to paint but is held back by fear because another guest states that “women can’t paint.” The story begins with Mrs. Ramsay promising to take James, her youngest son, to visit the lighthouse tucked away on a small island across the bay, but Mr. Ramsay throws a damper on the trip by stating that the weather will be bad. Ten years later, after Mrs. Ramsay’s death, Mr. Ramsay insists on taking James and one daughter to visit the lighthouse, a trip they are no longer interested in.

The story moves slowly with little action, and when major events occur such as Prue’s marriage, Andrew’s death in the war, and Mrs. Ramsay’s death, they are casually mentioned and little information provided. Major themes include units of time, art, age, decay and changes. The entire novel is based on interior thoughts versus the customary plot. Indeed, it is this innovative and intriguing way in which the story is narrated that makes it so interesting.

Buy a copy now! Amazon bestseller Nosey Charlie Comes To Town

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BOOK REVIEW―CLASSICS: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, was published in 1886. A late Victorian novella in the Gothic genre, it has less than sixty pages, but the length should not deter readers. This novella is one of the most powerful and unique books I have read. While Gothic stories tend to have rural settings, this one has an urban setting where the entire story takes place in the city of London.

It has been said that Stevenson was inspired by visions from a dream to write the story and that his first draft was written in three days, however, he burned it at the insistence of his wife. We do not know what was so terrible about that first draft, but we do know that Charles Darwin had published his On The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man by the time Stevenson wrote this novella, and that evolution was a regular topic of conversation causing fear and anxiety at the time. In the end, the second draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde became a bestseller in England and America.

The story is uniquely told as a frame narrative and incorporates three narrators using first-person points of view: Mr. Enfield, Dr. Lanyon, and Dr. Henry Jekyll’s written statement. In addition, Stevenson plays around with time so that the narrative is not linear. Instead, the versions of events selected, are presented to the reader in a certain order and length so as to elicit the effects of suspense and intrigue.

The story begins with Mr. Utterson―Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer―and his distant relative, Mr. Enfield, enjoying their usual Sunday walk. Mr. Enfield points out a certain door and tells his companion that he witnessed a little man trample a child early one morning, caught him, and with a crowd that had gathered, demanded that the man pay one hundred pounds for the abuse. The man went to the said door, opened it and provided Mr. Enfield with gold and a cheque for ninety pounds. According to Enfield, “It wasn’t like a man; it was like some damned Juggernaut. . .. It was a man of the name of Hyde.”

The name Hyde arouses suspicions in Utterson because Dr. Jekyll had recently revised his will and had left all his possessions to a Mr. Hyde in case he died or disappeared for more than three months. Since Utterson had never met Hyde, he embarked on a quest to find him and visits Dr. Lanyon, a mutual friend of Jekyll and himself. But Lanyon knew little about Jekyll’s activities because they had lost touch for ten years.

Obsessed with finding out who is the mysterious Mr. Hdye, Utterson haunts the square near the mysterious door, hoping to see the little man entering it. One night after the shops are closed, Utterson meets the fugitive, requests to see his face, and after hesitating, Hyde complies. Now Utterson knows what Hyde looks like. Armed with this knowledge, he visits Jekyll immediately, but the butler tells him that his master is not home. Utterson learns one thing, however, Mr.  Hyde has a key to the doctor’s home.

A year later, the high-profile murder of Sir Danvers Carew occurs and a witness states unequivocally, that the murderer is Mr. Hyde. The hunt is on to find Hyde and bring him to justice.

Intrigue builds when Utterson finds Dr. Lanyon’s appearance significantly changed within a week after both men had dined with Jekyll. When asked if he had seen Jekyll, Lanyon replies, “I wish to see or hear no more of Dr. Jekyll.” A week later, Lanyon dies. Through a letter Lanyon leaves behind, Utterson learns that Hyde had transmuted into Jekyll before his very eyes and that had caused a shock and Lanyon’s eventual death.

At the end of the novella, Lanyon’s story is corroborated and the mystery solved by Jekyll’s own written statement in which he explains his past obsession with duplicity and his experimentation with drugs which allowed him to transmute into an abhuman being―Mr. Hyde. The story is indeed a fascinating one and well worth a place on every reader’s bookshelf.

Amazon Bestseller-Nosey Charlie Comes To Town. Get your copy now.

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BOOK REVIEW―CLASSICS: NORTHANGER ABBEY

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Classic Novel

Published a year after the author, Jane Austen, died in 1818, Northanger Abbey is categorized mostly as a Gothic Parody and a Novel of Manners. The story is told by a third-person omniscient narrator.

Catherine Morland, a young lady at the ripe age of seventeen should begin her social life with a “coming-out,” a time when young ladies are first introduced into society and become eligible for the marriage market. Since no gentleman has shown any interest in Catherine, and she has shown no interest in any man, Mrs. Allen, her wealthy neighbour and family friend, takes it upon herself to give her the exposure. Mr. and Mrs. Allen take Catherine along with them to Bath―a place where the well-to-do spend the summers partying and socializing.

But Mrs. Allen views the trip as a leap of faith because she has some concerns about Catherine. She has not followed the expected tradition of becoming “accomplished” as young ladies her age should. In essence, she does not draw, paint, play the pianoforte, or speak another language (usually French).

At first, Catherine is bored at Bath. She knows no one, and although Mrs. Allen promised her that some of her friends would be there, none of them have arrived. After several days Catherine is introduced to Henry Tilney as a partner by the master of ceremonies. Henry is a likable man and the two enjoy dancing together. The next day, Henry is nowhere to be found! Eventually, Mrs. Thorpe, a friend of Mrs. Allen, arrives along with her three daughters, one of whom (Isabella) is Catherine’s age and they become fast friends.

When Isabella’s brother, John, arrives unexpectedly with Catherine’s brother, James, at Bath (both are attending the same university) the plot thickens as we learn that Isabella has a crush on James. We also observe that John Thorpe is a lying, conniving man who cannot be trusted. Realizing that Catherine likes Henry Tilney, who has returned to Bath with his sister, John Thorpe does several underhanded things to thwart the developing relationship. But Catherine is determined that Henry is the man for her and makes her own decisions.

Notwithstanding Mrs. Allen’s concern about Catherine’s lack of “accomplishments,” we learn that she does one thing very well―she reads voraciously. She has been absorbed in reading The Mysteries of Udolpho, to the point where she’s beginning to believe the story. In conversation with Isabella, she states, “Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.” Austen plays upon Catherine’s obsession with this Gothic novel to parody the story.

Yet while Catherine is enamoured with reading novels, others in the 18th-century society (mainly men) criticise and mock such a pastime. John Thorpe does not hesitate to tell her how he feels, “Oh, Lord! Not I; I never read novels; I have something else to do. …novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff; . . . they are the stupidest things in creation.”

Eventually, Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the home of the Tilneys, by none other than Henry’s father, General Tilney. At this point, Austen pokes more fun at the Gothic. Having read The Mysteries of Udolpho, Catherine is excited to see a great castle with all the features and secrets she has read about in the novel. On the way, Henry (who unlike Thorpe reads novels) teases her by dramatizing aspects of Gothic life―terror, horror, suspense, storms, daunting portraits, and supernatural presence.

Poor Catherine is very disappointed when she discovers that Northanger Abbey is really a sham castle that has been renovated to incorporate the old and new. Yet, she still hopes to find some mystery and when she sees an old locked chest in the bedroom she is assigned, she tries to open it expecting to find a great family secret. She finds only bits of paper that are a part of a laundry list!

While Catherine is disappointed that Northanger has not met her expectations, she is concerned about the General’s ongoing attention. After all, she is only interested in Henry. Readers are curious about this matter also. Why is the General so keen on Catherine having a grand visit? By the end of the story, after Catherine’s heart is almost broken, the secret is revealed, and all ends well.

Northanger Abbey is a classic novel that is both amusing and informative. The novel pulls back the curtain and exposes us to the cultural norm of the Georgian Era and the 18th-century social etiquette of the middle and upper-class England―the patriarchal society, the rigid expectations of how to dress, how to socialize, parental consent, and even how to ride in an open carriage. But the most significant aspect of the novel boils down to how that society focussed on money, wealth, and social status.

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town # 1 at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca & Amazon.com.uk. Get your copy now.

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BOOK REVIEW―CLASSICS: JANE EYRE

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, one of the three Bronte author sisters, was published in 1847. It is still a fascinating story as it probably was at that time since it was very successful and well-reviewed. Classified as a Victorian novel, it provides excellent insight into life during the Victorian era. In addition, it is also a faux-autobiography written in the first-person; it is a Gothic and a coming of age novel.

The story begins with Jane as the suffering child, orphaned, and being badly treated by Mrs. Reed, her deceased uncle’s wife―conjures up memories of Cinderella. Mrs. Reed punishes Jane for defending herself against James, her brutish cousin, and locks her up in the red room, the place where her uncle breathed his last breath, the place Jane describes as “Here he lay in state.” It is a room that Jane abhors, and locking her in such a room is the last straw. “I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I uttered a wild, involuntary cry,” Jane confesses. She makes up her mind that day that she can no longer live under the roof of Mrs. Reed with her spoilt children.

Jane is sent away to Lowood boarding school shortly after this incident, but it appears she has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire! Poorly fed, poorly dressed, treated terribly, and humiliated by Mr. Brocklehurst, the school’s supervisor, Jane eventually befriends Helen Burns. Helen is a foil to Jane, a student one could refer to as the child-martyr who practices the “doctrine of endurance.” Jane states unequivocally, that she is no Helen Burns.

In spite of the hardships Jane endures at Lowood, she survives with a determination to earn a living of her own and be her own woman―contrary to the role of women in the Victorian era. When she completes her studies after ten years, she applies for a job as a governess. The job brings her to Thornfield Hall, and here the story moves toward the Gothic.

Tucked away miles from any other structure, the manor at Thornfield Hall is large and isolated. Jane describes the view of the property from the roof this way, “Leaning over the battlements and looking far down, I surveyed the grounds laid out like a map; the bright and velvet lawn closely girdling the gray base of the mansion; wood, dun and sere, divided by a path visibly overgrown. . .” Jane hears eerie sounds and mirthless laughter, meets weird characters, observes prohibited spaces, and discovers there is a demon in the house. Four months after reporting for the job as a governess she meets the owner and her boss, Mr. Edward Rochester, an eccentric, wealthy, older man.

Jane’s life at Thornfield has its challenges, and readers obtain a good insight into the lives of governesses. Yet, life is certainly far better than anywhere else Jane has lived. . . until she agrees to marry. During the wedding ceremony, she is shockingly informed that her husband-to-be is married with a living wife! Jane runs away, and life becomes as tough and unbearable as it was at the boarding school.

After many twists and turns, and ups and downs, and Jane eventually inherits a fortune from a childless uncle, and does the unexpected. She follows her heart and returns to Thornfield where she marries the very man she had run away from, a man who is now a widow, blind, and has only one arm. Jane Eyre is indeed a fascinating story infused with several themes, morals, and excellent internal dialogue. It is a memorable classic.

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town and other books in the Nosey Charlie Adventure series are ideal for stocking stuffers.

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IS A PICTURE STILL WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS?

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Photo by Linh Pham

Not so long ago, if you wrote an article, it was imperative that you included a picture or two. Why? Because as the old adage states, a picture is worth a thousand words. Besides, pictures help to emphasize the point of your article, or at least make it more interesting and appealing.

According to one social media guru, an article on social media with an image is 10 times more likely to be viewed versus one without. In fact, depending on the audience, a stand alone picture can attract more attention than an article. I recently experienced this personally when I posted a picture I had taken of a robin’s nest with three blue eggs on my front porch. The picture was posted on LinkedIn with a one-line caption, yet it received more views than any single 500-word article I had ever written!

It was Aristotle who said that “Art is the realization in external form of a true idea, and is traced back to that natural love of imitation which characterizes humans, and to the pleasure which we feel in recognizing likenesses.” Small wonder then that today’s article writers utilize visuals to help tell their stories.

What else is there about images why we love them so much? We love them because of our cognition and ability to pay attention, and images have the ability to attract our attention. In addition, bright colours engage attention quickly because our brains are made to respond to them. Furthermore, our sense of vision is the most active of the senses. One could say that The National Geographic Society would never have gained the prominence it has without those haunting, exotic photographs taken by the many photographers the employ.

But in the last ten years or so, the paradigm has shifted. A still photograph, it seems, is not good enough to emphasize points and attract readers to our articles. The Internet has changed the way we publish and view information. Now we utilize multi-media―a mixture of text and other media such as pictures, hyperlinks, and videos. According to Wistia, a video-hosting company, people spend on average of 2.6x more time on pages with video than without. This partly explains why video usage is growing rapidly.

Having resisted this digital media in the past, after completing the Digital Humanities course at York University last semester, I took the plunge and made a YouTube video to promote my children’s books. Why? Because authors who are keen to promote their books are utilizing videos to do so; a still picture is just not good enough anymore. It turns out that the post with the video garnered more views than any other article I have ever posted!

The essence of this story is, a picture may still be worth a thousand words, but articles with videos may be worth twice as many. Things are always changing, paradigm shifts are inevitable, and we should not be afraid to embrace technology―to some degree.

Let kids ages 4-8 unleash their creativity and colour the pictures in Nosey Charlie Chokes On A Wiener Colouring Book with wild abandon!  Amazon.com

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WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: The Struggle Between Opposing Forces (part 12)

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

In our very first article in this series I asserted that every story begins with an idea. I further emphasized in part 4 that every good story has a beginning―the point where you introduce your main character and grab the reader’s interest―a middle―the place where conflict builds up, and an end―the place where conflicts are resolved.

Conflicts

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, conflict is, “competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons.” Conflict is the soul of drama, and a key component of all fiction that is required to hold the readers interest. Without conflict there is no drama; your story will be dull and uneventful.

Types of Conflict  

Literary scholars have narrowed down the types of conflicts to five:

Man versus self

Man versus society

Man versus man

Man versus nature

Man versus supernatural

In your Johnnie Rabbit story, you will substitute Johnnie for man and determine who or what he has a conflict with. Is it farmer Jones next door (man)? Or is it against the vegetables in the garden (nature)?

The Importance of Conflict

An important question regarding fiction writing is, why is conflict so important? In some of my earlier articles I wrote that character, plot, setting and dialogue were key components of fiction writing. I must now add conflict. It is the glue that paces a story; it builds and builds to a crescendo. As conflict builds, it keeps readers reading, wanting to find out more―what happens next.  In my Nosey Charlie Goes To Court story, Charlie has a conflict with his Aunt Leticia. She has instructed him never to leave the park where they live, and he is to stay with his cousin Pete at all times. But Charlie is overly nosey; he must find out what is going on in the white building next door. He sneaks out of the park without Pete or his guardian knowing, and enters the building. A chain of events occurs after that. He is almost trampled by the many feet going in and out of the building. He slips through the first door he sees and finds himself in a courtroom! The drama escalates when someone screams RATS! Mistaking him for one of those hated creatures. The story climaxes when Charlie is locked in the courtroom unknowingly and he can’t get out.

There must be a resolution

Of course, as long as there is conflict there must also be resolution―you do not leave your young readers hanging. In part 10 I mentioned The Three Little Pigs; the conflict in that story was resolved when the big bad wolf fell into the pot of scalding water and the pigs ate him for dinner. In Cinderella, she married the handsome prince and lived happily ever after. In Nosey Charlie Goes To Court, Charlie returns home safely (though scared to death) apologizes for leaving the park and Pete is assigned to stay with him at all times.

FREE BONUS GIFT, a 32-page Nosey Charlie Chokes On A Wiener! Colouring Book  offered to eBook purchasers Nosey Charlie Chokes On A Wiener! picture book for a limited time. Books are for ages 3-8.

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: Words! Words! Play with them! (part 11)

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

The English language is so complex, it is difficult to imagine anyone knowing all of its nuances. As I pursue studies in an English Major degree, I am learning more and more how complex it truly is. As you write your children’s picture books you will develop an appreciation for words and their nuances.

In the meantime, the million-dollar question is, why do we write books for children? Author, Ann Morris, summed it up succinctly when she wrote, “The stories themselves are to promote vocabulary and language skills, entertainment, learning experiences, subject matter, social skills, and any number of skills in the early reader.”  With such wide-ranging reasons, the writer must utilize certain skills in order to achieve any of these goals.

 Literary techniques

 Let us determine that your Johnnie Rabbit stories are intended to help children learn to read, to teach them about rabbits and also to entertain. How can these seemingly varied reasons be incorporated into a children’s picture book? Literary devices are important tools that authors use,  and they are numerous. Since you are writing for children, we will focus on only a few that are appropriate for this genre.

Onomatopoeia: These are words that sound the same as, or similar to the meaning of the word.  For example, in part # 8 of this series of articles, I wrote that “Charlie heard the TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP of many feet.” Children identify with sounds. Other words like “buzz” and “POP” can inject great emotion into a story.

Alliteration: Repeating the same letter or consonant sound at the beginning of consecutive or closely connected words. Children go wild when they hear or have to repeat, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

Personification: This occurs any time a non-human takes on characteristics of a human in a story. You have already done so by making Johnnie Rabbit anthropomorphic, but you can take personification even further; you could allow the vegetables on farmer Jones’ property to think and speak!

A Simile: A figure of speech in which you compare two things that are very different. By so doing, you can make a description vivid for young readers. In part # 8 of theses articles I used the simile, “The farmer laughed like Bugs Bunny.”  Any child reading this sentence would quickly visualize Bugs laughing and identify with how the farmer must have laughed.

Imagery: descriptive language that paints vivid pictures in the reader’s mind and at the same time evokes the senses. This is achieved by employing adjectives, adverbs and words carefully.  A good example is a sentence in the upcoming, Nosey Charlie Chokes On A Wiener, “As Charlie roamed about the park he smelled the delicious aroma of hot dogs cooking on a grill.”

While these literary devices and several others can be appropriately used in children’s picture books, there are a few you should avoid. Do not use flashbacks, flash-forwards, oxymorons, and satire in this genre.

Coming very soon; Charlie is at it again in Nosey Charlie Chokes On A Wiener!

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: Lights! Camera! Action! (part 10)

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

The words, Lights, Camera, Action, may be the customary cue to a film crew to start filming, but they are words we could also consider during the writing process. The power of motion is invaluable in any story, and even more so in children’s books.

 

 

 

Flashbacks

Flashbacks do not work well in children’s picture books. For this reason, you should not reveal information about events that are long past by writing that Johnnie Rabbit is thinking about such events. Instead write about the live action that is occurring in the moment.

Let us cast our minds back to the story of The Three Little Pigs to see how action was implemented. The pigs left home, they searched for a spot, they spent time building their houses. The first pig was lazy and quickly built her house of straw. The second pig was slightly less lazy and built his house of sticks. After the building project was completed, by these two pigs, they sang and danced together. We are able to visualize these actions and we can also see the third pig working ardently as he built his house of stones. Then the big bad wolf came. We followed the action; he approached the first pig and pleaded with her to let him in and when she did not comply, he huffed and puffed and blew the house down, but luckily the pig escaped. The wolf then scooted over to the second and third pigs with the same request. The story is a series of action until the end when the wolf came down the chimney and fell into the pot of scalding water.

If you have Johnnie Rabbit sitting or standing around and occasionally saying a few words to anyone who cares to listen, your story will be dull. You must get Johnnie involved with other characters. You built a character bible for both Johnnie and his supporting characters for a reason. Johnnie should interact with these characters; he should have conflicts with them, thus adding suspense and emotion to the story. In the story of The Three Little Pigs, we held our breath when the wolf asked each pig to let him in because we―the readers―knew the wolf’s intention. Emotion reached a crescendo when the wolf began to huff and puff as he tried to blow the second house down. We asked ourselves, will he be successful blowing down this house as he had done with the first? You must show Johnnie Rabbit going from one place to another to meet with other characters or show him doing things with them. Do not simply tell us about what he did, show us.

A giveaway of three Nosey Charlie Goes To Court books is currently running at Goodreads.com.  Sign up,  join the fun and win!

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: WHO ON EARTH IS TALKING? (part 9)

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

As you write your children’s story a certain question (one of many) will pop into your head; who is narrating the story? Of course you are the writer, you are putting the prose on paper, but whose words are you using? From whose perspective are you telling Johnnie Rabbit’s story? The literary community call the perspective of a story the point of view, and it is so powerful it can make or break your story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let us review your process and your story thus far:

You had a brilliant idea to write a children’s picture book about the adorable Johnnie Rabbit. You did an inordinate amount of background work–you researched rabbits and the market for books about them and similar animals by reading tons of books, you plotted out your story, you built character bibles for Johnnie and his supporting characters, you determined where and when the story takes place–the setting, you added the occasional dialogue between characters, and you strengthened your prose by incorporating the senses. Yet a nagging question persists; who is telling the story?

Point of View (POV)

All stories are told from a perspective–a vantage point as some writers describe it. This perspective is the point of view which indicates who is doing the narration. Point of view is a subtle and complex concept. It does not necessarily rely on first, second of third person narration, but depends on whose “head” the narrator is in when he/she tells the story. For example, you write, “Johnnie hopped over the fence onto Farmer Jones’ property as if he owned it.” Who determined that Johnnie hopped over the fence in such a manner? Maybe if Johnnie told the story we would hear him say that he was really scared and apprehensive when he did the hopping. The narrator tells us how Johnnie hopped based on her perspective. As a result, the narrator will be limited to what she sees, hears, and knows.

First, Second and Third Person Point of Views

Articulating your story from a first-person point of view involves the writer narrating the story usually as the main character by using the pronoun I. This means that she tells the story through her own point of view. This kind of narration is limited since the writer cannot go into the “heads” of other characters to know their thoughts. Children’s stories are rarely ever told using the first-person.

The second-person point of view is rare in any type of fiction. It entails the characters being referred to as you. Using a second-person narrative is difficult for adults, therefore it is never used in children’s books.

The third-person point of view involves the writer narrating the story through a certain perspective and using the pronouns she, he or they. There are variations to third-person POV such as limited, omniscient, and limited omniscient. Writing in the third-person omniscient, gives you the opportunity to play God, since you see, hear and know everything about all the characters, however, this type of writing can be onerous. The third-person limited POV is one in which the narrator knows much more about the other characters than a first-person narrator, however, she does not know everything. Most children’s books are written using this point of view.

It is important to be consistent in your prose; in other words, do not jump from one “head” to another! A good way to determine which point of view to use in your stories is to try them out by writing drafts in each category. Select the one that you are most comfortable with.

A giveaway of three Nosey Charlie Goes To Court books is currently running at Goodreads.com.  Sign up and join the fun!