Tag Archives: squirrels

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

MY YOUTUBE VIDEO

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: IS HE A GOOD GUY OR A BAD GUY? (Part 5)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

The creative juices are flowing and you are writing as if there is no tomorrow. After all you have carefully plotted out your story. Great start. As the story progresses, Johnnie Rabbit is up to some tricks and you have an idea how to articulate it and how the matter will be resolved in the end. But somehow your rabbit character seems flat. Why is this?

Although you are writing a children’s book with few words, there is an important step every author should take at the beginning of telling a story—you should build a character bible for your main character and the secondary ones. It is the greatest way to create interesting characters, and a way for you to truly know them.

For Johnnie Rabbit to appeal to readers they don’t just want to know his name. These are some of the information readers will want to know: How old is he? How big is he? What is his colour? Where does he live? What is his weakness? Is he a chatterbox? Is he introverted?  Does he have a best friend or any friends at all? Does he have a family? What are his habits and idiosyncrasies (does he blink continuously?) When I was writing Nosey Charlie Comes To Town and he got into trouble, I had him say, “What have I done, what have I done? I only wanted to have some fun!” I found this to be catchy and made it unique to Charlie as his go-to expression which I’ll use throughout the series.

Writing down details about your protagonist serve two main purposes. (1) You know your character in great details and therefore know what he is capable of, and this will assist readers to know him well also. (2) You do not have to rack you brain to find out about Johnnie Rabbit when you write because you have the information at your finger tips. This is especially helpful if you are writing a series.

While Johnnie Rabbit is the main character of the story and we should know a lot about him, we do need to know some information about the supporting characters in the story too, especially if they reappear. These characters will have different attitudes and points of views from Johnnie Rabbit, therefore recording details about them will help you to avoid writing misinformation. Building  character bibles for both main and secondary characters is a good thing.

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WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: BUY, BORROW, BUT DO NOT STEAL! (Part 3)

By Yvonne Blackwood

Now that you have a great idea for your children’s book—the tale of Johnnie Rabbit—and you have researched both the subject and the market, you are ready to write.

Johnnie Rabbit

Wait! Not so fast. Assuming that this writing event is not just a one-time exercise, you need to prepare a bit more.

 Buy, Borrow, but do not steal!

It is imperative that you join the public library or renew your membership if it has lapsed. Why? Because you need to buy some children’s books, but to avoid spending a fortune you should borrow some also. When I was preparing to write Nosey Charlie Comes to Town, I would borrow seven or eight books at a time, read them, return them, and borrow another set until I was fully versed it how they are written. Reviewing children’s books on the internet serves a purpose by giving you a cursory view of the books, however, if you are serious about writing in this genre you must familiarize yourself with several aspects of the books that the internet cannot provide realistically.

Sizes and Page Count

Children’s books come in several sizes, from small 5 X 5 to over 11 inches. They also have various page count. It was only while doing my research that I learned that children’s books for ages 3-8 usually have 24, 32, or 48 pages. Knowing the number of pages your book will contain is important because it will dictate the number of words you can write and the number of illustrations the book can have.

Page Lay-out

All children’s picture books are not created equally. You should be aware that each has a different lay-out. Some books have text and illustrations on alternate pages, others have illustrations on every page with text above, below, or to the side of the illustrations, and some even have text written in the illustrations.

 Pricing is important

By examining books bought or borrowed you will observe that prices vary, that hard cover books tend to be more expensive, and that soft cover books fall within similar ranges. The last thing any author wants to do is to overprice her/his book because of lack of knowledge.

 Age Range

Your inspection of the children’s book section of the library will make it clear very quickly that the children’s picture book is a wide category, and that it is broken down further into ages 1-3 and 3-8. The first group can only handle board books. These have thick pages made from cardboard or chipboard, have brightly coloured pictures and little text with about a dozen pages. Since you have a tale to tell in your Johnnie Rabbit story, the age group you will serve is ages 3-8, and the word count should be maximum 1500. These matters you can only learn by physically examining books.

Next article: Writing is a lonely vocation: Join a writers group

Coming very soon, my second book in the Nosey Charlie series Nosey Charlie Goes To Court! 

Nosey Charlie Goes To Court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town

www.yvonneblackwood.com

 

 

 

 

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING (Part 2)

I have a great idea!

 

You have decided on a fabulous idea. You are going to write a children’s story about Johnnie Rabbit, and he is going to be anthropomorphic. Although you have seen rabbits in the backyard and at the petting zoo, you really do not know much about them, except that the meat is eaten because you have seen it at the supermarket. How are you going to write a convincing story about a rabbit and not seem stupid? You must research, and do it diligently.

 

Research

Research is a major part of writing for children. You must research your subject and the market place. First, the subject. What are rabbits? What do they eat? Are they herbivores or carnivores? Where do they live? (You don’t want write in your story that Johnnie Rabbit lives in a sty!) How large do they become? What are their habits? Gathering this important information not only provides meat for your story, it gives it authenticity and makes your character real even if Johnnie Rabbit is fictional.

When I decided to write my children’s story, Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, the only thing I knew about squirrels is that they are always hiding nuts. I had no idea what they ate—it could not be just nuts! —although I have observed a determined little squirrel who regularly visits my backyard and tries every trick in the book, including lying vertically against the fence, in order to eat the seeds in the bird feeder. My research taught me that their diet consists of nuts, fruits, and seeds. This information was handily incorporated into the story and will certainly be used again and again in other episodes of The Nosey Charlie Adventures.

Second, you must research the children’s book market. Are there books about rabbits and similar animals? How many are there? Tapping into Amazon.com and Google will give you a good idea. You should also check how recent the last book on the subject was published. Are rabbits a popular subject in the children’s book genre? Read pop culture magazines and watch recent cartoons to get a sense of trends and speech patterns. Once you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, and it appears that there is a market for your rabbit story, get set to take step # 3.

Next article: Buy, Borrow, but  don’t steal!

www.yvonneblackwood.com

Nosey Charlie Comes To Town