Shakespeare Helps You Write a Better Picture Book

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When you’re thinking about writing a picture book, the structure if important. With about fourteen double-page spreads, it’s time to turn to Shakespeare for some help.

Sonnets and Picture Books

I think you can compare picture book structure to the structure of poetry. For example, sonnets have 14 lines, picture books can have 14 double-page spreads. So, taking a sonnet as an example of structure, you can imitate one of these sonnet structures

  1. The Italian Sonnet consists of an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines)
    • Octave
      • Spreads 1-4 Set up character
      • Spreads 5-8 Problem stated
    • Sestet
      • Spreads 9-11 Character tries to solve the problem.
      • Spreads 12-14 The payoff

    Or, think of it as the beginning, middle, end, payoff. Or problem, attempts to solve, failure and re-commitment to try, payoff.
    Notice that in this structure, there is a pivot point–things change drastically–between spreads 8 and 9. There are two minor pivots, too, between 4-5 and 11-12. These are good places for a twist to turn the plot in a different direction.

  2. The Shakespearean Sonnet Three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a couplet.
    • Spreads 1-4 Problem stated
    • Spreads 5-8 Attempts to solve problem
    • Spreads 9-12 Problem solved
    • Spreads 13-14 The payoff

    The main pivot point is between 12 and 13; minor pivot points occur between 4-5, 8-9. Check the structure of your story and its pivot points to see if it is the strongest it can be.

ACTION POINTS

Consider if this structure would work for your picture book. If it’s close, see if you can adjust the text and page breaks for this structure. If it doesn’t work with this structure, then go to the next lesson.

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1 Comment
  • Catherine
    September 28, 2008

    This is such an excellent suggestions – I’ve never that of it in these terms. Thank You!