Check Your Picture Book’s Story Arc


You’ve written your picture book text and it divides nicely into about fourteen sections, so your first draft is looking good. Now, focus on the narrative arc.

Narrative Arc Formula

Here’s an easy formula to fill in for your narrative arc:

This is a story about ______________________________

Who more than anything else wants __________________
(Alternate: Who more than anything else fears_________________)

But can’t get it because of these complications:
(Alternate: But has to face it because of these complications:)

UNTIL (climax/resolution) _______________________________________.

Of Course, It’s Just a Formula

Of course, this is a formula for a story that actually has a plot, not a mood story or a concept story or a nonfiction story. We’ll talk about those this month. But for now, this is a good formula for a story with a plot.

Of course, any formula like this is useful only up to a point, but it does a good job of checking the overall structure of your story. It can point out useful things:

  • Does the main character solve the problem? (No fair bringing in parents, adults, older siblings, etc.)
  • Do the complications get worse and worse, building to a climax?
  • Does the character actually want/fear something?
  • Have you provided the most interesting, least cliched complications possible? (Or at least done the cliched things in the most interesting vocabulary possible?)

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