The who, what, where, when, why, and how of a picture book idea.
7 questions to figure it out.
1. Who is your main character?
2. What does your main character want?
3. Why does your main character want this? << This one’s important so go deep. The answer will likely be the theme of your story and will ensure your character gets what he/she NEEDS in the end. Need and want aren’t always the same thing. Think emotional growth, evolution, change.
4. What is standing in your character’s way? Something or someone should work against your character. Think in 3’s here. Oftentimes, a PB character will attempt to solve their problem 3 times without success. (Keep the illustrations in mind too–you’ll need a variety of unique illustration opportunities.)
5. How will your character solve their problem? There are two outcomes; your character gets what they want, or they don’t. But they MUST get what they NEED. As they attempt to reach their goal/solve their problem, they should realize something important. Think about Max–he got what he wanted, he became the King of all Wild Things! But was he happy? No, because he didn’t get what he needed. What he needed was waiting for him at home, disguised as a hot dinner–the love and acceptance of his mother.
6. When does your story begin and end? Picture books are often about a brief moment in time. Even if your story is about a tree’s seasonal changes over a year, think of ways to make the “when” simple.
7. Where does your story take place? Think outside the box. A unique setting can add a marketable element. Tiana’s Tea Party might stand out in the slush pile if it’s held in a a tree house, or on a train, or on a rocket heading to the moon.