10 Things to Consider When Writing a Picture Book Biography
The best narrative picture book biographies tell compelling true stories that read like fiction. When done well, they look effortless. In reality, crafting an irresistible 32-48-page picture book biography is like carving a giant Redwood tree down to an 8×10 picture frame. The process can seem daunting. How do you carve, whittle, and shape relevant information into a focused narrative for kids?
Donna Janell Bowman, author of many nonfiction books for young readers, has some suggestions for how you can think about this process and shares them below. She and author/illustrator Don Tate are leading our upcoming workshop Writing Picture Book Biographies, October 2-5. Thanks, Donna!
1. Mentor Texts
Are you reading picture book biographies regularly? Analyzing exceptional books is the best way to learn.
2. Intended Audience
Are you writing for 6-8-year-olds or 8-12-year-olds? Plan your content and storytelling decisions accordingly.
3. Focus or Angle
Rather than using a “cradle to grave” approach, narrative picture book biographies most often focus on an anecdote, episode, or specific angle of a person’s life. For example, Abraham Lincoln is a broad topic, but Lincoln’s forgotten duel, or his debates with Douglass, or how a young girl inspired Lincoln to grow a beard, are focused angles. What angle of your character’s life is your focus?
4. Narrative Arc
What events led to your character’s meaningful contribution?
5. Character Development and Arc
How can you help readers peek into your character’s thoughts and feelings through actions, direct quotes, monologue?
Read the other 5 things to consider here.