Less is more

Melissa Fairley

February 7th 2013 by Melissa Fairley

For the Birds

I’d like to share some of my favourite films with you:

One Man Band

Partly Cloudy

For the Birds

And what do they all have in common? They’re Shorts. Yes, these little gems all appeared before a Pixar main feature: each tells a simple story with rounded-out characters and none of them last longer than five minutes.
Without a word of dialogue, these animated shorts engage the attention and deliver characters you invest in and care about.

Now, imagine telling a story without animation, or a musical score that contributes to the atmosphere and gives the audience emotional cues, and with a maximum word count of five hundred words. Welcome to the challenge of writing a picture book…

One Man BandSome people think it must be easier to write a few hundred words rather than a few thousand, but can you imagine trying to tell a story in under five hundred words? This is a story that has to have a strong main character and be written in an engaging way to hold the attention of easily distracted pre-schoolers. It has to have enough action to keep children turning the pages, and it must have a satisfying conclusion. In short, it has to be blooming brilliant!

So the next time you are browsing through the picture book section in your local bookshop, spare a thought for the picture book authors – they are some of our greatest storytellers, after all.