Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing Advice/Picture Perfect Rhyme with Dori Chaconas

As a Children's Writer ( Veteran, I've gotten to know many fabulous children's writers over the years. Dori Chaconas is one of the best of the best, and always a helpful, friendly force among us. I cannot thank her enough for being the first rhyming picture book author to guest blog about the often difficult topic of rhyme for me!


Writing advice: Make That Rhyming Picture Book Perfect!

A perfect rhyming picture book story is made up of three main elements - story, rhythm, and rhyme - in that order of importance.

Story - As in any book, the story must be solid, fresh, and fully developed with a beginning, middle, and end. Because picture book stories need to be short! short! short! each word must earn its place in the story without fillers or excessive words used only because the end of the line rhymes. No room for slackers here! Make your writing colorful, with memorable characters, and an emotionally satisfying ending.

Rhythm - The rhythm in a rhyming book can be nothing less than perfect. Does the chosen rhythm set the mood you are trying to create? Imagine your rhyming lines set to music. Does it hold to the beat? Is it consistent and true? Picture books are meant to be read out loud, so read your story out loud often. Then have several different people read the story out loud to you. Is the reading smooth and effortless? Or are there some 'stumbles' that need to be corrected?

Rhyme - Like rhythm, the rhyming words must be a perfect match. Near-rhyming words might sound like they work together, but they present a flawed story to an editor. And in achieving perfect rhythm and rhyme, does each line read as naturally as prose? If you have to twist the natural order of words to make the rhyme work, then the line is forced and will stick out like an elephant in a bread basket. Read lots and lots of rhyming picture books and note the rhythm and rhyme schemes. Look for examples of fresh rhymes - those that go beyond tree-me-see-be, and make your rhyme as fresh as the best.

For a more detailed look at writing in rhyme, read through the article on my web site, Icing the Cake: Writing Stories in Rhythm and Rhyme.

Dori Chaconas is the author of more than twenty books for children, many of them written in rhyme. Her latest picture book is Don't Slam the Door, Candlewick 2010.

"A slamming door may not seem like a big deal, but in this hilarious story of cause and effect, it can have far-reaching consequences, including a limping Pa, a bee-stung bear, and a house plunged into chaos! In lively rhyme that's perfect for reading aloud--illustrated with cozy, homespun artwork by Will Hillenbrand--Dori Chaconas relates a humorous tale of a pint-size narrator who tries valiantly to warn her family of the increasingly outrageous effects of their actions."

I came from a HUGE family with cousins here and cousins there and cousins everywhere! There was nothing better than when the cousins came to visit! Kids ran in and out, and the old screen door banged over and over again! It was a welcoming sound, filled with the promise of fun, games, stories, and excitement. This book is dedicated to my family and to families everywhere who enjoy the warmth of gathering together.!/corkandfuzz?ref=ts
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  1. Great information. And, yes,I know about Dori also from Margot and her workshops and teleclasses with the CWCC.

  2. I love the sound of old wood screen doors slamming. Ours used to have a wood spool for a handle.
    Visit my blog, I have something for you.

  3. Wonderful!

    I, too, point people to Dori's site. The "Icing on the Cake" article is a must-read for anyone interested in writing rhyming pbs.

    -Tammi Sauer