Today in class we discussed the reading you completed for Monday on the “Psychological Power of Storytelling” and talked about how good storytelling skills might serve you in your future communications. We also talked about the importance of using images and words to tell a complete story in your picture books.
We spent some time going through the assignment sheet for the Multimodal Reflective Portfolio (available in TSquare) and discussed how we will spend the last two days of class in terms of preparing the portfolio. Between now and Friday, you should aim to collect all of your drafts and completed work, as well as all of your feedback (my comments, peer review comments) into a single digital folder on your computer. On Friday, I will give you a brief tutorial in Mahara and help you brainstorm ideas for your portfolio items. On Monday, we will discuss the reflective essay, its goals and brainstorm ideas on how to approach the essay. Your final portfolio will be due during your exam period for this course.
Finally, we spent some time in your picture book teams working on revisions of your picture book based on the feedback you received on your mock-up dummies, both from me and your peer reviewers. The most common feedback items that I noticed are the following items:
- Correct page layout – a number of you are forgetting your front matter, which should include a title page, a copyright page and a dedication page among your 32 pages. You should all be referring to the 32 page Picture Book Template on TSquare for your layout requirements. A lot of your dummies were actually 64 pages!
- “Show, don’t tell” – this is a popular adage among creative writers, but is even more true with picture books. Don’t report action to the reader when you can show the action actually happening.
- Example of Telling: “While he was playing in the snow, Steve found a hat that turned out to be magic.”
- Example of Showing: “Steve flopped back in the snow to make a snow angel but landed on something lumpy. ‘Oh’ cried Steve, ‘Look at this funny hat!’ Steve picked up the hat and it began glow with magic.”
- Reduce Text – It is fine to have long passages of text on a page, but you want to be sure that every word of that text is necessary. Eliminate unnecessary words and phrases. Use active verbs instead of “to be” verbs. Use the best possible adjectives instead of two or three weak adjectives.
- Diverse Audiences – think carefully about the diverse audiences (parents and children) who might be reading your books. For example, many of your books had only male characters; are there places where characters might be made female without changing the story? Are all of your characters of the same race? Are all of your characters able-bodied? We often default to creating characters who look and act like ourselves, but to do so may do a disservice to both the possibilities of your story and to potential readers of your texts.
- Margins – Be sure you are leaving wide enough margins for your text and images, especially along the gutter (where the pages come together) – a number of you had text cut off or elements of your illustrations lost when you bound the pages together.
- Add emotional tension to images- Yes, these were basic mock-up images, but many of them lacked emotional tension or the appearance of action. Review Molly Bang’s essay on “How Picture Books Work” (on TSquare), especially the sections where she talks about ways to add emotional tension to your images. You don’t have to be working with those basic shapes to use some of the other elements, such as diagonals, size, perspective, and use of space to create drama.
- Tell a story- Think back to your high school English class where you talked about the elements of a great story; your book should have a beginning, a rising action, a climax and a denouement/conclusion. Your characters should grow and change throughout the story. There should be some kind of dramatic action that happens. If your main character is exactly the same at the end of the book as he/she was at the start, what was the point of telling the story? Would the story on its own, outside of this course’s theme or without the pictures, be entertaining?
- Read Aloud – Make sure you are thinking of how these texts will be used, specifically by young children, or in the read aloud model we practiced in class on Monday. What elements can you add to make both of these experiences more entertaining? For example, every piece of dialogue creates an opportunity for an adult to make up funny voices for the characters. Onomatopoetic words (Bang! Pow! Jiggle!) let the reader express motion or sound along with the words. Repetition can be fun to read aloud, or can help smaller children learn to recognize words in writing.
- Binding your book– refer back to my blog post on November 18 for suggestions on how to bind your finished picture books. Each picture book MUST be bound and it must be put together more professionally than simply stapled. However, there are many other acceptable choices for binding the book; the one you choose will be a part of how you choose to present the book itself. What type of binding goes best with the story you are telling? How will the binding look with your cover art? There are many different tutorials linked in that blog post, but remember, you are welcome to continue to explore and find one that works best for your team.
- Blog Response 5 due tonight by 11:55pm
- Continue working on your Picture Books and Group Artist Statement – due December 5 at the start of class
- Gather all of your drafts, finished work and feedback into a digital file – scan/photograph any feedback you have in physical form (notes on a draft, peer review sheet)
- Bring laptops to class on Friday for our Mahara workshop