Finding an Angle
You’ll also need an angle.
It is worth considering that how you approach an idea, is more important than the idea itself. Angles are not ideas. Angles are about how you frame an idea; how you tell your story.
Will it be…
– A story that educates children? Think narrative non-fiction picture book and expository styles like biographies, non-fiction and non-fiction narrative texts like ‘The Spacesuit’ (by Alison Donald and Ariel Landy) ‘The Story of Life’ by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams and ‘The Crayon Man,’ (by Natascha Biebow and Steve Salerno).
– A story with an important social message? For example, a story with a transformational character arc (where the character learns something significant about themselves or the world) or a flat arc picture book (where the character remains consistent but the world around them changes). For example, fictional texts such as, ‘Ruby’s Worry’ (by Tom Percival) ‘The Way Home for Wilf’ (by Rachel Bright and Jim Field) and ‘The Girls’ (by Lauren Ace and Jennie Lovlie)
Or will it be…
– A high concept story that entertains? Like ‘Oi Frog!’ (by Kes Gray and Jim Field) ‘Supertato’ (by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet) and ‘Little Red Reading Hood,’ (by Lucy Rowlands and Ben Mantle).
Here are some tips:
– If your goal is to write an educational text, pick something YOU find interesting and/or have a connection to (there’ll be a lot of research involved!) Also check that your idea hasn’t been done before.
– If your goal is to write a text with an important message, try not to be too preachy and put your unique viewpoint on it. Can you harvest a meaningful idea from your personal experience?
– If your goal is to write a high concept text, write your conflict into your title and mull over Rebecca Gomez’s idea, that high-concept texts are when ‘the everyday meets the extreme.’
When an editor takes a story to acquisitions, they’ll be deciding where the text fits on their list and how to market it. Your story doesn’t have to fit into only one of these categories. It could fit into two or maybe even all three. The more the better!
With the right angle, you don’t even need to be incredibly original. Bedtime, siblings, new babies, pirates, mice, rabbits, bears, love, hugs, worries, kindness, sharing, pets, friendships, growing up are all popular themes seen repeatedly in picture books… but that’s not to say they can’t be done again. From another angle. It is important to stop and think before you begin about how your story will be doing something new.
Here are some typical picture book themes that are waiting to be done again in YOUR way, with YOUR slant and YOUR experience: https://www.writingpicturebooksforchildren.com/types-of-picture-books.html
- Making new friends
- Learning new skills
- Following or not following rules
- Making choices
- Facing fears
- Nature and Science
- Numbers, Maths, Geometry
- Language and Grammar
BOOKS ON DIFFICULT TOPICS:
- Death and dying
- Natural disasters
- War and political issues
The Writer’s Digest has some good advice about finding new angles on familiar topics:
– Start with the opposite of where your piece will end (e.g. a book about pirates giving back treasure not stealing it)
– Make unlikely comparisons (e.g. a very brave mouse)
– Bring in opposing viewpoints (e.g. a character who isn’t afraid of the dark)
– Highlight your reader, groups or categories (e.g. how to put a monster to bed)
– Contrast your tone and subject (e.g. a funny story about mental health)
– Find a topical twist on a classic (e.g. a three little pigs in space)
For more detail, see the full article here; https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/find-an-angle-to-bring-your-subject-to-life
TIP: Just for a second… forget about your dream to be a writer and be an editor instead. Write a short pitch for your story. Is it engaging? Is there conflict? Is your idea BIG enough to standout?
If so, great! Get started!
This popped up on Twitter, with some useful questions to ask yourself about your pitch: