Even the most innocent, feel good, lovey dovey, soft-hearted children’s book story has conflict. With a chapter book, there is conflict in each chapter. With a picture book, ideally, there is conflict on every page! You won’t get that feel good emotional response at the end of a story if there is no conflict for the characters to overcome. I have read stories from aspiring writers that are beautifully written, well thought out and nicely formatted. I can see where the authors are going with their stories, but they, in many cases, are not complete. A story without conflict is like a run-on sentence. It doesn’t have the proper punctuation.
What would happen if the mouse in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie already had a nice, big, cool glass of milk to go with his cookie? What would happen if Pete the Cat in I Love my White Shoes never got his shoes dirty? What would happen in Goodnight Moon if the little bunny tucked up in bed could go to sleep without naming every object in the room? That’s right…we would never have these beautiful, classical stories to read to our children.
The best way to learn how to add conflict to your story is to learn from the experts. Go through the children’s books in your collection, or go to the library or bookstore. Look through the books that are similar to your story and find the story conflicts. The conflict may be in the form of another character, the environment, or a personal problem, but trust me it’s there in some form. Then go back to your own manuscripts and be sure they have conflict, and lots of it. Give your character something to accomplish, achieve, or overcome. Because, believe it or not, the conflict in your story is what makes it powerful, impactful and timeless.
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Books mentioned in this Writing Tip:
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give…) by Laura Joffe Nemeroff
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
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