Many of my books follow the Classic Picture Book Structure.
- Main Character (MC) has a problem
- MC faces obstacles that escalate
- MC encounters a black moment in which things can’t possibly get any worse
- MC figures out how to solve the problem
- MC grows/changes by the book’s end
In recent years, though, I have been challenging myself to try a variety of other approaches. I wrote a book entirely in dialogue—Roar!, illustrated by Liz Starin (Paula Wiseman/S&S, 2015). I wrote an off-the-wall how-to book (details on that one coming soon). I even (GASP!) wrote a rhymer—Mary Had a Little Glam, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Sterling, 2016).
I also really, really, really wanted to write a *circle story told in **second person narration that starred a ***little alien. I mean, who doesn’t?!
To come up with the plot for this book, I asked myself the biggest two-word question I know: “What if..?”
What if…a little alien accidentally crash-lands in a boy’s yard?
What if…the boy wants to keep him?
What if…the boy takes him to school?
What if…the boy and the alien have an amazing day, but, when nighttime comes, the boy discovers something is wrong with his alien?
Each of these questions pushed me to consider what happened next in the story. If one question took me to a dead end, I gave myself a detour. I simply asked myself a new “What If..?” question.
Eventually, the questions led to Your Alien, illustrated by Goro Fujita, which sold at auction in a two-book deal and earned starred reviews from PW and Kirkus.
Your Alien (Sterling) will be available to earthlings and aliens everywhere on August 4.
*Circle Story: what happens in the very end of the story echoes something that happened in the very beginning of the story
**Second Person Narration: addresses the reader directly and uses the pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours”
When she is not eating out, Tammi Sauer is probably revising a picture book manuscript. She has three new books this year: Ginny Louise and the School Showdown (Disney*Hyperion), Your Alien (Sterling), andRoar! (Paula Wiseman/S&S). Visit Tammi’s website tammisauer.com, her blog picturebookbuilders.com and find her on Twitter @SauerTammi.
Tammi is giving away a copy of YOUR ALIEN. If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win this prize, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!
If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Tammi’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.
If you haven’t registered for #KidlitSummerSchool yet click HERE.