Does Your Story Need a Heart Transplant? by @BonnieAdamson and #GIVEAWAY

Three case histories

Sometimes I have what I think is a great idea for a story. I plot it out, polish the text, start thumbnailing scenes and begin working on character design. And then I hit a wall. Many of the elements are there, but the story just won’t come to life. This happens most often when there’s something in the way of the characters.

Character = engagement = heart. When I haven’t fully engaged with my characters, there’s no heart and the project flatlines. In that case, the task is to give the characters some breathing room. Maybe the plot has taken over, or  there’s too much detail choking the story—or maybe I simply haven’t given the characters enough to do.

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Whose story is it?

For a long time, I didn’t know who the main character was in this story. I didn’t *care* who the main character was. A fellow who has accumulated enough points to win the big prize at the rodeo, doesn’t.  Misunderstandings ensue, plus slapstick humor and a surprise at the end. I liked it. I really, really liked it. But the story wasn’t breathing on its own.

The fix

A critique partner read the manuscript to her daughter. She reported that the daughter was sad when the fellow at the beginning didn’t win the trophy. Sad??? This was only a minor plot point! What about the funny stuff and the twisty ending? What did it mean?

It meant this young listener had found the heart I wasn’t even aware was missing.  Eventually, after much whining and thrashing about,  I realized I had to commit to the trophy-less cowboy. The immediate solution was to switch from a storyteller’s voice to close third person. The opening went from something like “Have you heard the one about . . .?” [plot-centered] to “Pete never met a trophy he didn’t like.” [character-centered]

Bam.

The lesson

Find your star player and make it *all* about him.

Read your manuscript to an actual child.

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The lock-up.

I thought I had this one nailed—a classic underdog-saves-the-day story with heart built right into the concept. Yay! But was saving the day enough? What if readers didn’t care about my little bumbling bee from the start? I was also having a lot of trouble coming up with a visual identity for her main rival. Worse, this seemed to be the main character’s only story. I know you’re not supposed to think in terms of sequels, but I had a character I liked who was totally boxed in by a dead-end plot.

The fix

The Miss Marple Trick. Agatha Christie’s famous sleuth solves mysteries by observing behavior she can relate to that of inhabitants of her tiny village. One day while trying for the umpteenth time to come up with a sketch for my main character’s nemesis, I suddenly thought of two girls I had known in high school. One was better at *everything* that ensures popularity in that environment. The other was not so much an underdog as simply and thoroughly eclipsed by her friend. Eureka! Once I understood the dynamics  the story became more about the relationship than saving the day, and future story possibilities opened up.

The lesson

Draw on real people you’ve known to flesh out tropes like “the class clown,” or “the homecoming queen.”

Read vintage British murder mysteries.

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A thicket of details.

For this story, I did oodles of research to make sure the setting was authentic, accumulating notes upon notes about jungle habitats. I had a hook and a decent text and even some quirky character traits for the main character. But the obsession with the setting and the research had used up the energy that should have gone to showcasing the characters. My quirky crocodile didn’t have enough to do and came off as merely  part of the scenery.

The fix

Pure serendipity. In  organizing a list of portfolio pieces by project, this one happened to be followed by a wordless story that had its own problems. How about a mashup? What if the protagonist in the wordless story showed up in the jungle? Bingo! The crocodile leapt at the chance to reveal himself as a method actor, uncovering motivations I had not been aware of. The text hasn’t changed, but now there’s a much richer subtext playing out in the illustrations, and the secondary characters have gotten into the act as well.

The lesson

Energize your characters with something totally unexpected.

Have more than one idea in your portfolio.

If  *your* stories lack heart due to characters that are hidden in plain sight, boxed in by the plot, or smothered by the scenery, check out the download for exercises that will help you find the right treatment.

Meanwhile, the stories above are all off life-support and should be up and around soon. Stay tuned!

BonnieAdamson-2016 b&wBonnie Adamson is the illustrator of Bedtime Monster and the “I Wish” series of picture books for Raven Tree Press, as well as Rutabaga Boo!, written by the lovely and talented Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and due in Spring 2017 from Atheneum. Visit Bonnie at www.bonnieadamson.com.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Bonnie’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area—only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

GIVEAWAY! Bonnie is kindly giving away a Kidlit Summer School tote bag, featuring her fabulous design. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below.

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

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Go Big Or Go Home with The Funny by @jason_kirschner and #GIVEAWAY

Not too long ago,  I was talking to a fellow author about a beautifully poetic manuscript that a friend had written. I commented that I could never have written something so lyrical. She turned to me and said “That’s not what you do. You do funny.”

Kirschner_diagramIt was a bit of a revelation. I really love and admire those almost songlike 100-word-or-less manuscripts that are super popular right now. But that’s not what I do  well. I do funny. And once I leaned in to that, it became much easier and more fun to write. It should have been obvious. I’ve worked on late night comedy shows for almost two decades—not as a writer but as a designer. But that sensibility seeps into your consciousness. You tend to look at things a little sideways to find the funny in it.

So given my skewed view of the world,  I try to write things that make me laugh and hope that kids will laugh along with me.  For me, it’s virtually guaranteed because, as my wife will tell you, I am essentially an 8-year-old boy.

But I understand that funny isn’t easy. To that end I’ve been working for several months on a prototype of a machine that helps infuse comedy into a manuscript.  I call it the Fun-E-Tron 6950 and it gives you access to my favorite seven satire supplies.

Word Choice

Certain words just sound funny.  Like “persnickity”. I love that word. Ooh..or “bumfuzzle.” Why would anyone ever write “confuse” when they could write “bumfuzzle.” I would always rather write “blubber” than “cry”.  I also like the word “squeegee” but you never see one in a picture book.

Exaggeration

It’s not real life—it’s picture books. When your 5-year-old character is having a hissy fit (more great words) and screams, have her blow the roof off the joint. Literally. The rules of physics don’t apply here. Don’t build a sorta tall sandcastle—build a tower that touches the clouds. Go big or go home.

Understatement

You can also go the other way. If your character does blow the roof off her house and it crumbles to bits, it gets even funnier if the text reads something understated like “She might have caused a bit of damage.”

Visual Gags/Slapstick

Obviously both of these will rely heavily on your best friend, The Illustrator, but it all starts in your script. It’s up to you to set up situations where “physical comedy” can take place. Someone somewhere wrote scripts for The Three Stooges. (I bet in real life, Moe was a pussycat.) And even though The Stooges were the ones that executed the comedy, a scenario was written down in a script for them to follow. Likewise, an illustrator can execute what you’ve initiated for them. The same goes for visual gags— large guys named “Tiny” for instance. Gets me every time.

Puns 

OMG, do I love puns. Jokes that play on the fact that different words sound the same are perfect for picture books. My son loves them too but he’d never admit it publicly. Once, in the market, I made a joke about nacho cheese being “not your cheese” (say it fast) and he laughed for hours. I love that moment when we’re reading together and we come across a pun. Sometimes I can actually see the wheels turning in his head until he gets it and lets out a loud guffaw (yet another great word.) Once he understands it, he feels like he’s in on the joke and that’s a great feeling. Be punny.

Repetition

Repeating similar scenarios throughout your book is a great way to infuse some humor.  In comedy, there’s usually a rule of threes. Repeating a line or event three times can build a scenario where you can either meet expectations on that third go-round or defy expectations which can be hilarious. Another great use of repetition is the “callback” where an earlier phrase or event can be used as a punchline later in the book. A good callback is the best.

Fart Jokes

Not much of an explanation needed here. Farts are funny to anyone less than eight years old or anyone with a Y chromosome.

Kirschner_bookcoverMy challenge to you is to take a look at your latest manuscript and see how many of these tools you’re using. Then adjust the dials on the different comedy contraptions available to you depending on the story you’re trying to tell. Use some or all of them—if you think you can handle it. Some of them will require a great illustrator to help execute them but there’s no reason you can’t provide the setup in your script. Use them wisely and be funny. And the next time you see someone holding cheese that’s not theirs you walk right up and tell them “That’s nacho cheese.” (Callback. Nailed it.)

KirschnerJ_headshotJason Kirschner is a set designer for television with credits that include Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman.  He’s also the author and illustrator of Mr. Particular: The World’s Choosiest Champion from Sterling which you can now find in bookstores everywhere. See more of Jason’s work at jasonkirschner.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking HERE.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Jason’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area—only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

GIVEAWAY! Jason is kindly giving away a copy of Mr Particular. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below.

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

Writing with Heart and Soul by Kelly Starling Lyons

KLSS_Lyons_bookcover_001Before I became a children’s book author, I wrote newspaper and magazine articles. I looked forward to feedback from editors that would help my stories shine. But one day, I received a note that made my shoulders slump in shame. “This has no soul.” I don’t remember what the story was. But I remember that critique.

I prided myself on being a writer who put her all into her work. But my editor was right. Technically, the story did the job. I included the who, what, where, when, why and how. My beginning worked. I wrapped the story up with a bow. But my piece didn’t make you feel. It had “no soul“ – no beating heart.

When I think about how to describe heart, I hear my favorite songs. I love ballads. Full of emotion, they make you smile or tear up in remembrance, catch your breath or sigh. As you listen or sing along, you feel everything that’s happening. You connect to the songs, because they speak to something deep inside.

How do you create stories with heart and soul? You start by putting yourself in your characters’ shoes and using your words to make music that will linger. Remember the joy of singing with abandon as a child. We didn’t worry about being on key or who was listening. We let it all out. Give yourself permission to feel everything. Use your senses. Show with your words. Go where the story takes you and bring your reader there too.

Creating stories with heart can be tough. Early drafts of my historical fiction picture book, Hope’s Gift (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), were so focused on accuracy that the pulse was missing. I forgot to make readers long for freedom with Hope, feel her pain, root for her and her family. My editor reminded me that stories fall flat without feelings. She told me to put the history aside for a moment and just focus on Hope’s emotions. She’s enslaved. Her father has run away to help liberate their people. He gives Hope a conch shell and a promise that freedom is coming. All she has left are that gift, her mother and brother and her faith.

As I revised, Hope and her family became real. I pictured her looking into her papa’s tear-stained face as he said goodbye. I imagined her clutching the conch shell he gave her, listening to the swooshing and hearing the echo of his words: “Nothing can keep freedom from coming.” I saw her comforting her little brother Henry like I used to comfort my younger brother Kevin when something made him cry or shudder. I immersed myself in her emotional journey of sorrow, hope, disappointment and joy. The characters lived not just on the page, but in my mind.

Another way to create heart and soul in stories is by studying those who do it well. Check out the work of gifted authors like Jacqueline Woodson, Angela Johnson, Sharon G. Flake and Carole Boston Weatherford to name a few. Read their work for the joy of their stories first. Then, analyze their books and glean tips to help your characters spring to life.

A last tip is to consider your own reaction. If you’re not welling up as you write, feeling a knot in your chest or your heart pounding, readers may not either. Look for internal cues that you’re making music that will resonate and play on.

kellyheadshot (1)Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author whose mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery. Her books include chapter book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal; CCBC Choices-honored picture book, One Million Men and Me; Ellen’s Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection and Tea Cakes for Tosh and Hope’s Gift, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People. Her latest picture book is One More Dino on the Floor. Learn more about Kelly at kellystarlinglyons.com. And follow her on Facebook by clicking HERE.

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Kelly’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

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From Paper to Pulse: Character with Heart by @TerraMcVoy 

Creating a character with real heart is hard.

It isn’t like slapping a wristwatch into a Tin Man and telling him he suddenly has one.

Writing a character who possesses true heart requires the same amount of dedication, the same kind of connection and patience, that a relationship with someone else who actually HAS a heart takes. It requires time, and honesty, and sometimes conversations you don’t think you can bear to get through. It demands understanding, and knowing, and letting yourself fall a little in love. (Even if  you aren’t, you know, romantic about them in That Way.)

thisisallyourfaultFiguring out how to  do this—how to write a character whose heart is real—is one of the most important things to me when it comes to writing. But it’s also one of the most complex. How do you do it? How do you really get in to someone in such an intimate way? How do you become more than Victor Frankenstein—not merely assembling the body parts and bringing the lighting, but also make something live?

When I step back to think about it, I —as I’m sure you do, too— get really, really intimidated.

So instead of getting overwhelmed by the Big Picture, I try to recall my poetry background and focus on the details.

Because, while we are all much more than the sum of our parts, those small parts—what we listen to, where we go, the things we care about day to day—can give others (and ourselves, really) a better idea of Who We Are.

So I start very, very basic. Asking the kinds of questions of my characters that I would ask anyone else I’m first getting to know. What is your favorite color? A movie that moves you? What you like to eat when you’re sad? It may seem silly (especially when you’re only trying to develop the stepmom who only appears three times in a story), but sometimes the best devil really is in these details.

To get you started with these questions, here’s a worksheet I give my students when we’re in the early stages of developing character, and ultimately story. You may not have answers to every single question, and some of them might seem irrelevant, but I find, for me, that asking what my character carries with him or her every day really can shine a light on bigger matters of heart.

 

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But another thing I think a lot about when it comes to character, and heart, is relationships. Who are the most important people to my character? Best friend? Parent? Romantic love? Boss? Coach? Who is on their radar but to a lesser degree? A friend’s mom? A teacher? A sibling who now lives far away? Thinking about the important relationships in your character’s life will help determine their actions during the course of their story. For whom are they willing to fight? Who inspires them to hatred that leads to mistakes? The great Harry Potter, after all, may not have been moved to do what he did if it weren’t for his friends, his teachers, his parents, too.  Dobby.

indeepcoverpbSo here’s a map I draw for myself, connecting my main character (in the center) to the
Most Important People, and then the Second Most, while also connecting those Most Important People to each other. Because your mom certainly has an opinion of your girlfriend. Your best friend has thoughts about your evil boss. And those connections might influence your decisions when it comes to all of them.

Of course I understand these two exercises may not be enough to fully animate a corpse. To do that takes a lot more time and practice than I can address in one lesson, but I do find that these detail exercises at least get the muscles twitching. Get my characters acting and speaking in more complete ways so that I can see better who they really are. How they move. What they love.  It at least gets the two of us out the door on our first date together, where, I hope, with more questions and more conversations, we’ll both ultimately see each other’s real hearts. And fall in love.

TAKEAWAYS:

  • Developing character relationships to better understand motivation.
  • Learning specific details about character in order to make them more complete and real.
  • Understanding that building character is the hardest and most complicated aspect of writing, but is worth the time.
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photo credit: Jamie Allen

Terra Elan McVoy is the author of six acclaimed YA novels and two middle grade, most recently This Is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker from Katherine Tegen Books. She is also an independent bookseller and creative writing instructor, and lives in Atlanta GA with her husband and a lot of shoes. To learn more about Terra and her books visit terraelan.com.

You can also find her on Facebook by clicking HERE. Or find her on Twitter = @TerraMcVoy, or Instagram = terraelanmcvoy

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Terra’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.

#KidlitSummerSchool Week 4 Begins Tomorrow

That’s a wrap for Week 3 Kidlit Summer Schoolers, but look out …here comes our fourth and final week!

We hope you’ve been enjoying Summer School so far and discovered new ways to work, to help your writing and illustrating—and you—grow in the realm of Heart and Humor.

As always, try not to miss class as much as you can. Posts are offered Monday through Friday right here on the blog through our fabulous faculty guest bloggers. And as you know all you have to do is virtually show up here. If you subscribe to this blog, school comes to you instead through your inbox. And don’t forget if you’re not already subscribed, just head to the right sidebar and subscribe—it’s that easy!

Take a look at your class schedule for Week 4. There’s still so much more for you to learn!


As always, please help us share the love for #KidlitSummerSchool by posting about it on Twitter, FB (including in groups of writers), Pinterest, and all other forms of social media. Simply use the tag #KidlitSummerSchool wherever you post. If you want, you can copy the ready-made tweet below and paste it into your feed. Super-easy!

More HEART&HUMOR for Week 4 of #KidlitSummerSchool with blog posts, webinars, exercises, and more! http://www.nerdychickswrite.com

If you didn’t get a chance to make the most our of Kidlit Summer School yet, there’s still time. Check these out:

  • Make sure you are on the email list! All passwords, webinar links, etc. will be sent out through email ONLY. If you are not getting emails, please click HERE to troubleshoot. Because there are so many of you, we ask that you read this carefully before contacting us about a problem. A regular weekly email will be sent out (usually on Sundays). Look for it to make sure you get it!
  • Join our Facebook Group! If you have registered for Kidlit Summer School 2016, follow this link to ask to be added if you haven’t already.
  • Participate in our Twitter #30mdares: This year, Rebecca Petruck will post prompts on Twitter and Facebook twice a week so students have the freedom to arrange group dares that suit their schedules and time zones, or do them on their own. The only “rule” is to set a timer and go without stopping for 30 minutes. You can find her on Twitter at @RebeccaPetruck.   Prompts will be posted Tuesday at 9p ET and Saturday at 10a ET. To get prompts, check the Twitter hashtag #30mdare or visit the Facebook group.Publisher’s Weekly covered Rebecca’s first experience with the #30mdare. You can read about that HERE.
  • FAQ page: Check out the pages for FAQs in the navigation bar for more information on webinars, email, and #30mdares.
  • Cafe Press: Soon our 2016 design will be ready to order from our Cafe Press store. You can own some 2016 Kidlit Summer School Memorabilia. It’s coming this week, yay! 😉
  • Webinars: Stay tuned — we’re still working on these.
  • New to School? If this is your first time attending Kidlit Summer School, check out our updated ABOUT page for a brief explanation of how things work!

GIVEAWAYS:


  • Perfect Attendance:
     
    Remember the blue-star-thumbperfect attendance award? You can get one for attending Kidlit Summer School! We’ll hold a drawing at the end of Summer School for people who commented on every post here on the blog within the first 24 hours of it going up. When Summer School is over, there will be a post explaining how to be entered for the drawing for the Perfect Attendance grand prize.
  • Author Giveaways: Some of our amazing authors will be sponsoring giveaways with their posts. You must comment on their post to qualify for these. Details will be at the end of each post.
  • #30mdare Giveaway: Students who complete at least five of the seven dares will be entered to win a 20-page critique and follow-up phone call from Rebecca. 

ALL PRIZES WILL BE AWARDED AT THE END OF KIDLIT SUMMER SCHOOL 2016!

Kick back today, catch up if you need to … and we’ll see you in class!

The Kidlit Summer School Board of Education.

Follow us on Twitter: @dawnmyoung @kamikinard @leezaworks @marciecolleen @sudiptabq

Week 3 POP QUIZ

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Now that Week 3 is over, it’s time to review what you learned and take a Pop Quiz. We know you’re all going to ace it and make your teachers proud! So go ahead, take this quiz to see what you learned during the third week of Kidlit Summer School.

 

 

1. On Monday, Crystal Allen encouraged you to look for humor in…

a) An incident from your childhood, or someone else’s; (Don’t mention real names, or you’ll become poop to them!)

b) Joke or riddle books

c) “What if” ideas

d) All of the above

 

2. On Tuesday, Marcie Colleen said that showing versus telling allows your readers (or listeners) to experience the story because…

a) Showing paints a picture.

b) Showing draws the reader in.

c) Showing uses description, action, and dialogue to portray how a character is thinking and feeling and therefore, builds emotion…or heart.

d) All of the above

 

3. On Wednesday, Josh Funk shared the following…

a) When limiting your picture book manuscripts to 0 to 300 (to maybe 500) words, it’s important to ensure that what’s being shown changes pretty frequently.

b) Once you’ve given your illustrator enough variety of scenery – it’s time to let them run wild.

c) Put the illustrator in the position to add as much humor as possible.

d) All of the above

 

4. On Thursday, Wendy Mass reminded us that we write for kids to:

a) Teach them what we wished we’d known and to entertain young readers, to make them laugh so that they’ll learn to laugh at themselves.

b) Make them cry to teach them empathy.

c) Show them adversity so they can learn to be strong and to pluck them from their lives and place them somewhere else, in the hopes that when they close the covers of the book they will come back to themselves stronger, with their minds open to new possibilities.

d) All of the above

 

5. On Friday, Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr offered the following suggestion(s) for writing humor…

a) The key to all humor is surprise—a turn of phrase or twist of events that feels unexpected, and sometimes delightfully so.

b) Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be hilarious at the outset. Toil all day, then play all night.

c) Humor Loves Company.

d) All of the above

Hip, hip hooray, you got an A right? 100%? If you’re unsure, go back and check out the posts from Week Three. This is an open blog test. (And you don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!)

Okay, now you get a chance to kick back, and enjoy your weekend…or if you didn’t get a chance to go through all the KLSS posts yet, no worries, you can go back anytime and catch up!

See you in Week Four!

Three Tips for Writing Humor: Write Blind, First Things First, and Get Some Help, Already by @writingmatthew and @drawingrobbi plus a #Giveaway

Perhaps my greatest pleasure is making people laugh. Which is why pretty much everything I write is anchored in humor. It keeps my readers engaged. It allows for higher highs and lower lows. But how to create humor? Heck if I know. Writing this post forced me to think the question through. I’ve come up with a few suggestions. Maybe they will help you.

Swanson 11. Write blind. The key to all humor is surprise—a turn of phrase or twist of events that feels unexpected, and sometimes delightfully so. As a writer, I seek humor by creating voices that reflect the world with a pleasing slant. But for these voices to surprise my readers, I also have to surprise myself in creating them. Too much thinking makes for plodding prose. The more calculating I get, the less natural (and therefore, less funny) the writing becomes. For me, the trick is finding a way to think less, not more.

A few months back, I stumbled on a tool that makes it nearly impossible to censor and judge yourself while writing that first draft—because it sweeps away the fruits of your labor before you have a chance to realize how bad they might smell. I describe how it works in our exercise. It might be the simplest, most elegant way I’ve ever encountered to get the mind out of the way so that intuition can steer the writing process in the direction of fresh, uninhibited, funny prose. It’s also a fail-safe cure for writer’s block. And it’s free.

swnason2

2. First Things First. My best jokes usually don’t show up until the end of a writing project. First I lay the foundation (character, plot arc, etc.), then I frame the structure (the specific business that makes up the story), and only then do add the siding and the windows, the molding and the mailbox. My brain has to do a lot of thinking to build the house. But once the guts are in place and relatively watertight, the imps are free come out and romp, elevating the voice and the dialogue, making the tiny adjustments that transform a solid manuscript into a delightful one. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be hilarious at the outset. Toil all day, then play all night.

swanson3

3. Humor Loves Company. It’s impossible to be funny in a vacuum. Landing a joke is completing a circuit. It’s a gamble, a gambit, a leap of pure faith. If you are struggling to write humor, find someone to laugh with. It could be a friend to read your draft and tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Or it could be someone to help you build your jokes by making their own contributions. (Remember that comedic TV shows are written by groups of funny people sitting in a room making magic together.)Every book I write is created in close collaboration with my wife, the illustrator Robbi Behr (she who decided to electrocute me above). Sometimes, Robbi’s drawings elevate and extend my jokes by making them visual. Other times, the humor results from tension between the written and visual takes on a given situation. But Robbi is also my first editor, giving me an early gut check on my manuscripts and helping me develop jokes by lending an extra ear.Finally, just spending time with funny people can help get you into the right frame of mind. Humor depends so much on timing and pacing and instinct. Soak it in, and then channel what you’ve learned. Watch funny shows and standup. Read funny books. Be humor’s companion. Call it research. It’s not such a bad way to pass the hours.

Writing humor: the really short version:

Babies RuinTurn off your conscious thinking, judging brain. Humor comes from someplace deeper. If you can’t force yourself to be funny, let the app in our exercise help.
Don’t feel pressure to make your manuscript funny until you have the basics in place. Funny is the icing. Once you bake the cake, you can turn off your boring old brain and start to play.
Commune with humor, whether through collaboration or seeking feedback, whether by hanging out with funny people or gorging on funny material.

SwansonM_BehrR_headshotHusband/wife, author/illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr have collaborated to create the picture books Babies Ruin Everything (July 2016) and Everywhere, Wonder (February 2017) and the middle grades series The Real McCoys (Fall 2017), all with Macmillan Kids. In addition to speaking and leading workshops on collaboration and creative entrepreneurship, they have produced three small children and more than 70 self-published picture books for children and adults. You can follow Matthew at https://twitter.com/writingmatthew and Robbi at https://twitter.com/drawingrobbi and visit their website at www.robbiandmatthew.com and their Babies Ruin Everything page at http://robbiandmatthew.com/babies-ruin-everything/ and their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Robbi-and-Matthew-819948174807508/?fref=ts

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Matthew and Robbi’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

GIVEAWAY! Matthew and Robbi are kindly giving away a  Ridiculous Skype conversation . For a chance to win, please leave a comment below.

Don’t miss your chance to get perfect attendance! Leave a comment on this post within the first 24 hours. Moderators have to approve first-time commenters, so your comment may not show up immediately.