Written by Øyvind Torseter. It’s a story about a man who discovers a hole… I won’t say anything else because I don’t want to spoil it. Go get it now! Quickly! Stop reading this blog post … find a bookstore… go!
We love our heroes. We created them and so, like any parent, we have a tendency to protect them. This is a mistake! They need to be tested, they need to challenged, and sometimes they need to be destroyed. I’m going to tweak that old stock phrase 'Misery builds character’ and say 'Misery build compelling characters and great stories.' Our goal is not only to show our audience what our protagonist's greatest insecurities, doubts and fears are, but to use these secrets against them in moments where failure could mean death …. or something not so traumatic if it’s a picture book... especially a bedtime story (Then Tommy the Train engine died in a fiery explosion… night night sweetie)
My favorite example of this comes from 'The Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ In the opening sequence Indy has narrowly escaped death by jumping into a seaplane, however in his seat he discovers a snake and FREAKS OUT!!! “I hate snakes Jock, I hate them!!!" Not only is this funny, considering what Indy has just done, but by doing this we set up Indy’s paralyzing fear of snakes and also humanize Indy a little... "Hey he's afraid of something too, just like me and you!" (Rhyming is fun)
After setting up Indy’s paralyzing fear of snakes in the opening sequence, we bring back his fear in the third act. Only this time we increase it to about a thousand creepy crawlers!!! This raises the tension in the third act making it so much more fun to watch Indy struggle through this challenge. Set it up and Knock it down :)
In Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen’s ‘The Dark,’ they set up the fact that the main character, Laszlo, is afraid of the dark on page one. Then, not only do they bring the darkness into his bedroom, but they force Laszlo to walk alone at night down to the darkest part of his house… the basement. The authors have set up the conflict in the opening illustration, then after the inciting event (bedroom light going out) they constantly raise the stakes, bringing our hero to a darker and darker place... Now that's great story telling :)
Will Laszlo overcome his fear or will he be eaten by a monster? Could go either way with Mr. Snicket. P.S. You should buy this book!!! It's fantastic!!!!
1) Establish the conflict 2) Raise the stakes 3) Raise it again only times a million 4) Your Hero succeeds or fails.
I'm so excited to share with you my latest short film DEAD HEARTS after a 2 Year festival run with stops at over 155 film festivals worldwide, with 45 awards including those at SCREAMFEST LA, TORONTO AFTERDARK, MONSTERFEST and both The Best Live Action Short Film Award and the Best International Short Film at the St. Louis International Film Festival that has in the running for an OSCAR in 2016!! CRAZY! Here the link for the DEAD HEARTS on SHORT OF THE WEEK
We can finally share our book trailer for Charlotte and the Rock!!!
The animation was done by the Amazing Fantastic Linh Pham!!
And the music by the Super Talented Nathan Boler
Hope you guys like it!!!
Start your story as close to the inciting event as possible. In a picture book, with less than 32 pages, you do not have a lot of time. Yes, you do need to set up your hero/world but the quicker you can do it the better. I would shoot for one page, three pages tops.
Here are a few examples from picture books both old and new:
Oliver Jeffers's debut 'How to Catch a Star' - On page one we know what this boy 'WANTS' and by page two he has already begun his quest to obtain the object he desires.
William Steig’s Caldecott Medal winning book (One of my all time favorites!!!) 'Sylvester and The Magic Pebble' - We get a two sentence description of our hero, his family and his favorite hobby. Then BANG! He finds the magic pebble - inciting event.
A longer example comes from Master storyteller Dr. Suess and his classic ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ Here we get a super cute raining day opening that introduces the children and their boredom for about three pages then KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! The cat has arrived!
Finally, Moe Willems does it on page ONE of his book ‘That is Not a Good Idea’ with an incredible Splash page of the Fox and the Hen making eye contact on the street.
I think some British guy said "brevity is the soul of wit.” In picture books you don’t have a lot of time; get in as late as possible. Trust me, your audience is super smart. They don’t need much for a set up, they will get it. And if you can tell them everything with a single image even better.