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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: amber-butler on January 20, 2017, 03:12 PM

Title: Vocabulary and descriptive words in picture books
Post by: amber-butler on January 20, 2017, 03:12 PM
I apologize if this question has been asked before; I searched and couldn't find anything.

I have a question about vocabulary in picture books, specifically as it relates to metaphorical and lyrical language. I understand that the general rule is that the words should be action and dialogue and let the pictures do the describing, but are there exceptions to this rule? What kind of vocabulary is too high for a picture book? Should metaphorical type descriptions absolutely never be included, or is it okay in order to enhance the rhythm and flow of the book (not rhyming)?

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to include examples here, I know there are rules about posting your own manuscript texts into a post for critique so I don't know if I can put something from my WIP here as an example if this question doesn't make sense, so let me know if that's okay or necessary to clarify. (:

Thanks!
Title: Re: Vocabulary and descriptive words in picture books
Post by: Vijaya on January 20, 2017, 04:26 PM
Welcome Amber! With a PB, assume that a parent or teacher is going to read the book to the child, so I wouldn't really worry about language complexity. It can be rich and lyrical, including metaphors. I think perhaps kids get them more easily because they are so imaginative. Just watch children at play. A box is an airplane, a house. Clouds are horses galloping across the sky.

You may post an excerpt or even the full text of your PB in the SCBWI critique board or you can make a call to swap manuscripts.
Title: Re: Vocabulary and descriptive words in picture books
Post by: Kell on January 20, 2017, 05:30 PM
Some agents and editors really love lyrical writing. Some prefer spare or funny. It's always a matter of fit -- there are all kinds of books out there.
Title: Re: Vocabulary and descriptive words in picture books
Post by: amber-butler on January 20, 2017, 06:23 PM
That's very helpful, thanks!
Title: Re: Vocabulary and descriptive words in picture books
Post by: Dionna on January 21, 2017, 01:54 AM
I love to use lyrical and metaphorical language, i.e. descriptors like "dust-kissed face",  or "as comfortable as too-small shoes".  But as many editors have told me they love the language, just as many, if not the same ones, have said that it's too complex for pb audiences. I think kids can handle it, but it's not helping those manuscripts get published. 
Title: Re: Vocabulary and descriptive words in picture books
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on January 23, 2017, 07:16 AM
I think it very much depends on the publisher. You might want to talk to a children's librarian and ask for books with lyrical language. Ask for the newest books they have. Then look at the publication dates and the publishers. It's also possible to be spare and lyrical at the same time, but it's harder.

Harold Underdown has a class that covers this. There might be a session coming up. Yep. There is a free session that gives an overview if you want to try it out before signing up or get the gist without signing up. You can see his Facebook page for that if it's open to the public. I'm not sure if it is. http://www.underdown.org/conferences.htm