“A big story is about a small moment.” ~Matthew Dicks
Think about that for a moment (not a small one).
Every book you have ever read is about a small moment—an epiphany when a character realizes an emotional truth with complete clarity.
Let me provide examples:
THE MONSTORE is not just about a store that sells monsters. It’s about a brother and sister who learn to appreciate one another and cooperate.
7 ATE 9 is about number 9 realizing his worth.
LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD is about not judging someone before you get to know them.
Before I read Matthew Dicks’ STORYWORTHY, I used to phrase this “small moment” concept differently. I would explain that a story, especially a picture book, required an emotional core. Now I realize that is an amorphous blob of a statement.
In other words, not very helpful.
Likewise, if I told you my manuscript was about siblings who learn to get along, that doesn’t sound very enticing, does it? Sounds preachy and boring—been there, done that.
However, frame that sibling story in a shop of misbehaving monsters and suddenly it’s a must-read.
Small moments. They are what make your story BIG.
You may ask, do I set out writing about small moments? NEVER. I begin with an appealing, kid-friendly premise about dolphins or aliens or robots or puppies. If I am doing my job correctly, my main dolphin is not going to be the same dolphin by the end of the story. That dolphin has changed. Not from a bottlenose to a pantropical spotted, but from a mean dolphin to a nice one. Or one who doesn’t believe in narwhals to one who does. That small moment of emotional transformation is what makes the journey through the waves (and the story) meaningful. Otherwise, it’s just splashing in the ocean.
Your small moment appears with the story’s organic evolution. Often, if you begin with a small moment you end up sounding like a big know-it-all. Why? Because you can unknowingly force that theme into being. Never do I write in THE MONSTORE, “Zach and Gracie learned to appreciate one another and cooperate.” SNOOZEFEST. Instead, they open another Monstore together. That’s a lot more fun, and the small moment of transformation shines through.
While STORYWORTHY by Matthew Dicks is about crafting personal storytelling narratives, it contains nuggets of writing gold applicable to picture books. I had a small moment myself when I read about small moments.
So examine your manuscript. Does it contain a small moment? If you hear from an editor that your story requires another layer, that emotional epiphany could be the big answer.
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