Writing Humorous Picture Books

27 08 2015

Rebecca witch 1Today I have the great pleasure of hosting my friend Rebecca Colby, an awesome picture book writer, whose book, It’s Raining Bats & Frogs, released this month. She’s agreed to give share some secrets for writing funny picture books. And as a special bonus, if you read through the post, you’ll find a clue for her Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to collect all of the clues to be eligible for a prize.

And here’s Rebecca…

 

 

Show Them the Funny: Writing Humorous Picture Books

Everywhere I look on editor and agent submission wish lists these days, I read the following: WANTED: Funny, Quirky Picture Books. Why? Because everyone enjoys a laugh—kids and adults alike. Laughing makes people feel good, and as a result, funny sells.

But if you’re not the kind of person who automatically sees the funny side of life, you may find writing humorous picture books difficult. (And even if you do see the funny side of life, like me, you may still find it a struggle.) So here are some tips to showing editors and agents “the funny.” And if you’re playing my online scavenger hunt, here is one of the names you’re looking for: Sabrina.

 

JuxtapositionPirates Don't Change Diapers

Put two things together that don’t normally go together. This already sets the scene for a humorous story before you’ve even written a word. For example, Melinda Long puts ‘pirates’ and ‘a baby’ together in Pirates Don’t Change Diapers (illustrated by David Shannon). Who can resist laughing at babysitting pirates, especially when they think they’ve been given the task of sitting on babies.

 

Contradictions

Dear Mrs LaRueSome of the funniest books to read are those in which the illustrations contradict the text. Mark Teague does this so well in his book, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. In the book, Ike begs to be rescued from dog obedience school. He writes letters home to Mrs. LaRue, complaining about the school and painting a bleak picture of it, while the color illustrations tell a very different picture—that of a luxury, high-class school that is more akin to a spa retreat.

 

Potty HumorMorris the Mankiest Monster

Okay, so it doesn’t appeal to everyone, but most kids of average picture book age, love (and I do mean LOVE!) potty humor. And if you’re looking for an example of a book that is super-duper, hilariously disgusting then look no further than Morris, the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre. Morris lives in a house made of dung and eats green bogies. Need I say more?

 

The Web FilesWord play

Be it nonsense words, puns, tongue twisters, or other word play techniques, using fun language can add humor to a book. And the sillier sounding the language, the better. A picture book author that knows how to use word play to its best effect (and one to study) is Margie Palatini. With titles like Broom Mates, Moosetache, and Gone with the Wand, you already know she’s an author who likes to play with words. In her book, The Web Files (illustrated by Richard Egielski), someone has pilfered a peck of perfect purple almost-pickled peppers and Ducktective Web must investigate the fowl play. While it proves to be a hard case to quack, he eventually finds the dirty rat involved. Now how’s that for some fun word play?

 

Give it a twistI Thought This was a Bear Book

Another way to ensure your book is humorous is to add a twist. Your book should be anything but predictable, so surprise your audience. A recent book I’ve read that accomplishes this is I Thought This was a Bear Book by Tara Lazar and Benji Davies. The entire book is a twisted fairy tale with an alien accidentally falling into the pages of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But while some of the elements in the book, like the appearance of Goldilocks, porridge, chairs, and beds are expected, these elements are mish-mashed with the story of the alien, making for a completely new and unpredictable book. And just when you think you’ve got the book sussed and the happy ending is looming, a further twist shows up on the last page. But to find out what it is, you’ll have to read the book!

 

Illustrations

Illustrations are another way to inject humor into your picture book. However, since this is a post about writing, rather than illustrating, I’m not going to say much here, except occasionally–and only VERY OCCASIONALLY–if you come up with a strong, visual image that would enhance the humor in your text, then you might want to consider inserting an illustration note in your manuscript.

Humor is subjective so employing these tricks is no guarantee that every editor or agent will find your book humorous, but you’re sure to tickle a few funny bones.

Thank you for hosting me today, Laurie! I’ve had a great time and I hope everyone will get writing and “show them the funny”!

Thank you for being here, Rebecca. Lots of great advice for those who want to write “funny.”Here’s more about It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! and about Rebecca. Be sure to use that Scavenger Hunt clue.

It’s Raining Bats and Frogs! Blurb

Delia has been looking forward all year to flying in the annual Halloween Parade. But parade day brings heavy rain. So, Delia takes action. Using her best magic, Delia changes the rain to cats and dogs. But that doesn’t work too well! Then hats and clogs. That doesn’t work, either! Each new type of rain brings a new set of problems. How can Delia save the day?

About Rebecca Colby

When not staring at blank pieces of paper, Rebecca can be found scribbling on napkins, walking into lampposts, and talking to herself. You can learn more about Rebecca and her strange habits at www.rebeccacolbybooks.com Alternatively, check out some of her one-sided conversations on Twitter at @amscribbler.

Rebecca is the author of It’s Raining Bats & Frogs (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2015) and There was a Wee Lassie who Swallowed a Midgie (Floris Picture Kelpies, 2014), and the forthcoming Motor Goose (F&F/Macmillan, 2017).

 

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47 responses

27 08 2015
It’s Raining Bats & Frogs Blog Tour and an On-line Scavenger Hunt | Rebecca Colby – children's author

[…] to Write a Teacher’s Activity Guide 25 August – Christina Banach Interview 27 August – Laurie J. Edwards Show Them the Funny: Writing the Humorous Picture Book 28 August – GROG Storybook Cooks and […]

27 08 2015
lje1

Check out some of these other sites for clues to the Scavenger Hunt.

27 08 2015
Yvonne Ventresca

I love that you gave examples! Thanks.

27 08 2015
lje1

I really liked the examples too, Yvonne. They’ll make good mentor texts for those of us who want to write “funny.”

27 08 2015
Rebecca C

Thanks, Yvonne! Any excuse to pore over my humorous picture book collection. 🙂

27 08 2015
storyfairy

I have always found writing good humorous picture books to be a challenge, but these are all really great tips. 🙂

27 08 2015
lje1

I agree, they are challenging. Hope the tips help you with your books, storyfairy.

27 08 2015
Rebecca C

Thanks, Storyfairy! I hope they prove useful with your own writing.

27 08 2015
Bobbi Miller

What a fantastic discussion! Very succinct, and the examples are perfect. Do you teach a workshop in this area, too? This would certainly be a strong class, I think. Thank you, Laura and Rebecca!

27 08 2015
lje1

What a great idea, Bobbi! I’d enjoy taking a class like that.

28 08 2015
Rebecca C

Thank you, Bobbi! I’ve taught general picture writing courses before. Focusing solely on humorous books might be a good idea.

27 08 2015
Marcia Strykowski

I love word play with a twist, too. Watch out for those lampposts, Rebecca and thanks for sharing her informative words, Laurie!

28 08 2015
Rebecca C

Ha! I walked into another lamppost this week while plotting a story. 😉 Thanks for your comments, Marcia!

31 08 2015
Aliens, Bears, and Tara Lazar, Oh, My! | Laurie J. Edwards ~ Author, Artist, Dreamer...

[…] Rebecca Colby mentioned in her post, you do humor very well. What secrets can you share for writing […]

2 09 2015
kateperidot

Reblogged this on Adventures in Fiction and commented:
I thought this an excellent addition to the notes on my blog about writing picture books. Thank you Rebecca and Laurie for sharing.

2 09 2015
lje1

Thanks for reblogging, Kate! Hope it helps your readers.

6 09 2015
Rebecca C

Thank you for reblogging the post, Kate, and for stopping by! Cheers!

2 09 2015
nikolina84

Really enjoying following this tour and the scavenger hunt!! Thank you!

2 09 2015
lje1

Glad you participated, nikolina!

2 09 2015
Darija

Loving the book tour,Rebecca really seems to love writing and what she does.

2 09 2015
lje1

Yes, she does, doesn’t she? Thanks for stopping by, Darija, & glad you’re enjoying the tour.

3 09 2015
Da Ario

I’m following the scavenger hunt, thank you for this cool game you organised!!! 😀

3 09 2015
lje1

Glad you enjoyed it, Da Ario!

3 09 2015
guruonamountain

Scavenger hunting 🙂

3 09 2015
lje1

Good luck with it! Hope you find all the clues.

4 09 2015
Jade Hewlett

They look like great books, enjoying the scavenger hunt.

4 09 2015
lje1

Glad you’re enjoying the scavenger hunt, Jade! And, yes, the books are all fun reads.

4 09 2015
Laura Walker

I’m on the hunt but like the sound of Morris the Monster!

4 09 2015
lje1

Enjoy the hunt, Laura! Glad Morris tickled your funny bone. 🙂

4 09 2015
Suzie

I’m also on the hunt. These blogs are making me want to get writing.

6 09 2015
lje1

Enjoy, Suzie! And that’s wonderful that this has inspired you to write.

4 09 2015
Mandy S

Humour, we love it…even in adult books

6 09 2015
lje1

Definitely, Mandy!

5 09 2015
Mike Williams

I think Morris the Monster lives in our house!

6 09 2015
lje1

Oh, boy, Mike… that must be interesting! 🙂

5 09 2015
ELISHA

I think there should be more scavenger hunts 🙂

6 09 2015
lje1

I agree, Elisha! They’re so much fun, aren’t they?

5 09 2015
jo maxted

im hunting 🙂 xx

6 09 2015
lje1

Good luck, Jo!

5 09 2015
Victoria Prince

Great advice 🙂 Loving this!

6 09 2015
lje1

Thanks for letting us know, Victoria.

5 09 2015
Vickie Jackson

Currently scavenger hunting 🙂

6 09 2015
lje1

Have fun, Vickie!

5 09 2015
Penny Parker Klostermann

Thanks for the tips, Rebecca. You certainly know how to do humorous!

6 09 2015
lje1

She sure does, Penny! Thanks for stopping by.

6 09 2015
Rebecca C

As do you, Penny! Thanks for stopping by and reading the post.

6 09 2015
Rebecca C

A big thank you to everyone for stopping by to read the post and for your kind comments. And good luck to all of you participating in the scavenger hunt. Results will be announced soon!

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