Lessons from Disney Storybooks

Every afternoon, my daughter and I have a special reading time. We curl up in my big over-sized armchair and read several books together. Lately, she's been on a kick of reading the little books that are basically condensed versions of Disney movies.

Set of The Princess and the Frog books

While these aren't the most exciting stories for me to read, they do offer up some great tips when it comes to writing. Yesterday, we read three stories from Princess and the Frog. Each one was only a few pages and told the story from the POV of a different character: Tiana, Naveen, and Louis.

This is a great exercise for all of us in developing full characters. For each of the three, they had a goal, a plan, and a lesson learned at the end of the story. That goes for both the main characters and Louis the trumpet playing alligator. 

Do your minor characters have goals? Are they working toward their own path or merely there for window dressing?

I'm not saying you need to rewrite your manuscript in six different POVs, but if you had to, could you? If one of your minor characters was telling the story, would it simply be an account of your main character's actions or would they have their own story to tell. If a character doesn't have their own story, they are going to read as a cardboard cutout.

Another lesson from these books is the distilling of a two hour movie down into only a few pages.

I suggest picking up a few of these, even if you don't  have kids at home. You can see where the author has stripped away non-essential characters and plot lines to cut right to the heart of the story. With these mini-synopsis lessons it's easy to see where the key plot points remain, but the filling that really brings the story to life is left out. 

Next time you need to write a synopsis, I suggest hitting up your kids' book shelf first.

I'm sure there are all kinds of lessons we can learn from children's books. Do you have any tips or tricks you've picked up from story time? Share them in the comments.