Oi! Here’s an easy way to liven up your stories

Does your writing sometimes feel a bit, erm, pedestrian? The following post will give you some fresh ideas, help you shove more energy into your stories.


Mitch Vane and I. Providing light entertainment…

Dear Diary

Will letters, notes, doodles or lists add interest to my stories?

Yours sincerely

Inventive Author

These days kids have words and images coming at them from all angles. I’m not saying this is a good thing. But it is a thing.

It should remind us that we don’t always have to use straight prose to tell a story.

Other approaches add texture and capture the imagination of kids with busy minds and an eye for quirky detail.

Plus, kids love some open space, some oxygen, around the actual text.

Even in middle fiction, which is generally more sophisticated in its layout, it can be nice to break things up. If it’s appropriate and suits the story.

The goblin girls enter Reafen’s secondhand shop. The Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack. Illustrations by Lucinda Gifford. Middle fiction for readers 9 -12 yo.

I always, ALWAYS write children’s books with one eye on design and layout.

This helps me in a variety of ways. For example, with pacing, structure, character and plot development.

Tan Callahan is always passing notes, writing lists, scribbling diary entries, drawing diagrams and doodling. For that matter, so are her friends.

Truly Tan. Illustrated by Claire Robertson. Design by Steph Spartels

As for the Danny Best books, there are more illustrations than text.

In book one, Danny Best: Full On, we cut an entire story to make room for bigger, funnier illustrations.

In book two, Danny Best: Never Wrong, we cut two stories.

There are also stacks of jokes, marginalia, maps, speech bubbles, quizzes,  quotes from Danny’s frenemies, diagrams and random illustrations such as bugs running across the pages.

As I said, I always have one eye on this stuff while I’m writing . (Which makes me look very unattractive but hey…)

I usually write a string of extra gags to go with the manuscript, too. Mitch then plays with these ideas, tosses most of them and comes up with her own.

Bless her.

I wrote the cover copy. Mitch taped a cockroach to it. And defaced it. She even let Pugsley poo on the T in Best. Honestly. That girl cannot be trusted.


Children’s books thrive on collaboration. (Btw, I’ll be talking more about this on my video this Friday. Subscribe to get the vid free in your inbox!)

Children’s books are not just about straight prose.

Keep that in mind next time you’re creating a story. Think about the overall design and concept as you write.

Thinking this way will energise you, keep you motivated and make writing for kids even more fun.

Jen xo


Online course alert! My gorgeously revamped Scribbles is going live this Friday September 1.  Don’t miss out! Hop on my mailing list and keep up with the news as it happens. Subscribe to girl and duck here

See Me Jump, my creative writing book, available here.

4 Replies to “Oi! Here’s an easy way to liven up your stories”

  1. I think my illustrator for my picture book, Ester and Mitch must have the same cheeky genes. Ester’s always talking about making sure there is poo on the front cover, and the title page, and in the book, and bones. Though writing picture books leaving room for illustrations is always something you have to keep in mind, I have always loved illustrated stories and write my longer works with this in mind. Thanks, Jen. You’ve made me laugh again.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights