The Storyboard Renaissance: Whole Manuscript Showcase—Preparing Your Storyboard, Part 3, by Kristen C. Strocchia

cat display

No storyboard would be complete without attention to when and where the story takes place. Setting is often the silent culprit behind inconsistencies, flawed logic, and even character development troubles. It can heighten emotion or cause it to fall flat. It can increase tension as much as any secondary character and sometimes more. So, as you work through this setting pass, pay attention to character as well.

As with character, you may want to begin by compiling a picture file or a collage. Scale the setting images to fit your space and then print several copies to lay on the Storyboard as needed. If your manuscript has just a few locations, or if large portions of the plot happen in one particular place, then you may have room to print a larger setting photo and overlay the plot and character elements. If your setting includes unique vehicles or moves across several locations, use smaller printouts. It may also be helpful to include the emotion created by the setting choices (if any) with an emoticon.


Remember, use this to serve your revision process. After adding setting to the plot beats and character development overlay, ask yourself some questions:

  1. Does the scene work with the time of day (i.e., lighting, surrounding human/animal activity, etc), weather, and terrain?
  2. Are there any neglected setting elements that make this scene unbelievable/impossible?
  3. Does the setting add mood or tension to the scene?
  4. Does this mood or tension conflict with what is happening with the plot or the character emotion in each scene?
  5. Do the timeline and weather happenings flow naturally throughout, or do they feel choppy? Contrived?
  6. Is this the best possible time and place for this story?
  7. In each scene, how should the setting affect my character?
  8. Is the character reaction in each scene appropriate to the date, time, weather, terrain, etc?

If the Storyboard process prompts revisions, go for it! Then, rearrange or rework the setting backdrop, character development overlay, and plot outline as needed.


Be inspired and have fun thinking about how you will visually integrate each of these elements into your completed Storyboard. We will discuss the final draft in the next Storyboard post.

Registration will soon be open for the Storyboard Renaissance event. Click here for details.

Don’t miss the previous posts in this series for step-by-step help with your Storyboard. Even if you can’t make the event, Storyboarding can be a helpful tool for visualizing your manuscript as a whole.

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#Vacation: Sun and Sand, by Anni Matsick


Sun and Sand

by Anni Matsick


Anni Matsick is a freelance illustrator with over 30 years of experience in creating art for children’s publications. This drawing was done for a page in a coloring book for Montefiore Healing Arts.

Anni is represented in children’s art by Merial Cornell, Cornell & Company. More of her work can be seen on her website at


notepad-117597__480SUMMER STARTERS: Looking for new writing/illustrating ideas? Is the weather hot, but your mind cool? If so, then check out these prompts from award-winning children’s author (and EPA-SCBWI member) Tony Fredericks. Ready! Set! Go!

  • Peter and his grandmother go to the cemetery to visit the grave of his grandfather. Peter learns something he never knew before.
  • Danica and her mother visit the concentration camp where her grandfather was kept prisoner.
  • A rainstorm brings a wonderful profusion of color to the desert.
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#Vacation: Pirate Ship, by Julie Fortenberry

piratePirate Ship

by Julie Fortenberry


Julie Fortenberry has an MFA from Hunter College and her abstract paintings have been in the Whitney Museum of American Art, but for the last 15 years she’s been painting for preschoolers and kindergarteners. She illustrated Eve Bunting’s Pirate Boy and a series of books written by Jamie Korngold. The first books that she both illustrated and authored were The Artist and the King and Lily’s Cat Mask. Lily’s Cat Mask received a starred review from Kirkus and was added to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Her new book, Pearl Goes to Preschool, is coming out in 2020 from Candlewick Press. You can find out more about Julie on her website at and follow her on Instagram at


notepad-117597__480SUMMER STARTERS: Looking for new writing/illustrating ideas? Is the weather hot, but your mind cool? If so, then check out these prompts from award-winning children’s author (and EPA-SCBWI member) Tony Fredericks. Ready! Set! Go!

  • There’s one question Alice would like to ask her favorite author. One day she gets the chance.
  • Wally and his friends decide to write a Declaration of Independence for their classroom.
  • Megan ran into the kitchen and grabbed the knife off the counter.
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Is Self-Publishing For You? (Part 2), by Anthony D. Fredericks

Navigating  clip_image002[2] (1)   Nonfiction

A monthly column by Anthony D. Fredericks

Last month we addressed some of the positive aspects of self-publishing your children’s book (you can check it out here). This month’s column will examine some of the “negatives.” Let’s take a look.

giant bookSelf-published books are taken less seriously. Unfortunately, self-published books are not taken as seriously as traditional ones. Far too many people in the book industry consider self-published books to be a low-grade option for authors who can’t get their books published the traditional way. There’s a lot of junk being written and self-published every day, and the more that gets published, the more people will discount your work as being legitimate and good. At times, this seems like an uphill battle, and it often is, simply due to the reality that self-publishing opens the doors for anybody and everybody with a computer to get their words into print.

Up-front costs. Depending on the type of book you want to produce, there are often some up-front costs to self-publishing. If you want a quality product you may need to hire your own editor, proofreader, book layout designer, illustrator, and/or cover designer. And, don’t forget publicity and promotion costs. These services can add up quickly! Also consider printing costs if you choose to produce physical books over (or in addition to) e-books. I have recently seen prices for these various services ranging from a low of $1,500 to a high of $15,300.

blond-1866951__480Low profits. Many authors have the mistaken idea that if they can “just get my book published” they’ll make trainloads of money, retire to some Caribbean resort, and bask in financial sunrises for the rest of their lives. Here are some hard facts:

  • According to Bowker (September 2016), more than 700,000 e-books were self-published in the United States in the previous year. Those books, in addition to the 13 million previously published e-books still available, are competing for the reading public’s money.
  • The average self-published author can expect to sell approximately fifty to one hundred copies of their book over the lifetime of the title. (Yes, you read those numbers correctly!) If your book is priced so that you make a profit of $2.00 on each one sold, that would give you a total overall profit of between $100.00 and $200.00.

books-1204029__480Self-published children’s books are not purchased by librarians. One of the largest audiences for your children’s book is school and public librarians. These folks have considerable influence over whether a book will be successful. One of the critical criteria that helps librarians determine which books to buy is whether or not a book has garnered any awards, prizes, or commendations. There are many different awards that children’s books compete for every year. Librarians rely on these awards to determine the few books they will purchase each year from the more than six thousand titles released each year. Self-published books, since they do not come from well-established traditional publishers, are seldom (if ever) considered for these awards. Without the awards, librarians won’t purchase your book.

Publicity and promotion are time consuming. Take it from someone who has self-published a few titles, publicity and promotion will consume large quantities of your time (and a sizable chunk of your wallet), leaving you precious little time for writing new books. Getting some positive reviews of your self-published book from family and friends is relatively easy (particularly if your book is posted on However, bringing that book to the attention of a buying public takes lots of time and dedication . . . and it’s a process that never stops. Publicity and promotion are 24/7 jobs requiring attention, devotion, and dedication over an extended period of time.

kindle-1867751__480You can get scammed. There are a lot of folks out there who are well aware of how desperate some authors are to get their books into print. And they are willing to quickly separate you from your hard-earned money with all manner of promises and guarantees that are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Be careful . . . be very careful about who you enlist to assist with the self-publishing process.

NEXT MONTH:  This column changes its name and expands its scope.


Writing Children's books cover

Tony is an award-winning writer of more than 50 children’s books, including the 2018 CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Tall Tall Tree ( He is also the author of the e-book Writing Children’s Books: 701 Creative Prompts for Stories Kids Will Love ( [“. . . one of the best guides that I have found with prompts for creative children’s book ideas.” – Amazon 5-star review].

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#Vacation: The Big Wave, by Lee Harper


The Big Wave

by Lee Harper


From The Girl with the Metal Shovel, written by Lee Harper (unpublished).

Lee Harper is a picture book illustrator from Doylestown, PA, most known for his whimsical illustrations for the best-selling Turkey Trouble series and Woolbur. New in 2019 is Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter by Wendi Silvano, the fourth book of the Turkey Trouble series. A fifth is purportedly in the works. Lee has also written several picture books, including The Emperor’s Cool Clothes, Coyote, and Snow! Snow! Snow! In addition to writing and illustrating picture books, Lee leads interactive presentations at schools. To learn more, please visit


notepad-117597__480SUMMER STARTERS: Looking for new writing/illustrating ideas? Is the weather hot, but your mind cool? If so, then check out these prompts from award-winning children’s author (and EPA-SCBWI member) Tony Fredericks. Ready! Set! Go!

  • Jamal lifts up an old log in the forest and makes some amazing discoveries.
  • Sammy was the greatest detective in Silverton. The only problem was his dog Oscar.
  • Heather has always wrestled with her weight. She wants to lose some, so she joins a gym. That’s where she meets Mrs. Lanston.
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#Vacation: “The Best Vacation of All!” a Poem by Diane Hanington


The Best Vacation of All!

By Diane Hanington

My eyes won’t stop wandering,
My attention is in lack.
My legs are extremely restless,
Can’t wait to go home and pack.

At last the bell finally rings,
A hundred feet hit the ground.
Doors burst open, we’re free at last,
We make such a roaring sound.

School’s over and summer’s here,
Off on vacation we go.
Where you going? What will you do?
Everybody wants to know.

Hiking trails, digging for clams,
Those sound like lots of good fun.
Amusement park, aquarium,
Those I already have done.

Hang gliding, horseback riding,
Those I give a big up-thumb.
Ocean whaling, mountain scaling,
Those I’ll do in years to come.

All my classmates they agree,
My vacation beats them all.
Because I’m headed to Space Camp,
Where I’ll surely have a ball!

How’d you get to go? they ask,
It was a battle hard won.
Used a bit of psychology,
And won my vacation fun.

When reading the camp brochure,
My parents wouldn’t let me go.
Stopped asking for a puppy dog,
Pretended to be in woe.

Then my parents changed their minds,
Yes, to Space Camp I could go.
Awesome cool! A puppy can wait,
There’s a secret that I know.

It’s alright, it really is,
September is the time when,
The neighbor’s pups hit three months old,
And I’ll start asking again.


Diane Hanington is an author of picture books and middle grade stories. She enjoys attending conferences and webinars to better learn the craft. Besides writing, her passions are watching the tennis opens, playing tennis, genealogy, crossword puzzles, drawing, and reading. She’s still learning how to navigate Twitter (@DianeHanington).


notepad-117597__480SUMMER STARTERS: Looking for new writing/illustrating ideas? Is the weather hot, but your mind cool? If so, then check out these prompts from award-winning children’s author (and EPA-SCBWI member) Tony Fredericks. Ready! Set! Go!

  • McKenna goes to the beach and discovers a special shell—a shell that changes her life.
  • Gerald the gila monster gets no respect. It may be because he is one of only two poisonous lizards in the world. Or, it may be because of his personality.
  • After visiting the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, for the first time, Sarah has dreams about becoming a scientist.
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The Storyboard Renaissance: Whole Manuscript Showcase—Preparing Your Storyboard, Part 2, by Kristen C. Strocchia

cat display

Whether you’re a plotter in the planning stages, a pantser in the revision stages, or any kind of writer at any stage of story development, Storyboarding could help fine tune the heart of your manuscript—character.

If you’re new to this blog series, then check out the first two posts (here and here) to get started, and be sure to check out the information on our Storyboard Renaissance event coming in September.


If you already have your trifold prepped with a basic plot diagram and a brief story outline, then it’s time to look at character. I personally like to research character inspiration pictures and keep a digital file for a writing reference. These can be more than just photos of people with the right physical characteristics. Consider printing pictures (scaled to fit your Storyboard space needs) to create a visual Character Profile that includes details important to the storyline—i.e., clothing style, pet, item always on their person, hobby paraphernalia, home, favorites (color, object, etc.), etc. The story is the limit!


At first, you may want to just lay the pictures around the plot diagram. Tape or glue them in place last. This way, you can move things around as your ideas develop or as you revise.

Adding character to the Storyboard more specifically means visualizing character development.

Start with the exposition sticky note. Around it, add just the character information revealed in the exposition of your manuscript. Do you tell what the main character looks like? Other characters? Do you reveal their flaw in some way? Do we learn about goals, stakes, and conflict? Your sticky note summary explains the plot point, so your character image should give an idea of what readers actually know about your character from the opening of your story—not the complete character as you know them.

Remember, the purpose of this exercise, and The Storyboard Renaissance: Whole Manuscript Showcase, is to serve your revision process. So, be honest! If you haven’t described physical attributes of your character, then don’t put a picture of their physical appearance on the board. Or, revise your exposition to include a physical description, and then go ahead and add their image. If there isn’t a known flaw, or you haven’t introduced the goals, stakes, and conflict, then place them on the section of the plot diagram where they actually do appear in your story, if at all. An honest Storyboard is the only way to discover plot holes.


As you add character images across the rest of your story outline—inciting incident, each of the scenes/beats in the rising action, climax, and denouement summary—you may find it helpful to include the character’s emotion and/or the emotion of each scene, perhaps with an emoticon. Then, consider this character development overlay against your outline and ask yourself some questions:


  1. Do I know this character well enough to tell their story?
  2. Do readers know enough, too much, or too little about the character(s) at each major plot point?
  3. Are any of the characters cliché or too predictable?
  4. Are all of the characters necessary?
  5. Is each character the best possible choice for telling this story?
  6. Does the main character have agency? (That is, does the main character make choices/take actions that move the plot along, or is he/she reactive?)
  7. Are the character’s actions, thoughts, words, and reactions believable? Logical? True to their character?

If the Storyboard process prompts revisions, go for it! Then, rearrange or rework this character development overlay and plot outline as needed. Be inspired, and have fun with it!

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