You know when Cinderella's fairy Godmother shows up and instead of just creating a carriage out of thin air, she uses the pumpkin? I LOVE that! I mean, why couldn't she just whip something up out of thin air? She's a fairy. She probably could. But it's more grounded and meaningful because she took stock of her surroundings and used the things that were already there.
I've been working on my wordless (well, there's one word) picture book. In it, there's a little girl at a pool (with her dad, a dog, and a beach ball added in for backyard flavor) and instead of jumping in the pool, she takes off and goes through a few imaginary scenarios. At first, I just had the imaginary scenes change with the page turns, trusting that a young reader would go with it, as young readers often do. But my critique group thought it was too confusing and that I should add some sort of device to show that she was traveling through her imagination.
The truth of the matter is that although I have absolute faith in the young reader, the adults who buy the books do, in fact, need things to be clarified some times. So I added in a fade-to-white-and-back transition from imaginary scene to imaginary scene.
My agent wanted something even more visible and clear. We talked about some kind of portal/doorway. I understood what he meant, but at the same time I didn't want some device that was going to take focus away from the main character's journey. The story wasn't called THE IMAGINARY DIMENSIONAL PORTAL OF A GIRL.
Then Scott (my agent, Scott Treimel) suggested the most brilliant thing: use the beach ball.
I had added the beach ball in the third draft to show that it was a back yard pool and not a public pool, but it was never meant to be more than set dressing. Now, it had a purpose that grounded the "portal" in the girl's world. When the girl gets anxious about jumping in the water, the beach ball gets agitated too, starts to spins and expand, and then BOOM, it's an escape doorway that leads her through her imagination. When the journey is over and the girl returns home, the ball slows down, compresses, and PLOP it's a beach ball again.
In the future I might have to delete this post and take credit for the idea myself ;) but for now it's a good reminder for me, that when I need something to happen in a story or an extra prop to advance the plot, I should take stock and see if I can use anything that I have already established in a scene first.
Thanks so much for stopping in!