Race Car Dreams
by Sharon Chriscoe
Illustrated by Dave Mottram
2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20
See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016
Writers, Start Your Engines!
By Sharon Chriscoe
In many ways writing is like racing. There’s the starting line (the beginning), the race (the middle), and the finish line (the end). If we’ve done our jobs well as a storytellers, our books will zoom right into the victory lane of our readers’ hearts.
One of the most important ways to achieve this goal is with a strong story arc. For us rhymers, there is no difference between a story arc for rhyme versus prose. Story ALWAYS comes first. The rhymes should feel natural, and they should work to enhance your story arc.
Here’s a nice visual I like to use when working on my story arc:
All story arcs begin at the starting line (the beginning), otherwise known as the ‘introduction’ or ‘exposition’. This is where your character, setting, and conflict (or main issue) are introduced.
In my picture book, RACE CAR DREAMS, an adorable little race car is the character, the setting is at the race track where it’s almost nighttime, and his conflict (or main issue) is that he’s tired and ready for bed. Yes, a lot of important details are a wrapped up in these four short lines.
The zooming has stopped.
The sun’s almost set.
A race car is tired.
He’s wringing with sweat.
Once you have your starting lineup set and ready to vroom it’s time for the race (the middle) to heat up! This is the part of your story where most of the action will take place. Here, you’ll include a rise in your action and the climax.
Sound hard? Don’t worry, it isn’t if you think of it this way: When you watch a race, most of those zip-zooming, heart pumping, sitting on the edge of your seat action usually takes place during the actual race. Those exciting moments will carry you all the way up until that checkered flag is just about to drop.
From the moment the cars get their green light, the rise in action develops the conflict through Why and How.
In RACE CAR DREAMS, the Why is that His day has been filled with high octane fun. The how, is He hugged all the curves. He’s had a good run. See, a rise in action develops the idea that he’s tired from racing.
Once your character is speeding around the track, spend a little time there. Make several laps, give your audience (readers) an exciting race! Like any good race, problems arise, detours are needed, and roads get bumpy. But the trick is, don’t linger there too long.
Keep up the excitement without letting it go on endlessly. The rule of thumb is there are usually three obstacles to overcome during the race (the middle). As in all rules, sometimes they can be broken but the ‘Rule of Three’ is a wonderful balance to try to achieve.
In RACE CAR DREAMS, my little race car is tired and ready for bed. But in order to get to that sleeping point, he must first wash his rims, fill his tummy with oil, and choose a book that’s all about speed. See, ‘Rule of Three’ even in a bedtime story.
With all three of these goals achieved, it’s time for the most exciting part of the book. The climax! This is where your turning point will take place. You know, like when that trailing race car vrooms past car after car near the end of the race, putting the crowd on their feet as he’s about to zip past the finish line! Or in the case of a bedtime book, a little one’s heavy eyes are finally ready to close.
In RACE CAR DREAMS, with his heater warming his grill, his book closed, and his wrench snuggled, the little race car’s turn of events is that now he’s finally ready to drift off to sleep.
This shifts our gears directly into the finish line (the end). ‘The end’ comes in two parts and happens very quickly. The first part is the falling action, where any conflicts, questions, and further character development is wrapped up.
This provides a relaxing, soothing moment for the reader to take a break from all the action. In a race, this would be the moment when no matter how fast other cars throttle their gas, it’s clear that the winner is literally inches away from the checkered flag, and the finish line.
Or in RACE CAR DREAM’S falling action, he’s ready to cross the finish line . . .straight into dreamland! His engine now hums. He lets out a snore. His bumpers relax and sprawl on the floor.
The final part of the finish line (the end) is the resolution, which is well, where the story ENDS.
The resolution should always leave the reader satisfied. Much like a race, not every reader has to be happy with the outcome. Some may wish that Race Car had never went to sleep and instead he vroomed into town to zip and zoom down the streets all night long.
The point is, the story concludes with a satisfying ending where:
He zips and he zooms
sweet dreams of the race.
He vrooms to the front . . .
. . . and takes home first place!
Sharon Chriscoe may not vroom around a race track, but she does zip and zoom around in a bread truck with her husband, Ricky. Fueled with fresh bread, snacks, and writing tools, Sharon has made this her mobile office! She and her husband live in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. They have three adult children and one adorable grandchild, as well as an assortment of dogs, cats, bunnies and occasionally a groundhog. In addition to RACE CAR DREAMS, she is the author of BULLDOZER DREAMS (Running Press Kids, 2017), FIRE TRUCK DREAMS (Running Press Kids, 2018), and THE SPARROW AND THE TREES (Arbordale Publishing, 2015). She is also a contributor to several magazines such as Highlights High Five, Highlights Hello, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. To learn more about Sharon, her books, and future events, visit her website: www.sharonchriscoebooks.com
RACE CAR DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2016
BULLDOZER DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2017
FIRE TRUCK DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2018
THE SPARROW AND THE TREES, Arbordale Publishing, 2015