Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Foldy Bit: Thinking Outside the Book Box

Arlington National Cemetery. I want this for my headstone, too.

I mentioned to my British critique partner, Lindsay, that my 3yo son loves watching Kipper, which he pronounces correctly: Kippah. And she promptly sent us a book about the adorable little British dog, called Hide Me, Kipper.

Yeah, it was an incredibly sweet thing for her to do, blah, blah. But that's not what I'm talking about today. Well, it partially is. THANK YOU, Lindsay!!

What struck me about this book was how adorably unique it was. It's a children's book about Kippah the dog (misspelled his name on purpose, I did) just sitting around on the first page of the book, wondering what this book will be about. Suddenly, a little mouse scurries across the page and runs straight into "the foldy bit in the middle of the book."

To which Kipper says, "I've been in lots of books before, but I've never been in there."

The book just gets cuter after that. But the idea of a little mouse being small enough to hide in the foldy bit in the middle of the book just tickled me so much, I had to write about it today. Call it a gimmick or an angle or even bells and whistles. Some people don't think much of creative elements like this one, but I love them. I think this kind of creativity should be celebrated and praised and...envied a little.

How can I be that creative? I'm not writing picture books (well, I do a little of that on the side, I guess). My main venue is the novel. How do you think outside the book box when it comes to a full-length novel? I can think of a few things that can't hurt in this effort:

  • read...LOTS! The more we read, the more we know what has been done, and the more we know what stereotypes and standards can be played upon. If you'd never opened a book, you wouldn't know to write about the foldy bit in the middle. 
  • make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh! Don't you know everyone likes to laugh?" -Cosmo in Singing in the Rain. When writing, don't be afraid to be goofy, if that's who you are. Cleverness is born of thoughtful goofiness. You can quote me on that. ;)
  • open your eyes to the world around you. Notice things other people miss. It's our job as scribes to commit to paper the little things most people will never see. We're each specially qualified to do that, whether because of our geographical region, our culture, our circumstances, or our creative temperaments. Notice the fuzzy backside of a leaf; the paramedic parked in front of the grocery store, thumbing through Sports Illustrated; the mini dog named Tonka that somehow strangely deserves her name. 
Someday, we'll all be as clever as Mick Inkpen. Until then, find this book, my friends. You will love it.  

How do you get into creative mode?


  1. Make 'em laugh--my goal in life.

    Oh, and make out with Jensen Ackles, but that's another story...

    I LOVE the sound of that book! And how AWESOME is Lindsay for sending it????

  2. OMgoodness, Amparo. I had a dream last night that Jensen Ackles had your Avatar up on his wall, a huge canvas of it, and he was like, "That's my biggest fan. We made out once." Okay, he didn't say that straight out, but he definitely implied it. I think you've got a chance!

    Yes, my dreams are weird. You have no idea...

    Lindsay rocks!

  3. Oh gosh, sometimes I'm really clever and sometimes I'm not. I was actually talking about this with my friend Ashlie last night in regards to the YA author Sarah Dessen. Like in her book Dreamland, the MC's sister runs off with her boyfriend and ends up with a job on a Jerry Springer-esque talk show, and one day the MC catches a glimpse of her beside the stage, so every day their mother watches the show, hoping to see her lost daughter. We were just amazed at how creative Dessen could be.

  4. Aww, I love this post...not just because I helped inspire it either *grins*

    I love how creative the Kipper books are in so few words. They really hold a child's imagination.:)

  5. *big grin*

    Picture books rock. They seem so simple, but take a LOT of skill and creativity to write well. Love them!

    Joana, I'm always in awe of the creativity of authors. Like Suzanne Collins talking about District 13 out of the blue. Didn't see that coming at all. There were tons of places like that in her books. Harry Potter, too. Sometimes I think I'm crazy to try to write novels when there's no way I can measure up to the greats. But creativity is a skill just like any other: it takes practice. We can do it!

  6. That books sounds absolutely adorable! I love the idea of the mouse running between the pages. Exposing children to that sort of creative thinking early on can only foster good things.


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