Mistakes You Can Make When Writing a Rhyming Picture Book
As a writer of rhyming picture books, I've personally made all of these mistakes. I suggest avoiding each of them when writing a rhyming picture book. In fact, if you're writing a picture book, my best suggestion is don't write it in rhyme at all. For more picture book writing tips, visit http://www.joshfunkbooks.com/#!resources-for-writers/co7m
- •Forced RhymeExample: "I opened my giant umbrella. 'It's raining,' I said to that fella." Unless "that fella" is important to your story, it's likely you just placed him there to rhyme with umbrella. Don't force a fella into your story just to rhyme with umbrella (unless it's Rihanna's umbrella, I think anyone would dig that).
- •Seussian RhymeExample: "Dr. Seuss was Dr. Seuss, and nobody else can do that shambloose." He made up words. And it was glorious. Unfortunately for the rest of us, any time we make up a word for a rhyme, people say it sounds like we're copying Dr. Seuss. So making up words to fit rhymes is almost never okay. Sorry (especially because one of the reasons you're interested in writing rhyming picture books is because you have such fond memories of reading Dr. Seuss as a child) - better to rip the bandaid off now.
- •Yoda RhymeExample: "It's raining and wet. In the car, I must get." You know how Yoda (a long time ago in a galaxy far away) spoke a little awkwardly? Well, nearly no one else speaks that way - especially children. You really should write in 'kidspeak' (unless you're writing the dialogue of a pirate - that's really the only time Yoda rhyming is acceptable - "Argh! On the poop deck, there be rum!"). Side note: I'm not sure why so many of my examples are about rain. It was actually a pretty nice day today.
- •Near Rhyme (or Slant Rhyme)Example: "I see a staple. It's right on the table." Any first grader can tell you that staple and table don't rhyme. If you were singing a song, you might be able to make it work. But a picture book is meant to be read by someone who has never heard it read aloud (or sung before). The words "roof" and "truth" might rhyme when signing, but they'll never rhyme in a picture book (sorry Pharrell).
- •Regional Rhyme (and Regional Rhythm)Example: "In England you see lots of rain. But I'm in the U.S. again." Does "again" rhyme with "rain"? Or does it rhyme with "ben"? The answer: the word "again" rhymes with nothing. Never use it as a rhyming word in a rhyming picture book. Please. I really enjoyed The Muppets (2011 Feature Film) - but when Kermit sings "If we could do it all again, just another chance to entertain." in the song 'Pictures in My Head' with an American accent, a song written by a Kiwi, how did they not catch that?!
- •Simple, Everyday, Cliché RhymeExample: “My cat ate my hat, well look at that.” It's been done. It won't impress any editor or librarian or parent or child. You can try harder. Come on! (this doesn't deserve an image, it's such a simple, everyday, point)