I’m coming into the final week of ReFoReMo month. (Read For Research Month for picture book writers and illustrators.) Each day we receive five new mentor texts to check out at the library, study, analyze, question, etc… If only my library (anyone’s library) had the five new picture books available on our daily reading list.
So what are some of the questions I ask myself when I’m reading (researching) a mentor text?
1. What is the central question, and does everything in the story try to answer that question?
Yes. Every story must have a central question. A rule I learned the hard way. After having a trusted friend and writer look over a manuscript a while back. The comment she made was that my story, though filled with great action, humor, and well crafted characters, was a bit like tangled Christmas lights. (Gadz!) Once I posted my central story question beside my computer and kept one eye on it and the other eye on my manuscript as I edited, I was amazed at how quickly my word count shrunk and how my story gained focus. One of those Ah Ha moments I treasure like crazy.
What other questions do I ask while researching mentor texts?
2. What is the main character’s motivation for doing what they did or for reacting as they did? (no motivation = who cares)
3. Why something happens the way it does in the story. The Story arc.
4. Are the main character’s failed attempts escalating to the point that my main character falls to his/her lowest point?
5. Will the intended audience care?
6. What do I think of the end? Why do I think the author chose to end the story that way?
7. Is the ending satisfying? What were my feelings about the outcome of the problem?
A. Was the ending predictable?
B. Was the ending inevitable?
C. Was the ending a plausible surprise/twist?
D. Was I disappointed by the ending?
Even if you don’t write picture books, mentor texts benefit writers.
Do you read mentor texts? Are there questions you ask while you’re studying those texts? I’d love to hear from you.