A picture book needs a narrative, a story that has all the elements of a good story – a beginning, middle and end, the middle escalating action and the resolution satisfying.
One way to evaluate a story idea is to figure out if the story has enough to last 12-15 scenes. What is happening in each of the spreads and does the story follow the journey of its protagonist. Does it lend itself to escalating action and an unexpected yet enjoyable resolution at the end?
A story’s progress through the beginning to the end decides its pacing. Pacing is how fast or slow the story moves from problem to resolution. When writing a picture book (or any other format), it’s important not to have flabby middles (ain’t that true!) and rushed endings! It helps to have repetition. The rhythms need to be fun but not too boring – think “Same Christmas song in supermarket!”
Taking into consideration all of the above, a picture book can be storyboarded as below. This is my method and it works for me for most books. For longer novels, word-counts can signpost if the story is too long or too short (a story can never be too short, in my world). But for picture books, the storyboard helps with
b) Scene visuals – planning the scene, setting etc
c) Action vs dialogue – is nothing new happening? Are there just talking heads speaking non-stop?
d) Page-turns – what awaits on the next page? How to plan the anticipation?
e) Is there a setup and payoff?