The author of Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy shares her process for writing a picture book with a dual narrative.
As a mother of four, I’ve had my fair share of fallen teeth and missed Tooth Fairy visits. Our tooth fairy missed picking up my children’s teeth so often, sometimes days in a row! I got really good at coming up with many excuses to explain away the Tooth Fairy’s inefficiency.
This inspired me to write Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy. The original didn’t include a tooth fairy at all, mainly because it’s well known in the industry that there are too many out there.
One of my favorite picture book structures is the parallel or dual narrative structure…
But I quickly realized when talking to others raising children, that our tooth fairy wasn’t the only one missing visits. Others were having the same problem. There was a story there. I already had a good list of reasons for the Tooth Fairy’s missed visits, and because I understood our Tooth Fairy in a deep personal level, I was the perfect person for the job. 😊
One of my favorite picture book structures is the parallel or dual narrative structure (when two stories are presented at once in a mirroring fashion), because I enjoy the juxtaposition of characters and how they react under similar situations.
For this to work, I needed two flawed main characters, each with their own storyline. Each needed a strong want, a problem, a try-and-fail journey, an all-is-lost moment, and a resolution, so I used the same principles in the hero’s journey and the Save the Cat beats that I use to write my middle-grade novels.
The hard part was matching both characters’ journey equally. It took me a few (many!) tries. I read a lot of parallel structure picture books to see how the authors handled the format. My manuscript also went through a lot of critiques, but I eventually found what solve my problem: cause and effect. In its simplest form, everything we do affects others, and Lulu and Trixie’s actions affected what happened to the other.
And something else happened… I decided to gently weave a bit of my traditions into the story.
I also had to decide if Lulu and Trixie would ever connect in the story, which they did Trixie finally picks up Lulu’s tooth, and I feel Jhon Ortiz illustrated it perfectly.
Finally, I had to figure out the themes/lessons each character would gain from having gone through this journey. Once the story unfolded and their journeys fit, the themes revealed themselves. And something else happened… I decided to gently weave a bit of my traditions into the story.
I grew up in Puerto Rico. Ratoncito is the tooth collector there and collected all my milk teeth. But every time I mentioned this to someone, they invariably thought I was referring to Ratón Perez, Mexico and Spain’s tooth collector. I had never heard of this Ratón Perez. I only knew Ratoncito, the little mouse.
Suddenly, I needed to make this distinction between Ratoncito and Ratón Perez, that everyone in the world experiences this rite of passage differently, and that there are different tooth collectors out there. And all of this had to be done in an entertaining, non-didactive way.
For more information and a chance to win a copy of the book, visit Book Review + Giveaway: Lulu and the Missing Tooth Fairy.