Write It Right: Unusual Story Forms

Stories for young children are sometimes written in unusual forms. You’re probably familiar with the standard plotted story that appears on the magazine page with an illustration (or sometimes two). But there are others, and it’s worthwhile to know them, in case they’re exactly the right form for you.


This one is familiar to many (if not most) magazine writers. In a rebus story, concrete nouns are replaced (or illustrated in the line) by small pictures. Thus, if you used the word “tree” in your story, a tiny tree would pop up right in the middle of the sentence and either the printed word “tree” would be in tiny print below it or it would disappear completely. Sometimes there is a kind of “key” in the illustrations bordering the story that reveal what the pictures stand for. Rebus stories are very short––often 100 words or slightly more. They often have some kind of twist or surprise at the end. They almost always use each concrete noun more than once and limit the number of concrete nouns overall. So, for example, a rebus with a fall theme might show us “tree” three times, “acorn” three times, and “squirrel” four times. They try to avoid nouns that cannot be illustrated, and stick to very simple concrete ideas. Magazines that use Rebus Stories: Highlights, Ladybug, and Your Big Backyard (their rebus is done in-house, they don’t buy them––but you can see examples there.) 

What other types of unusual stories do magazines accept? Listen to the episode for more ideas on what to submit to children’s magazines.

Listener Question of the Week

Geraldene asks:

Would today’s fourth grade children be interested in what life was like for kids back in the 1920s and 1930s?

Listen to the answer in the podcast!

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