Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The HICCUPotamus, Part 2- and a Giveaway!
What Does an Illustrator Bring to the Writing Table?
As you can see, Aaron Zenz is an amazing illustrator. But this is a blog about writing. So, what I wanted to know was this: Does being an illustrator affect how you write picture book text, and if so, how?
I should have asked Aaron this directly, but being inept at interviewing, I beat around the bush.
Wow! I see you have Book Dummies up on your web site. That is so cool. Do you recommend that PB authors "page out" their manuscripts even if they are not illustrators?
AARON: Yes, I think it's beneficial for a number of reasons...
First, a major aspect of a picture book is the "Page Turn." It's a reality that is unique to children's books. In an adult novel it doesn't matter -- you can turn a page in the middle of a sentence. Pages are insignificant. But in picture books, "the page" is a Huge component! Where the words fall, how they are paced out, is just as significant as what they say or how they're illustrated. Granted, authors don't always have to determine where those page turns occur. Sometimes that's best left to an editor or art director or illustrator. But I have to believe that being aware of their importance, imagining the Page Turn standing there looking over your shoulder, is going to influence, to improve, the way a person writes for children.
Second, "paging out" a manuscript is going to help you think through the action in a story -- or the lack of. Although an author may not be creating the illustrations him-or-herself, it's ideal to keep in mind that someone else WILL be. Since people know that I'm a children's author, I get asked all the time to look at things they've written (You probably get the same!) One time I was reading a story that, at first glance, seemed perfectly fine. The dialog was clever. The writing was creative. The language was beautiful and engaging. But after a while I wondered... how would someone illustrate this? This was intended to be a picture book, but the first third of the story consisted of a father talking to his daughter as he tucked her into bed. They were saying great stuff, but there was no action until a third of the way through the book. "Paging it out" might have helped the author to realize... here they are at the bedside, bedside again, and again, again still bedside. Gee. What is that going to look like? Picture books are inherently visual. (PICTURE books - see!) Although they aren't making the pictures, the best authors still focus on the visual nature of the product they are creating.
So, there you have it- an illustrator's perspective on PB writing.
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