Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words - Lynne Garner

A friend recently posted a cute animal photo on my Facebook page. As soon as I saw it I just knew I had to use it as a basis for a picture book story. So I grabbed a sheet of A4 paper and divided into 12 sections (I tend to write the traditional 12 double page spreads). I started to plot my story, which started well. However when I reached the last page I stalled. I had the image in my minds eye, I knew what action was taking place but I just couldn't put it into words. I decided to put the story to one side and allow my subconscious solve the issue for me. However a week or so went by and I was still stuck. Suddenly it hit me. The page didn't need words, the picture could show the reader what I wanted them to know.

I'm not the only author to let the picture tell the story. In the hands of the right illustrator the story can be told successfully without a single word on the page. For example in one of my favourite pictures books The Big Bad Mole's Coming! written by Martin Waddell and illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello there are two pages that contain no words (part of one page below). The action needs no words, I can tell exactly how the animals are feeling from their body language.

Another book that uses this device is Knight Time written by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Jane Massey. The page is a fold out page which opens to reveal a second page with text. Jane informs me the idea was that as the reader turned the page they would feel they were entering the forest where Little Knight and Little Dragon are lost. As you can see from the page below you don't need words to feel the tingle run up your spine and to start to worry about the main characters.

So to all those picture book writers out there. If you're working on a new picture book story and stall ask yourself "can a picture paint the words I need?" If the answer is yes then don't be afraid to allow the illustrations to tell the story for you.

Lynne Garner

I also write for: 
Authors Electric - covers digital self-publishing 
Awfully Big Blogging Adventure - the ramblings of a few scattered authors  
The Hedgehog Shed - concerned with hedgehog rescue
Fuelled By Hot Chocolate - my own ramblings
The Craft Ark - craft how-to blog

My online classes with WOW starting March 2014:


Pippa Goodhart said...

I hate to admit this as a writer, but I DO think that pictures can often speak more directly, and sometimes even more deeply, to readers than words can. Interesting post, Lynne.

Abie Longstaff said...

Thanks Lynne - that's really helpful advice! :)

Moira Butterfield said...

Yes - in that case I would put a brief note on the manuscript explaining the effect I was going for. Jane, is that what you did?

Jon Burgess Design said...

Yup, bloomin words, just getting in the way of the important stuff! That said, fitting an illustration round the words (especially when designers are welded to their sacred 'grid') can often be tricky and frustrating. But it's all part of the job ;-)

Lynne Garner said...

Jonathan - would love to know what this sacred 'grid' is. Also wondered if the illustration notes us authors slide in are more of a hindrance than a help? I try not to but I'm working on a story now where I've put in more than I normally do, which tends to be none.

Paeony Lewis said...

Yes, I'd like to know what the 'sacred grid' is too. Thanks!