Books for Children and Illustrations – Matching the Two

I tried an interesting experiment yesterday. Did it work? The jury is out, but the results were very interesting. I thought I would share it with you for what it’s worth.

Okay, let’s say you’ve written a book for children that will need illustrations. You need an illustrator to produce 30 or so drawings to go with your book. So the question is this, do you describe how you see the main characters to the illustrator? Give him/her a complete list of the main character’s features? Long blonde hair, six feet tall, black beard, something like that…or do you just leave it to your illustrator?

I’ve tried both ways. Probably the worst mistake I ever made was to actually do some rough sketches myself of three of the main characters from a story I was developing. (I can draw a little. I’m no great shakes to be honest but if I scribble for an hour or so I can usually come up with one character who looks something along the lines of the character I really want. I will also have about 30 or so absolutely terrible drawings which end up in the waste paper basket. Obviously.)

So I gave these scribbles to a potential illustrator and asked him to do some early ‘roughs’ for me but that the characters had to remain as I had drawn them, but obviously ‘polished up a tad’…..the results were not good. The illustrator just didn’t want to do it. The characters he drew were nothing like the lovable rogues I wanted. Result – disaster. Move on.

But what happens if your illustrator comes up with drawings of your main characters that look quite different from how you ‘assumed’ they would look? Do you go with the ‘new’ drawings? It’s a tricky one. Well for me it is anyway.

I can only assume it’s the same feeling a film screenplay writer feels when he/she has been told the lead character in their story, Brad Studebaker, a tough no-nonsense, young, boyish Private Eye will be played in the movie by Danny de Vito. Er…? Really? Ah, right, of course, Danny de Vito, I can see it now…….huh?

So, back to the plot, yesterday I tried to draw two of my main characters….and after a couple of hours I had two workable sketches of the main boy and his ‘aunt’. But they were not what I had initially thought of, .in fact the ‘aunt’ had become quite young and feisty. Oops.

But to be honest, the more I looked at her the more I thought “You know, this character would not do and say the things I have written in the story so far. She would do it this way…..or that way.”

Now this is dangerous territory. The script was definitely almost as good as I could get it. I was reasonably happy with it. Sure, I could tweak this or that, and improve certain parts, add a few more laughs, but the main characters were fine….until I saw the drawing of the aunt I did.

Again, it’s probably like the screenplay writer suddenly seeing Danny de Vito on set and thinking “You know, I really should rewrite that scene to make it fit Danny…adds a couple of gags in there.”

Or maybe that’s what actors do anyway. I think so. I would suspect Danny himself would say to the director “Let me try it this way Frank. And I’ll add a little bit of business with the gun before I shoot the leading lady. Then do a gag and a ‘look’ that we can get in close up.”

Anyway, I’ve strayed away from the original concept slightly here, into another area of murky greyness, but it has raised an interesting conundrum for me…..but at least it’s the weekend and I can think about it.



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About writegoodbooks

I help new writers become published authors through self-publishing. I also offer writers the chance to have their work converted into Kindle eBooks and publish them on the Amazon Kindle store.

2 responses to “Books for Children and Illustrations – Matching the Two”

  1. MishaBurnett says :

    Have you tried finding a photograph on-line that captures the feel of your character and giving that to the illustrator?

  2. writegoodbooks says :

    Yes, good idea Misha. Thanks for that. It had crossed my mind. Trouble is there’s nothing on-line that seems to fit the bill. I suppose we’re all looking for that ‘original’ character that will stand out from the crowd…..”Oh no, not another Harry Potter clone?”

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