Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Update - Using Art To Entice Readers

This week has been full of ups and downs on the personal front, but lots of creative stuff going on.  I'm still mostly on a visual kick, which I'll talk about below.  But first, what's coming up:

This week on the blog,

Monday: Rewarding Loyal Readers vs. Luring New Ones. I'll talk about a pricing strategy which flies in the face of common wisdom, but it sure makes a lot of sense to me -- at least in some circumstances.  I think it particularly makes sense for less commercial writers.

Thursday: A Bonus Story Game Post: Theme and Subject. This will be relatively short, but I want to pay full attention to this before I get to "putting it all together" with the Friday post. 

Friday, The Story Game: Putting it All Together.  We'll put all the pieces of the Situation Worksheet together, and talk about brainstorming from it.

In the meantime, an epiphany about art and images and feeding the readers....

Enticing Readers With Art

I'm finally getting my drawing skills back to the point where I feel I can do some illustration.  (What you've mostly seen from me, other than the occasional photo replication, is design, not illustration.)  I have a long way to go before I get where I want to be, but I have reached my minimum requirements.  Call it the "pre-professional" level; a level at which I feel comfortable showing off, but not ready to use my illustration skills in creating book covers or the like.

What I need to get to the next level is lots and lots of practice.

AND... I had an interesting epiphany on Twitter the other day.

I've noticed that a lot of people have taken to putting quotes on images and tweeting those images lately. Usually this is a picture and quote from some wise historical figure, a quote from a comedian, or a more outspoken political figure, or a mouthy cat.  They do this because people like pictures, but also because they aren't limited to 140 characters when it's on a picture.

The other thing that has been on my mind is that I've wanted to do more artwork for Twitter and Tumblr in general. Images are popular on both services and I'd like to start posting some illustrations there.

And, I mean, those poor writers who aren't artists can only post quotes from their stories, and they're limited to 140 characters or an image full of text.... wait.  Oh!

Then it hit me: I could create illustrations as if for the book, but post them with quotes.  Best of both worlds!

I personally really really like this idea, in spite of the fact that it is incredibly labor-intensive and not likely to gain me much.  However what it will gain me is something I was going for anyway: improved illustration skills.  And it might get people interested in my stories.

I've started already with The Man Who Did Too Much.  Here is a mostly finished one from the opening page. (It doesn't really look like George as I imagine him -- but it doesn't NOT look like George either.)  

Now here is the interesting thing: MW is close to the least suitable subjects for illustration.  It's a mystery, and though there is some action, it mostly involves static scenes of people talking and thinking.

So why did I start with it?

It's the quotes.

If the purpose is to illustrate the quotes (as opposed to having illustrations in a book), then this book immediately had a bunch of things that came to mind.  It can also be hard to quickly communicate the tone of this book.  With these characters, it's much more fun to show than tell.

So I've come to the conclusion that this is why all those old-time books had so many illustrations of people standing around and talking: they were there for the quotes that appeared with the illustrations.

And so often, that's what works about a great cartoon too: the image and the words come together and make something greater than each are separately.

I didn't quite fully realize that at first, though, and I went through the book, picking out sufficiently visual moments to illustrate -- and I found at least two per chapters.  Good.  But when I went hunting for quotes... I found even more.

The problem?  There are 32 chapters in that book.  With an average of three illos I want to do for each of them, that's almost 100 pictures.  Pictures which take hours to do.  And as I am practicing and learning, I'd like to do some of them over in a couple of different styles.  Futhermore, I would like to do illos for my other books too.  Also, I'd like to WRITE some other books.

This is looking less and less like a good idea.

So, I'm all for it!

(At least until I get tired of it.  We're chasing enthusiasm, after all.)

An unfinished sketch from the end of Chapter 1.

The goal for now is to write during the day, when I'm at my standing desk and it's harder to draw.  But then in the evening, I will put on some music or audio books or TV shows and start drawing, and draw until I'm bleery-eyed.

When the bloom is off the rose on doing that, I'm going to start putting 15-minute writing sprints in between drawing sessions.  Also, I'll be looking to find a stand up drafting desk that will work for digital art. (Need a place to put the small laptop that doesn't put the screen too far away, while still letting the tablet sit on a slanted surface at the right height.)

The creative goals for this Illustration Project are as follows:

*Use The Man Who Did Too Much to practice creating and rendering characters in the classic illustration style: four more elaborate illustrations (perhaps in color) as in the old days when there were four "plates" in an illustrated book; and 12-32 ink and wash or pencil drawings, which would be like the illos you find at the heads of chapters or embedded in the text.

*Also do some more abstract decorative style images -- for that or other books -- of the sort you might find in illustrated caps, or in the footer or header of any chapter.

*Since I plan to layout paper copies of my other books over summer, I have set the beginning of June 2014 as the time to assess whether I am ready to incorporate any of this into paper books.  And which books and how many illos and what type.

And I hope that before then I will have pushed my skills to the point where I can make use of them in cover design.

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Love the sketches and the clever idea to pair them with the quotes!

You've got so much going on, but it really does seem as if your illustrating and writing feed off each other and keep you motivated.

The Daring Novelist said...

We'll see if anybody reacts. (I suspect it will take a while.)

In the meantime, I figure I will tire myself out and force myself back to writing....

Tanja said...

Clever idea with quotes and illustration, I might try something similar in the future but with rendered 3d-images instead.

Can't wait for the next installment in the Story Game :D I spent the whole weekend playing around with it and got a couple of story seeds that I'd like to take further! I'm considering writing those in Swedish (my mother tongue) and maybe try the traditional route for those... well see, have to write them first though :P

The Daring Novelist said...

It's good to hear people are playing with it! It seems to be a very popular series -- with people passing on links on Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook quite a bit.