One Writer’s Journey

April 22, 2010

Dummying a Picture Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:34 am
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Some spreads are hardly changed.

After I have a solid draft, it is time to dummy my work.

A dummy is an actual mock up of a picture book.  You staple together 16 pieces of paper (32 pages front and back).  Mark off your title page, etc and then start cutting your manuscript apart spread by spread.  Tape the spreads into this dummy.

If you don’t have enough spreads, your story may not be long enough or elaborate enough for a picture book.  If you have too many spreads, there may be too much going on.  Shift your text around a bit to see if it will work.

To me, this was always an infuriating process, flipping back and forth shifting text.  Blah!   That is why I started storyboarding.  Unless I cut a scene while writing, I know I have enough and not too many.  Why then do I still dummy?  Because a storyboard and a dummy do slightly different things.  The storyboard assures that I have a workable number of scenes and that things take place at a workable pace.

Others are completely rewritten.

You can check your number of scenes and your pacing in a dummy but that was the part I always found frustrating.  I need to see those aspects of my story in the “big picture” view that I get from a storyboard.  When I mock up a dummy book, I am looking at the details.

Does my text take advantage of page turns?  Page turns are great for hiding surprises.

I am also looking at the scenes one-by-one.

  • If I have a two-page spread, is the text serene?  If not, does it need the more panoramic scope of a two page spread.
  • If I have a one-page spread, I know to make sure there isn’t too much going on in this smaller space.  If there is, or if a scene just doesn’t fit well on this smaller screen, I may need to tighten somewhere else.
  • Each spread needs to differ in some way from the surrounding spreads.  It can be a change in setting, characters present, emotion or action.
  • Each spread needs a specific action for the illustrator to depict.
  • Do I avoid dialog and no action?  Talking heads make for boring illustrations?

A dummy also forces me to look at the actual text one spread at a time.

  • Is my text as tight as it can be?
  • Are some spreads text heavy?  This is another reason to cut.
  • Do I use a lot of visual description?  Some of it can probably go.
  • Do I use good picture book language?  This is a good time to check for lyrical language, repeats, onomatopoeia, etc.

Sure, I could do this without a dummy, but a dummy helps me envision my work as the picture book it will one day become.  It also helps me slow and work small portions of the text, giving every word the attention it deserves.

Why not try using this technique with your own work?


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