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Advice for Creating a Narrative Find-It Book

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Howdy folks!

So, I'm mainly an illustrator but I've been starting this idea I have for a find-it book, like "Where's Waldo," but it has a small narrative involved in the form of "journal entries." To briefly explain, my idea involves a boy who goes camping in an enchanted forest and keeps a journal. So there's going to be spreads where it's his actual journal articles explaining his experience, but other spreads are getting into the thick of things and showing him running into beings from a fantasy story, etc, and these illustrated scenarios are the find-it parts.

I know this is a difficult concept to partake in, but I was wondering if you have any advice for me at the starting stages? I've always wanted to create my own book, but I never wrote a story like this before, since I mostly just illustrate.

Any advice really helps and is appreciated. Thanks!  :hairdude
#1 - March 31, 2021, 12:58 AM

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My advice is to just start and see where it takes you! Really, that's the way any story starts, right?

As a writer only, I just start a "vomit draft" where I get everything on paper of what I think I want the story to say, and it's truly awful. But then I start chipping away, rearranging, adding, cutting, etc. till I find my story. You have the advantage of being an illustrator so you can do the visuals exactly as you planned. So if it's more of a visual story, start with the illustrations and add words where you feel you need them.

Of course, I hope illustrators who have decided to also write will chime in as their experience might be more valuable to you.

Best of luck. It sounds interesting.
#2 - March 31, 2021, 06:24 AM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, May 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, October 2021)
Peculiar Primates (Running Press Kids, October 2022)

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Thank you for the advice! I was starting with the text but you make a good point, since this is a visual story more than anything.
#3 - March 31, 2021, 06:32 AM

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I'm glad you found my advice helpful. :-) But since I'm not an illustrator, I hope it's valid, LOL. I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to do it. Each story of mine starts differently. And change A LOT. So start where you think you want to and if that doesn't work, start again. :-)
#4 - March 31, 2021, 06:38 AM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, May 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, October 2021)
Peculiar Primates (Running Press Kids, October 2022)

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PioIgnacio, Deb has given great advice. Even though I'm not an illustrator, many of my story ideas begin with an image. I love this first exploratory stage but at the same time it's daunting because of how many times I write myself into a corner. Because taking one path necessarily means I've not taken others. So there's lots of backtracking and figuring out what's the best way to tell the story. Outlining helps. But it's in the writing that things become more clear. I found the book, Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith very helpful. It's a slim gem aimed at writers but I think the advice goes for illustrators too.

You can write/make little sketches to see where your story goes and it is in the writing/drawing you'll discover the path. Lots of times, it's not until the 3rd or 4th draft that I can see what needs to be deepened and this is why I enjoy revision best because whatever was in my head in the very beginning is finally resembling what's on the page. I try to enjoy the entire process but must admit that I love beginnings and endings best.
#5 - March 31, 2021, 07:28 AM
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You have great advice already. I thought I'd add some other books that have a "find-it" element. These might help you envision your vision by acting as further mentor texts. They're classics: "Cars and Trucks, and Things That Go" by Richard Scarry. (Goldbug is hidden on every page.) Animalia by Graham Base (There's a boy in a striped shirt, but sometimes only a part of his is seen.) Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming (Watch for the butterfly.) I know there are others too, but these are on my shelves.
#6 - March 31, 2021, 06:27 PM
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Thank you everyone for the advice and recommendations so far! It's really helpful that you recommended material for me to explore! Animalia was an interesting recommendation considering I plan to put a bunch of animals and mythical creatures!

I really am in the exploratory stage right now and it's fun! I started with an experimental piece to depict the style I'm going for and the protagonist of my piece. But the things to find are not him but rather a list of things I'll be providing on the bottom and it prompts the viewer to find it on the piece. Like, if there's a flower grove, find the specific flower that looks like this.

I have a sample piece I created to emphasize the visual style I'm going for.
blob:https://www.reduceimages.com/ecd3b4e6-845c-43b0-a094-e153e97bcc17
#7 - March 31, 2021, 07:24 PM
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 07:25 PM by pioignacio-tendero »

Sounds like a bit of a chicken-egg quandary. Do you write or draw first?

If it were simply a "find-it" book, I'd say go with the illustrations first. However if you want to integrate a narrative, my personal recommendation would be to hash out the storyline first.

Why? Because it's much easier to draw pictures to match (and support) a good story. Versus the other way round.

Personally I love stories with a "find it" element. In fact I wrote one a few years back (called "Survival"). You can see it here, might give you some ideas:     
https://www.yumpu.com/xx/document/read/65465441/survival

Good luck with it. 
#8 - April 05, 2021, 04:32 AM

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If it were simply a "find-it" book, I'd say go with the illustrations first. However if you want to integrate a narrative, my personal recommendation would be to hash out the story line first.

An outline would suffice for making sure the story is clear. After that, images or text could come first or be done concurrently. Often one changes the other.
#9 - April 05, 2021, 05:51 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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Apologies for the late reply!

Thank you so much for sharing this reference and more advice! It's giving me some great ideas. Right now I'm still in the outline stage and some narrative writing. I actually plan to bring up a full outline and more illustration ideas to the a roundtable webinar in a few months on SCBWI.

Hoping to create something worthwhile!
#10 - April 07, 2021, 04:55 AM

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