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Contradictory Text & Illustration

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I'm new here and have just about finished my first picture book manuscript. Everything I've read so far says that including information about accompanying illustrations is a rookie move, but the humor in my book comes from the text not matching the description. For example, if the main character describes himself as gracefully descending a staircase, the illustration would be of the character sliding down the banister. The illustrations are essential to the story. How do I indicate that so my manuscript isn't immediately tossed out? Thanks!
#1 - March 25, 2019, 12:55 PM

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It is fine to include this explanation before the text of the book. Illustration notes are not an automatic no-no, but they should be used sparingly and only when necessary. It is a little insulting to your reader to have things explained that they can imagine on their own. With your book, though, an explanation is certainly in order or the heart of your ms disappears.

BTW I think this sounds like fun. Kids love to be in on a joke.
#2 - March 25, 2019, 02:16 PM

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I agree with Pons. Keep the notes you make as spare as possible.
#3 - March 25, 2019, 05:59 PM
Twitter: @dvilardi1

In screenwriting there may be found the odd bit of (parenthetical) text inserted between the character's cue and their lines. This is nicknamed the wryly, as in the adverb, prompting the actor how to deliver their line.

Must I teach you everything?

In principle, the wryly should be employed sparingly to disambiguate who is being addressed, suggest delivery that is not obvious from context, contrast the delivery with established character traits, etc. In practice, many screenwriters overuse wrylies, and directors and actors pride themselves in ignoring wrylies and interpreting lines their way.

In movies and TV, dialogue and voiceovers (dialogue & prose) create humor, tension, suspense, and irony when they contrast with setting and action (illustration).

So in a PB, if it cannot reasonably be inferred from prose and dialogue that there must be visual elements that create humor, tension, suspense, and irony, by all means, add notes. Otherwise, one must either partner with an illustrator or become one.
#4 - March 25, 2019, 06:15 PM
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

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Kristin, these kinds of books are a lot of fun. You should certainly feel free to add art notes where appropriate. If there are too many notes, I submit a clean copy without notes and one with so you can judge the flow of the narrative without being distracted by the notes. Of course, the cover letter should also mention that the text and art do not match (or are opposite). Good luck!

Linda Ashman has a great many resources on her website. Here's one that's mostly art notes! Check it out (and the book too--No Dogs Allowed):
#5 - March 25, 2019, 06:46 PM
Little Thief! Max & Midnight, Bound, Ten Easter Eggs & 100+ bks/mags

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I agree. Outline your intentions at the top of the manuscript, and the rest (i.e. the idea for each individual illustration) should be fairly intuitive for an experienced editor or agent.
#6 - March 25, 2019, 08:35 PM
Odd Bods: The World's Unusual Animals - Millbrook Press 2021
Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths - CSIRO Pub. Nov. 2021


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