by Mira Reisberg
As the curve of our national pandemic rises and falls, so too do our emotions. These are probably the not-so-good emotions--fear, anger, sadness. So, let's take this opportunity to learn and experiment with the power of emotions.
Let's look at the power of emotion in turning your story or art into something that really affects the reader/viewer and makes your work really memorable. Here's a handy Feelings and Emotions List that you might want to consider using to highlight different (not just the crummy) emotions as you write and illustrate.
Generally, children have very strong emotions and part of the process of socializing them is it to teach them to repress and control a lot of their emotions. But as a children’s book illustrator or writer, you want to connect with those emotions as much as you can. You want to make kids laugh, cry, be scared for the characters, worry about them, be curious about them, be angry with them or their antagonist or bullies, be happy for them, identify with them and most of all care about them.
The most effective ways to convey emotion is with your color palette, body language, scale, and facial expressions.
If you don’t have great drawing skills, model the body language and facial expressions in the mirror and then draw it as a stick figure and build that out.
I also want to encourage you to go through your manuscript and then your thumbnails and write down what the key emotions are on those pages or spreads to remind you that emotion is the heart of your visual storytelling and to highlight those specific emotions in your images.
What does your character feel? What do you want your audience to feel on each page? And that's what you go for.
It's really weird but if you want to draw someone smiling, smile while you are drawing. It will make that smile seem much more authentic. Weird I know.
You've probably heard of "show, don't tell" and here's where you describe your characters emotions through physical actions. Use your words to create vivid and specific details that allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. Use literal lightness and darkness as cues, avoid adverbs and passive voice, use strong action verbs, use active dialog, call the five senses into play, and focus on your character's actions and reactions (not their state of being).
Showing creates a connection, pulling the reader into your story, because they have to interpret what's happening. Telling the reader what emotion your characters are experiencing makes the reader passive because you're telling them what they should understand or feel.
When we're reading, we don't want to read a sentence like, "Stella was sad," which does all the work for us. How about: "Stella wiped tears off her face" instead? We want to interpret and feel the emotion for ourselves, not be told what to feel.
Writers, consider what's going on in your story, how your hero or villain is doing in achieving their goals or being triggered with underlying emotions, and see how you can convey that in your story.
We hope you found this helpful. Stay safe and wash your hands!
Mira Reisberg’s life is all about children’s books - writing, illustrating, and helping others write, or illustrate, and publish their books through the Children’s Book Academy. Mira has worn just about every hat in the children’s book industry including award-winning illustrator, author, editor, art director, kid lit professor and children’s literary agent. Her students have published over 380 books and won every major North American award. Mira also acquires, edits and art directs for small press Clearfork Publishing/Spork. Connect on Instagram @ChildrensBookAc or at facebook.com/childrensbookacademy.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature the wonderful Ave Maria Cross