Movies! Stories told on film!
And what do a movie and a children’s picture book have in common? Well, let’s see ...
- Both start off written. Someone had to dream up the idea, plan out the narrative, and write it down. (Of course the book stays written in its final form.)
- Both are visual. Images are used in conjunction with the narrative to move the story along. Images that, in the case of a movie, are photographically produced, and in a book are usually artistically rendered. Of course, some movies are done artistically and some books use photographic images.
- Both rely on the narrative and the images working together to move the story along. And the narrative and the images must be compatible and in agreement with each other. Although one may actually enhance the other, delivering even more information to the viewer or reader.
- In both, the viewer/reader will be encouraged to – and likely will – self-identify and sympathize with the main (or other) character(s).
- Both have a common goal: they both are a form of entertainment designed to provoke an emotional response from a viewer or reader, sometimes motivating some kind of action. Do you want the viewer/ reader to laugh? Cry? Be scared? To think deeper about some important topic? To be inspired to be a better person or change the world in some way? To escape into fantastic worlds and imagination? To remember people or events in history? To hear some important, little known story?
And what are the differences between a movie and a children’s picture book?
- A movie, while it can be viewed by a solitary viewer, is designed for a group of people to be able to have the same experience simultaneously.
- A book, while it can be enjoyed by a group when read aloud, is designed for a solitary reader and is a much more intimate and personal experience.
- A viewer is engaged, but more static. A viewer is a witness to events that are unfolding before them, and may be sympathetic to the characters and may or may not identify with them.
- A reader is engaged, but in a much more active way. A reader is, for all practical purposes, communicating directly one-on-one with the writer or narrator. A reader will also be sympathetic toward the characters, and I suspect will be more likely to identify with them, because of the intimacy of the experience.
- Through sound and action, a movie has more sensory input directed at a viewer. With no effort on their part, a viewer can hear the voices of the characters, music designed to heighten emotions and enhance the experience, and noises created by the action, like cars, explosions, crowds, etc.
- A reader must engage their imagination and emotions to get all this additional input ... to hear the voices and sounds, to imagine the actions of still images on the page. This is another reason why reading is much more intimate, because a reader is inserting their mind, senses and emotions into the experience.
These similarities and differences are certainly not exhaustive. If you are writing or drawing a picture book, thinking about these carefully can help you turn your so-so picture book into a terrific picture book!
Next week we’ll discuss the planning stage ...