February 05, 2020Masters of Illusion

An illusion is something that appears to be real, but is not.

Have you ever watched a magician at work and tried to figure out how he did that trick?

You watch just as closely as you possibly can. But no matter how closely you watch, that thing in their hand will disappear or change colors or change form or maybe even get sawn in half ... it looks so real ... but, of course, it's not.

That magician is a master of illusion. Meaning that what he actually did, is not what you thought you saw him do. Because he most likely is also a master of physics with a degree in psychology. He knows how to get your attention focused over there while over here he's slipping something out of or into his sleeve, or adjusting the light or maybe a mirror ... and when your focus comes back to him, behold, something magical happened! How did he do that?!

Picture book writers and artists are also masters of illusion. All they are actually doing is typing words and applying pigment to paper. But then something magical happens ... a reader gets transported into a world where he might be entertained, or maybe learn something new, or have experiences he might never have in his day-to-day world.

And those writers and artists make it look so simple and easy! Did that magician look like he was struggling?

I've always heard that the sign of a true professional is someone who makes their work look so effortless that everybody else thinks, I could do that better! Don't bet on it. Because all the struggling was worked out in private places long before he brought the illusion to an audience.

A 500-1,000 word children's book is not an 80,000 word novel. You might possibly get away with 500 careless, off-point words in an 80,000 word novel if you have a very lazy editor. But when 500 words is all you have, every single word counts. The writing has to be tight. Not uptight. Tight.

That goes for the illustrations, too. Picture book readers – parents and children – are the toughest audience in the world. Picture books get read and re-read over and over and over. The pictures will be scrutinized over and over and over. Both the writer and the illustrator simply must not ever, ever take short cuts or skimp on the quality of their product. These early, simple books are the gateway to a lifetime of reading and learning and introducing youngsters to their world. They deserve the very best we can give them. And being the best at something is never easy!

One day that young audience will grow into adults, and then they will be reading those 80,000+ word novels. When they do, they will be forming pictures in their minds of the characters and the action in the narrative. I'm no child psychologist, but I believe that these early books with printed narrative and pictures, are helping them learn how to do just that: associating and matching words with pictures. The narrative and the illustrations must fit togther flawlessly. No matter if the story is fact or fantasy, the words and the pictures need to work together to create an illusion. An illusion that will draw in a curious child, expand their world, and set them on a path to being a life-long reader.

All this writing and drawing we do every day is important!

So in this month's blogs, let's talk about how to be masters of illusion.

There's a series of articles in the Freebies menu section called The Grand Illusion. It's basically a "how to draw" series with a twist ... learning how to "see". Because art begins in your eyes. For both writers and artists, in order to be a master illusionist, you'll have to learn to see first ...

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  • Dixie says:
    2020-02-05, 17:09:18
    Thank you for the education. May your pencils always be sharp as the tight words in the childrens books.
    God bless.
  • BILL says:
    2020-02-05, 10:23:30