Why Aren’t There More Illustrated Novels?
Posted by Luther D. Powell on July 12, 2012
I made a post on Facebook about this a few nights ago and already got a lot of feedback, but I kind of planned to make it my Thursday bloppick as well. I figure, more feedback wouldn’t hurt anything, and it feels good to voice my thoughts on ambitions, no matter how crazy they may sound.
But really, does having artwork in an adult-level novel sound so crazy to you? I’ve contemplated this for years, ever since that faithful day in seventh grade when I realized drawing/writing comic books wasn’t working out for me. When making my own comics, it occurred to me that I did not have the patience to draw entire stories out scene by scene, at least, not with enough detail to know what was going on. I also had troubles writing for comics. I either wanted to write too much in one panel or too little; couldn’t find a medium. Since then, my art and writing paths have separated, but I’ve been on a drawing binge this past week (hobby drawings and commissions) and I’ve been thinking, why keep them separated?
WHAT IF… I just wrote novels and drew some pictures for them?
I don’t see novels with artwork in them very often. The only one I can think of at the moment is Seth Grahame-Smith’s, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s a gruesomely-great parody of the Jane Austen classic, and it’s exactly what the title suggests. What I didn’t expect is the artwork; there are drawings every 50 pages or so, and they add a lot to the book’s humor and uniqueness. However, the book being more or less a comedy, it’s not the best example for what I have in mind to do, just… the only example.
It seems that, once you move from chapter books to young adult novels and so on, artwork disappears. You still get some compelling image on a book’s cover which urges people to buy the book, but once you open it up, it’s good ol’ Times New Roman text for another 400 pages. Occasionally a different font, but you get the idea. (By the way, a tip for my fellow writers suffering from writer’s block: try switching up your font. Sounds silly, but once you settle on something new and exciting, it might renew your desire to write. Helped me out a lot!)
I get that more intellectual readers may prefer their imagination over the images that could actually appear on the pages, but what’s stopping authors/artists from giving 300-400 page novels artwork anyway? I, for one, would love to let my brain rest every 75 pages or so and see some artwork. It’s not something I’m constantly wishing books would have, I just don’t get why I never see that. Not suggesting that adults need picture books too. We grownups have magazines when we wanna look at pictures, right? Or rather, the internet. But who would start complaining if some daring author got away with putting pictures in a novel of whatever genre? I honestly can’t imagine anybody reading something of their own free will and thinking, “Aw man, this book has PICTURES in it? That’s lame. I’m so offended, I’ll never read again.”
Most of the advice I’ve gotten from friends and fellow writers amounts to this: if you can pull it off, it’ll be awesome, but you don’t see it often because those who are trying aren’t pulling it off. If I want to draw pictures and incorporate them into my stories, they have to be images that appeal to the readers’ imagination, and keep them reading at the same time. They can’t give away too much about the story, but they can’t just be there to show a reader something he or she already understands, either. I wouldn’t draw pictures to act as portraits of main characters, nor would I draw out entire scenes. In order for the “illustrated novel” to be a more acceptable idea, the illustrations and the writings would have to harmonize tastefully. The writing not necessarily describing the pictures, but the pictures holding just enough weight to gain more interest from readers. I know illustrated novels EXIST already, but they’re not like, a thing of their own. They’re few and far between, and I would like to change that.
My last blog was so preachy, it feels weird not mentioning God for any reason in this one. Jesus loves you. There, that’s better. :)
This picture is also on Facebook, but I wanted to share my first ever framed drawing. Framed it about a week ago, and now I feel all uber-professional and special and stuff. The drawing is a scene from my favorite book/movie, Let the Right One In. I’m thinking about writing a blog about that as well, ‘cause I’m always talking about it anyway. Cheers and God bless!
Luther D. Powell
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