Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

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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!

In Christ,

Luther D. Powell

4 Responses to “Why Aren’t There More Illustrated Novels?”

  1. Well, my young padawan,
    Number One: it’s expensive to recreate art on the printed page. Letters were one thing to set; making diecasts for individual art just wasn’t feasible. It’s much easier nowadays; however,
    Number Two: it’s expensive to set art into pages – b/w has be at least 600 pdi in 8-point grayscale, compared to lettered fonts; and
    Number Three: it’s expensive to pay anyone to create art; even if you create it yourself, it still has to be formatted, and that’s time consuming, which = hours, which = expense.

    However, you might be pleased to learn that my next project, the print version of The Map Quilt, is supposed to have some limited artwork in it. Brenda drew an illustration which we formatted, and I paid for, and we use an illustration for scene breaks. I just hope it works.

  2. And besides, it’s like covers – a good author should allow the reader to picture the scenes and characters for him or herself. It lets the reader participate in the experience of the read.

    • Luther D. Powell said

      Always appreciate the advice, Sensei. :)

      I figure putting art in books is expensive. Making prints of artwork to sell the prints alone is pricy, hence why I haven’t gotten around to it. I just assume everything’s expensive these days, that way I’m not disappointed by costs as often. This isn’t something I’ve built high hopes for, but it’s an idea that I have no reason to let go of. Money’s a reason, but it’s not a good one to keep me down.

      When I think of the artwork I would put into the stories, I don’t think of it as illustrations. That’s just the easiest way to describe what I want to do, but I would treat each ‘illustration’ as a stand-alone piece of artwork. Maybe simple images, maybe elaborate, but either way, I wouldn’t want drawings to take away from the readers’ imagination. So, instead of drawing something and putting it in a book to say, “This is what the paragraph you just read is supposed to look like,” the images would bring more thought, more questions, maybe even hint at books in the future. I don’t really know where the images would take other readers, but coming from both the art and writing realms, I feel like I could come up with images that wouldn’t ruin things for the reader. The concept has stirred my brain too much to keep me from trying, and money is money. If I don’t have the money, the project doesn’t go as planned, so I just keep writing. If anything, I could draw pictures for the stories and sell them separately, if they don’t end up in the books.

  3. Mom said

    Hint at things in future books. I like that!

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