Changes are always made at the 11th hour…

Standard

Naturally, as I work on the finished illustrations for A BED FOR LITTLE CUB the words in the story have to change.   I don’t know how writers who only write catch sequences that need a bit more polish.  It’s only when I am working on a sequence of pictures that take place in the same locale (the bed scenes, for example) that I realize something more lively has to happen to keep the sequence (10 pages/5 pictures) from becoming too static, too boring, too cozy, too cute, etc.   

The original text for the opening of the sequence reads:

—Little Cub climbed into the big bed.

“This bed is too big,” said Little Cub.

“It has to be big so that there’s room for both of us,” said Old Bear, tucking

Little Cub under the thick blanket.  “Now close your eyes and listen to the

story.”

Little Cub closed his eyes.

*****

Obviously, it’s bedtime for Little Cub.  And, just as obvious, he’s not going to climb 

into bed quietly and settle down without some action and conversation.

How many pictures can I do that show him “tucked under the thick blanket with

his eyes closed”???

I needed to do some quick thinking to make the first picture in the sequence really

make a statement as to 1) Little Cub’s personality 2) bedtime is not simply a matter

of climbing into bed and 3) the bed IS too big (for a very small bear cub).

Looking at my sketch I thought “Aha!  I’ll have him sitting on the rustic stool by the

bed (that Old Bear will actually sit on when he starts to tell Little Cub a bedtime

story).” 

That would mean changing the opening line of the text on this particular page

and rearranging the sequence of action:

—Little Cub sat quietly on the stool.  (he’s thinking, of course)

“This bed is too big,” said Little Cub.

“It has to be big so that there’s room for both of us,” said Old Bear.

Little Cub climbed into bed.   Old Bear tucked him under the thick blanket.

“Now close your eyes and listen to the story.”

Little Cub closed his eyes.

*****

Not a bad scene, but there’s still NO action!   And the next four pictures

only become more quiet as Little Cub slowly calms down and listens to the

story (knowing he will be getting his own bed).

Then it came to me!  There was only ONE way to get some lively action into

this overly cozy, quiet scene.  And here is how the text changed (for the better).

—Little Cub bounced on the bed.

“This bed is too big,” said Little Cub.

“It has to be big so that there’s room for both of us, said Old Bear, tucking

Little Cub under the thick blanket.

“Now close your eyes and listen to the story.”

Little Cub closed his eyes.

*****

Bouncing page 10      Page 11

Note:  The oil lamp wasn’t working; the candle is much better.  As this sequence progresses the candle

will burn lower and lower to show the passage of time.

As a writer and illustrator of children’s picture books I often let the pictures dictate necessary changes in the story.   I don’t know why these changes don’t come to me when I do the sketches and revise the text.   It’s only after really letting each finished illustration “breathe” and come to life that it strikes me that something needs to change.

Oftentimes the change in the text is very small, but it can have a huge impact on the what the illustration shows and how it gives the reader a bit more information that they might not have had before.

Making these changes at the eleventh hour keeps the story and pictures fresh for me.  The changes are unexpected, not planned, and being spontaneous they keep the story and pictures fresh and “not remembered”.   

Thankfully, my editor(s) trust my judgment in making these changes and very seldom challenge them.  Most often they see the improvement right away and are in full agreement with me.

NOW…if I could only draw faster and not always be so damn late in delivering beautiful finished changed illustrations!

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