Lily Malcom is Vice President and executive art director of Dial Books for Young Readers. She's art directed many great books and talented illustrators including Corinna Luyken, Judy Schachner, David Small, Zach O'Hora, Erin Stead, Jerry Pinkney, and Jon Agee.
Lily shares a number of awesome tips to make your characters unique and bursting with... character.
Here are a few:
Main characters can convey emotion through their eyes, yes! But be sure that emotion spreads to their eyebrows, too. And what other accessories can be emotive? Think of Ladybug Girl's wings for a start.
The size and placement of your characters on the page are hugely important. You can use that space that they take up on the page and the way it changes page to page to make a huge impact. A big change in size or placement of a character page to page results in a powerful page turn that shocks the reader. You can also speed up the action this way, or slow down the action with spots and vignettes.
Visual narrative, Lily explains, is what is shown on the page, it’s separate from the text, and should bring something new to the text. Visual subplots of characters not even mentioned in the text are fantastic as long as they aren’t scene stealing from the main plot and main characters. Think of Judy Schachner's elephant in SARABELLA'S THINKING CAP.
Lily shares with us some of the AMAZING spreads full of supporting character action from Jon Agee's forthcoming THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK. Go preorder it now.
To get to your most powerful page turns, Lily recommends you sketch it all out in dummy format on cheap paper, even if it’s over 32 pages that you end up sketching, get all your ideas out. She says you can then go back and kill your darlings.
Lily always prints out and tapes together dummy books to go through with the editor to see pages turns so there’s drama and cliff hangers on as many pages as possible.