Friday, March 11, 2011

Shaun Tan

Last Friday I posted about the fabulous Austrailan picture book writer and illustrator, Shaun Tan, who won the Academy Award, best animated short film for The Lost Thing.

Here is some advice he gives to writers:

"The strength of a good picture book text often lies in its brevity, and a very economic use of language, what the writer Margaret Wild calls 'essential storytelling'. Many of the manuscripts I've seen are unpublishable simply because they are way too long. Whittle everything down to bare bones, and see what you can do without."

"Show, don't tell, or better yet, give room for the illustrations to show. For instance, you do not need to describe an emotional state in words if you can express it visually through a situation, a facial expression, gesture, or some other illustrative device."

"As a writer, do not necessarily anticipate what an illustrator is going to draw or paint. A good picture book is a collaboration between two 'writers', one using words, one using pictures. It's more about creating free space for a visual 'director' within a good 'script'. Also be mindful that a text can change as words and pictures evolve."

"Accordingly, a good picture book has two texts that work together symbiotically, they can reveal different sides to the same story, or different stories altogether, involving disparity, irony and even contradiction. The best illustrations do not simply illustrate."

For more of Shaun Tan's insights and advice for writers and illustrators, visit his website. Be advised, though, you may get lost inside there for a very long's just that good!

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