Just as with studying art, when hunting for story ideas it’s best to go to the Masters, advised Mark Crilley, author of the popular graphic novel series for young people, Miki Falls and Akiko.
When he wanted to create his first book, he thought about The Wizard of Oz, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — all tales of young people escaping into a fantasy land, he pointed out during his presentation this past Thursday at the Kalamazoo Public Library in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
A graduate of Kalamazoo College and a student of Caldecott winner and National Book Award and Eisner Award finalist David Small (Stitches), Crilley also emphasized “thinking long and hard about the personalities” of your characters. For Spuckler in the Akiko series, for example, he came up with four points: wild, tough, friendly and “not too smart.” To reinforce that personality, he developed a specific voice for each character — “Then you’ll know what your character will and won’t say.”
Readers, he contended, can hear that voice — and therefore the personality — in the words the characters use.
During the Q&A, Crilley discussed color (“I’m a fan of a limited color palette”), layout (“Let the story lead you”) and scale — he draws his originals only slightly larger than how they’ll appear when printed. “I want to see it as it’ll look once it’s published. (Besides), I save paper that way,” he smiled.
As for which type of paper or drawing tool to use — pencil, Micron pen, pastels, acrylic paint — Crilley advised, “It’s not the paper, it’s not the pen …. It’s your eyes.”