Writing for Illustration: Graphic Project and Book Cover Designs.

For NMIT’s writing for illustration I chose to create a comic through Bitstrips based on the short story Too Much To Lose, one of the stories I self-published in the Behind Closed Doors collection that can be found on Smashwords here. Too Much To Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

To see Too Much To Lose follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The intention behind using this short story as a comic series published online is to counteract the massive online presence of pro-ana (pro-anorexic) websites, particularly those appearing on sites such as Tumblr. I wanted to illustrate the control an eating disorder can have over your life and the isolation. It was difficult making the comic appear as dark as I wanted it as I was really limited by the graphics provided on Bitstrips. I was only able to manipulate and edit so much. For example, I had very limited backgrounds on offer and to create a dark background I had to use the same gradient frame. If I could draw, I’d have made Ana (Ana being a personification of the protagonist’s ED) look like a hollow eyed, ghostly figure at times and as your stereotypical beautiful model at others. This would highlight the opposing sides of the image of an anorexic. In reality, you end up being skin and bones and look sickly. Your hair falls out, you’re constantly dizzy and pale. However, in the pro-ana forums there is this desire to see it as a lifestyle and beautiful. Many anorexics end up with a certain attachment towards starvation. Basically, the opposing images of Ana would illustrate all this. With more time, I would have fine tuned the dialogue too.

I feel the illustration/graphic side of this project took up a lot of my time and thought and I neglected the written aspect somewhat. I did use the forceful language that anorexics use with themselves and I think I highlighted that anorexic voice well however, for the sake of the story, more depth is needed. I could have added in some narrative sections. In fact, if I had the time and illustrations skills I think this story could be lengthened and turned into a graphic story for young adults. I was dreading this class when I enrolled in it and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable I found it. So, I struggled with the drawing aspect, but besides that it was interesting. I had never given much thought to how images and text went together and their impact. Despite being in the process of creating a magazine for another class, I’d not sat down and really focused on thinking about what image worked best and why. This class made me think about this more specifically and I think it benefited my work for other classes. I am aware I understand images/text a lot better in magazines and adverts than I do children’s books, despite reading one every night to my daughter. I decided to look at things from Olivia’s perspective to gain some insight into what children like in a children’s books. It turns out they’re attracted to the same things as us. I’d show Olivia some books I’d bought that afternoon and ask her what she liked about certain pictures or stories and her answers matched my own thoughts. For example, in one book I admired the use of soft coloring for the sky and water and, without me having mentioned it to her, Olivia said the same thing (only using 4 year old words.) She and I also like The Tail of the Whale by Ellie Patterson and illustrated by Christine Pym because of it’s illustrations (Olivia especially likes the funny parts such as the octopus having a tea party) and because the text rhymes. Perhaps it’s because the rhyming makes my reading more fluid and song like? I think so. Another favorite of ours is The Gruffalo (we love, love, love The Gruffalo so much that both of us can quote the entire story) by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler. Again, this book has rhyming language.

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood. A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good – The Gruffalo.

Reading this has a natural flow thanks to the rhyming and the pacing. As part of this subject we also had a fantastic speaker (an illustrator) come in to discuss his work with us. At the end he ran an activity where we had to come up with a scene from a comic and he would illustrate it for us. It was pretty cool to see something appear as you pictured it (something that never happens when you can’t draw no matter how hard you try to capture it on paper).

Last week we explored what made a good book cover. I found that I’m attracted to covers that have a sort of stillness about them. It’s hard to explain, but the type of cover that seems like something fleeting has been captured. These covers are usually in cool/dark colours and they always make me pause.

Here is an example of what I’m struggling to put into words:

BreathWinton godmother MemoryKeepersCover

I think the things all three have in common are the cool colour tones, slender fonts and the sense of a moment captured (the stillness I was referring to, I now see is movement that has been captured.) For example, the floating nightie and dust motes in The Memory Keeper’s Daughter or the bubbles on Breath.

What style of book cover most attracts you?

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