One of the things I’m asked most often at conferences is whether a picture book author should include illustration notes in a manuscript. This seems to really vex some people. The problem with illustration notes is if we say it’s ok to use them, then people tend to abuse them, including levels of detail that are completely irrelevant to the story and bind the illustrator’s hand (and creativity). So here are some answers for you.
Q: Should I include illustration notes in my manuscript?
Q: But what if I need to make something clear that the text isn’t showing?
A: If there is no other way to know, and it’s vital to the story, then include some stage directions. You know, like in a script. But you have to promise it’s essential.
Q: And what if I want the illustrator to know my character has curly hair?
A: Your character does not have curly hair unless the illustrator decides she does. Your character might end up being an elephant. Deal.
Q: But she lives in a red house and that matters because her favorite color is red.
A: Are you sure it’s that important? You’re wrong. It’s not.
Q: But what if
A: We’re done. [exit stage left]