'A Hero's Cape'- A Children's Adventure Book

A Hero's Cape by Cory Q. Tan As they always say, in writing a book, the hardest part was the beginning. For me, I find that many parts are difficult. For example, I always wondered if I should start with the story line or the moral (message of the story- I cannot imagine a children's book without a underlying message), or should I start with the pictures and let the pictures come together as a story, like some very talented children's book authors do. This approach, I think, is a very powerful creative process taught in the art schools too- to just allow any random imagery lead you to unexpected places. I also wondered If I should start with the beginning of the story or the end. This may sound very strange to you but if you read my previous post, I mentioned that for 'A Very Special Cat', my very first book, I was very clear how the book would start and end- both images of a boy reading a book and the Giant Kitty coming to look for her child, both came to me simultaneously. And then I was stuck with how to join the head to the tail, for months.... If I remember correctly, I was stuck for 4 months, until I decided to abandon the book as I did not know how to complete it.

During these 4 months I decided to move on to something different, maybe start a new book and hopefully this time I won't get stuck. So 'A Hero's Cape', my second book, was actually composed at the same time as 'A Very Special Cat'. It was towards the end of writing/drawing 'A Hero's Cape' that an inspiration came to me on how I should complete 'A Very Special Cat'. I decided to complete that one first before going back to 'A Hero's Cape'. After all, that was supposed to be the order. This is why the two books were only published a month apart.

For 'A Hero's Cape', I also had somewhat a beginning and an end in mind, and again the middle was missing. The story was inspired by my then 11 year old son playing with his towel. He was posing with his towel just before going for his shower and I thought that looked very cute. As the first book's central character was based on my younger boy, I decided that I should dedicate this next book to my older boy, just to be fair.

The first image I had in my mind was the cape flying out of the window. And I did a few versions before the final one. It was difficult, as I mentioned before, as my first two books were done using a very outdated iPad with a not so fantastic drawing software with only 5 layers. I also had the images of the younger brother and him looking at an injured bird pondering what to do with it, as well as the final scene when all the different people came to thank him. For the rest of the book, I had no idea how to piece together.

I guess they were right that the subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind, for the rest of the images for the book came to me at moments when I least expected them, e.g. when I was washing my hands in the toilet etc.

You must be wondering why a children's book author kept talking about images and nothing about the words. For me, 90% of my time in composing a book went into the pictures. For 'A Hero's Cape', it took me about 3-4 months just to draw the pictures, and only 1-2 days for the words. This is not because I paid less attention to the writing, but because the writing was constantly forming in my mind as I was rushing the drawings. When all the drawings were done, I only needed a day or two just to 'pour out' all the words that were already in my mind.

However, for 'A Hero's Cape', the greatest challenge that I faced was not the story line, as the story line would always miraculously come to you at moments when you least expected it, i.e. via the subconscious. You just need to keep it in your mind day and night... For this book, my greatest challenge was actually drawing the background.

Should the foreground (the characters) come first or should the background be composed first? This was my struggle. I didn't seem to have much of this problem in 'A Very Special Cat' as the backgrounds were largely the same for almost every frame. Anyway, in the end, since I had no idea what to draw for the background, I just went ahead to compose all the foreground actions first. Hence, in essence, 'A Hero's Cape' was done in two parts- all the characters were drawn first before I worked on the background. This approach wasn't ideal as it was hard to find the right background with the 'correct' perspective for each frame.

Well, the struggle with getting the background right remained till the last frame. And I haven't even begun to talk about my struggle with colours- my biggest enemy till this day! Colouring is definitely not my forte as my training was in B&W printmaking. Till this day, I've yet to find a teacher who would teach me how to formulate colour schemes correctly. I guess it will forever be a trial-and-error process for me. Anyway, for 'A Hero's Cape', for each frame I had to look for a suitable picture from elsewhere (could be a painting, or a comic strip, or a book cover) with a similar tone and feel, and take reference from its colour scheme.

Some last words for 'A Hero's Cape'. It was meant to be a book with a lot of action and adventure, as, taking advice from my younger son (then only turning 7 then), children's books should be expressive and full of action and excitement. I thought that was very good advice, and to this day, I still try to make that happen in all my books.
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Published on May 11, 2019 00:21
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