February 24th, 2017
So, you're writing a book - or a movie - or a TV show for HBO. I know you are. We all are. You have set up your template in Scrivener or Word or Notepad or even on an actual piece of lined paper, and you've licked the tip of your proverbial pencil, and you're ready to go. Once you've established a plot (Space/time exploration? Romantic tryst in Paris? Medieval fantasy dragon-based dilemmas? Lawyers lawyering?), you'll need a main character - a romantic lead, a hero. Someone we all admire, yet can relate to. They will be brave, attractive, creative and hilarious - that's a given. And they need an occupation. Something solid, something full of challenges and perhaps somewhat glamorous. At this point, before you go too much further, may I suggest that you think outside the box. Go beyond your usual FBI agent, NASA technician, high-powered lawyer, DA or President... because, when you let your mind wander freely to all possibilities, you will inevitably land on the the fact that it is illustrators that make the best kinds of characters.
If you has asked me a moment ago what the five defining characteristics of an illustrator are, I would have said, eating almond croissants from Barb's Buns, sitting up late looking at instagram, avoiding zombie movies, drawing a bit, and being able to say loudly, without any qualms "Yes, it's true! I am an illustrator!" But now I have looked it up on the internet and, apparently, (which you can read all about in a $6.95 USD downloadable ebook) the key characteristics are:
See? Perfect! Everything your protagonist could possibly need.
If Frodo Baggins needed an occupation aside from hobbiting, I am willing to bet illustrator would have been a good choice. Wide-eyed and curious, quirky, enquiring, brave, tenacious, happy to be told what to do, but also always ready to question a dubious command... and devastatingly attractive, even when a hobbit.
I then thought to myself - what if Indiana Jones's university department made staffing cuts, and the role of professor of archaeology was no longer an option? Could he sling his folio around town, sweet-talking art directors and publishers, and then go home to shuffle drawing papers across a drafting desk into the wee hours? Does he have the guts? The gumption? The vulnerability? Steven Spielberg said of Indie that there "was the willingness to allow our leading man to get hurt and to express his pain and to get his mad out and to take pratfalls and sometimes be the butt of his own jokes. I mean, Indiana Jones is not a perfect hero, and his imperfections, I think, make the audience feel that, with a little more exercise and a little more courage, they could be just like him." Uh, yes! Perhaps with a little less exercise, Indie would have been the perfect illustrator.
Lastly (but not leastly) - how about Ripley from the Alien series?
"She's not a sidekick, arm candy, or a damsel to be rescued. Starting with Alien, Ripley was a fully competent member of a crew or ensemble — not always liked and sometimes disrespected, but doing her job all the same... Ripley isn't a fantasy version of a woman...[she] is pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself. All without being a spinny killbot." - See? ILLUSTRATOR!
Anyway, what I'm saying is, if you are in need of character inspiration, I'm right here. I don't charge terribly high consultation fees... an almond croissant will do.
Some lovable illustrators in highly recommended movies and films:
The delightful Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) from Beginners
Well-meaning Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) in People Places Things
Feisty and bohemian Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt) from Madmen
Electric and outrageous Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) from Diary of a teenage girl
Speaking of illustrators -- it is with great sadness that I read that author and illustrator Dick Bruna died this week. Most famous for his children's books, including the Miffy series, he also illustrated numerous book covers for his father's publishing firm, including the incredibly cool ones shown above.
Learning: Pixar in a Box with Khan Academy. The online educational resource is offering classes in collaboration with Pixar Studios in story telling and animation. It looks pretty technical, but I like the look of Season One - The Art of Story Telling.
Listening: Hunting for new music is a full-time occupation if you let it be. Austin Kleon pointed to the Esquire article last week: This Is the Best Way to Discover Music Without Spotify, Apple, or Pandora. My favourite sources are always NPR, Guy Garvey's Finest Hour, Small Batch List readers' very kind suggestions, and now I am off to check out NTS.
My SBL playlist is now available as a Spotify Playlist - thanks to Aidan! xo
And on Apple Music, as always.
Friday Five Favourites - guest-starring Abby Glassenberg
Inspiring woman! Sewing pattern designer, craft book author, writer, blogger, podcaster and teacher.
Most often found at While She Naps and Craft Industry Alliance
The week before last I was a guest on Abby's podcast and she was kind enough to return me the favour and tell me her five favourite things. Thank you so much, Abby, for taking the time out of your incredibly full and busy schedule.
1) Kara Swisher
Kara Swisher is a tech journalist and I admire her so much. She is incredibly knowledgeable about her industry and has built great relationships with all the movers and shakers in Silicon Valley (even though she often writes hard stories about them). I read her articles on Recode
and listen to her interview people on her podcast, Recode Decode
, and I feel like I’ve learned so much about how to both be tough and be compassionate and not let people get away with spitting out canned answers to questions. Kara says she loves journalism because she gets a thrill out of irritating people and I couldn’t agree more.
2) Chad Dickerson
is the CEO of Etsy
and under his leadership the company has done some really big things. He took Etsy public in 2015 and expanded seller services to include Pattern
(the stand-alone website builder). In April Etsy will be launching a second marketplace, Etsy Studio, just for craft supplies. Etsy is a leader in both the tech and crafts industries when it comes to diversity in hiring, and they are lobbying in Washington on behalf of tiny businesses like mine. Chad leads in a low-key, smart way, confident way and I always get a thrill when he retweets me.
3) The Longform podcast
I didn’t go to journalism school and until recently had no idea what I was doing when researching and writing stories. Then I found the Longform podcast
and my eyes were opened to what it takes to really be a writer. I’ve listened to every episode (and there are 232 of them!) and learned what a nut graph is, how to develop relationships with sources, how freelancers scrape together a living, and so much more. This show never fails to motivate me to get out there and find good stories and then sit down at the computer and write them.
4) Couch to 5K
I’m not a natural athlete. I spent gym classes in school sitting in the outfield with my back to the game picking dandelions and knotting them into crowns. I never played a team sport and failed to build an enjoyment in my body’s ability to move around. Four years ago a friend told me about the Couch to 5K app
which I downloaded onto my phone on a whim. I completed the program and have been running 3.5 miles four days a week since. I’m addicted to running outside in any weather and I’m grateful to this app for starting me on the journey.
Like you, Claire, I write a weekly email newsletter
. And, like you, I’m also always busy doing other things (I have three kids and two businesses). Pocket
is my ticket to getting a newsletter full of interesting, relevant links pulled together every Wednesday. It’s a free app for your phone and a browser extension for your desktop. Whenever you come across a potentially interesting article or video, just send it to Pocket and it will be there waiting for you when you actually have time to sit down (you can even read offline which is great for travel). Pocket recently told me I’m in the top 5% of their user base and I’m not surprised!
See you next week!
The Small Batch List
Person with a keyboard
p.s. 100 points for guessing the quote in the subject line! The last time it was from Shaun of the Dead.