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  • Dennis DeRobertis

Three Times IS a Charm!

Or the more you do, the more you learn

The Little Brown Spider throws away some stinky cheese in this two-page sketch.
A two-page sketch from the third Little Brown Spider book that was designed as a two-page spread.

Shooting for a More Comic Book-like Picture Book

When I wrote the first two Little Brown Spider books over 20 years ago, I approached it a little differently than I do today. Like a traditional comic book, I wanted each Little Brown Spider book to be 22 pages. And like traditional comic books, especially of the Copper and Bronze ages, I wanted to limit the use of double-page spreads. I felt like those type of spreads worked best for big, momentous scenes and should be limited. Good for comic book storytelling. Not so good, as I learned, for picture books.

However, with those constraints in mind, that's how I wrote and sketched the first two stories. Fast forward almost two decades to when those initial stories were being developed into actual books with an actual artist. As I went along, limitations of this approach surfaced.

Breathe Little Spider...Breathe

For starters, I ended up adding more to the stories, both in character development and exposition. Plus, I spent a lot more time learning and understanding picture book storytelling and flow than I had done when I initially wrote the books.

I also tend to update a script based on the final artwork. These first two LBS stories were no exception. However, given the single page designs I sent off to Cristian, I often painted myself into a corner when it came to expanding things. Also, at 22-pages of mostly single page scenes, the story felt dense. Too dense. And rushed. Let's look at an example.

Below is a page from the second Little Brown Spider book, The Giant Caterpillar, as it was originally written and produced.

The Little Brown Spider handing Anthony one of his creations.
The Little Brown Spider is very happy with himself.

OK, as a single page, it's fine. Simple and to the point. But it wasn't going to work with the new updates and direction I wanted to take the books. Here's that same scene with a reworked layout and expanded narrative.

A final two-page spread from The Little Brown Spider book after making adjustments.
Expanding the story and giving it a little more breathing room.

A Change in the Book Writing Process

Now, after completing the first two Little Brown Spider books, I approach the writing a little differently. Hopefully, it translates well for book number three!

See you next time!

- DennisD.


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