Never Abandon Imagination

Sci-fi sketch of giant solar robot

At one of the SCBWI Conferences in Los Angeles a few years ago I went to a session by the talented Tony Diterlizzi, the award-winning author and illustrator who has contributed to a number of imaginative works like The Spiderwick Chronicles, the Wondla Trilogy, and the Caldecott-winning picture book, The Spider and the Fly. If you haven’t picked up any of these books yet, consider this your reading list for October. You’re welcome.

During his talk, Diterlizzi talked about the process of writing “The Search for Wondla,” a fantastic adventure set on a mysterious, alien world. He explained how the world and the characters evolved slowly over time, eventually shaping themselves into a story. His slides showed numerous sketches of characters, creatures, landscapes and mysterious objects that developed as he explored his imagination. His sketchbooks had all the sort of stuff that would populate a fantastic, imaginary world.

It made me take a second look at some of the worlds I have had simmering in my mind, and how they could develop into stories in their own right. Often these ideas are one-off doodles in my sketchbook, just waiting to be explored. Maybe they were worth a second look. After all, as Diterlizzi says: “never abandon imagination.”

Here’s one such drawing from a sketchbook from August of 2005. This image has been sitting around for years, patiently waiting for me to pay attention to it. Wouldn’t you like to know more about that world? I certainly would!

More recently, below is a sketch from this week of a character who has been hanging around my brain lately. Who is she? Where (and when) does she live? What is her story? She seems to have a story to tell.

Do you have any characters or worlds hanging around in your brain? How do you go about learning and telling their stories? Tony Diterlizzi clearly has this mysterious process figured out!


Landscape Painting

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