I had an epiphany the other day at my Karate class. For those who don’t know I have been studying karate for about 17yrs. It is an amazing art form because even after 17yrs of doing the same thing you can realize something new, like I did the other night. I noticed writing picture books and karate are very similar. Not in the aspect that I use my pen like a ninja or defeat my foes with massive amounts of paper cuts; but in the aspect that more isn’t always better. Let me explain. Individuals in class were performing kata, which is a set series of attacks and defenses that a student learns so that they can practice on their own. Understand you have a set pattern of movements, no more, no less. When I was watching the kata being performed I noticed several students putting in movements that were not meant to be in the kata. Maybe the students thought it looked cooler or maybe they didn’t even know they were doing it. Either way the movements were there and they made the kata look like a jumbled mess. A kata should tell a story. When you see someone who really understands kata they perform each movement with meaning because they know they only have so many movements to portray the story they want to get across. A kata is a lot like a picture book. When writing a picture book you have a limited number of words to use. These days it’s between 500 and 600 words, therefore each word has to count. Each word is very important and must add to the story, if it doesn’t it bogs down the story and your story becomes a jumbled mess.
If you add movements to a kata that don’t belong the kata will look like crap. If you add words to a story that don’t need to be there the story will read like crap. It’s that simple. Of course I say that like it’s an easy fix concerning both activities. It’s not. I have been studying karate for a long time and let me tell you I still have a long way to go when it comes to perfecting my kata. Same with writing, I still am constantly getting critiques back with comments like, ”could be tighter”, or “this will be shown in the illustration”.
I do though have some tips that I can share that will reduce the number of those comments.
1) Use strong words. If you can say 13 words with 5 use 5.
Zombie, with his uncoordinated walk, tripped and fell while walking to her house.
Zombie stumbled to her house.
2) Let the illustrator do his or her job. Remember, the pictures tell half the story.
Zombie shuffles to her house to deliver his bouquet.
But she leaves rather abruptly. (Girl screams runs away)
She must be allergic.
Do you know why I highlighted that line in red? Because it isn’t needed. You will see the girl running away in fear from the picture.
3) It either is or isn’t, there is no “seems to be”. I do this all the time. I play in the “middle” with a lot of my statements and all it does is add extra words that don’t need to be there.
The shoes seemed worn and looked like they traveled many miles.
(They are either worn or they aren’t)
The shoes looked worn like they traveled many miles.
So that’s all I have with tips. I hope they help with your writing. As far as performing kata? Keep it simple, simple is good. There is beauty in simplicity. Now that I think about it that goes for your writing as well.