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Do you want to sketch your character or portray them?

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One of my connections on LinkedIn is an illustrator who wrote this guide with children's authors in mind. But the more I think about her third point the more I'm seeing this is something for us to understand long before finding an artist:



3) "The Masking Effect"

The third consideration is also quite meta. It’s what’s known in the cartoon and illustration community as “the masking effect”. It’s coined by Scott McCloud and refers to the phenomnom around “less is more”. Put simply - the less like a specific person a character looks, the easier it is for the viewer to project themself onto the character and into the story, making the viewer a participant. Likewise, the more specific a character looks, the fewer number of viewers can relate and thus more viewers remain spectators. Folks still pay to spectate, so the consideration here is more about how involved you want the viewer to be - whether you want them to watch the characters or become the character. Neither method is better than the other, it’s more about what’s best for your story.



I think it's worth watching for if you find yourself pulled in to a loosely physically sketched main character's experience and more "friends" with tightly described characters. Neither is bad, but the effect on the reader is going to be different.

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