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Week One Assignment: Cumulative or "De-cumulative" Story

Your assignment:

Designate a sketchbook, dummies, or layout pages, to capture your ideas. I suggest allocating an hour a day to work on this course. Decide when that hour will be and keep to that routine. I broke the assignment up into day—sized bites but, if you're on a roll, continue on. If at any point you get an idea you're excited about, go directly to your page layout form or book dummy and get it down on paper. Sometimes an idea pops into my head and I onto a sketch dummy within thirty minutes. 

Day 1

Word play:

I like to use post-it notes for this so I feel have fresh paper for each idea. Write twenty five themes that you would find interesting to explore as a subject of a picture book. Just write the topic—don't think or analyze them. Do this for 5 minutes at a time, or as long as it is fun. 


Day 2

Idea play: 

Mind mapping 1: Start with one theme in the center of a horizontal page. I like to use big paper—a roll of paper or back side of a ripped open paper shopping bag. Write related themes moving out to the edges of the page. Just write—don't analyze. You can draw too. If an image comes to you—draw it. You can use color—you can use paint if you want—whatever makes you feel good. Make marks and let ideas flow out of your head. Repeat this exercise with a few different themes. Hang your maps on a wall. 

Day 3

Idea play: 

Mind mapping 2: Start with one theme in the center of a horizontal page. Consider ways your theme might grow or build or be added to. Consider ways your theme can decrease. Consider questions that you might ask about this theme. If you get to an interesting new theme you want to explore, you can start over with that topic at the center of a new page. Repeat this exercise with a few different themes. Hang your maps on a wall. Look through your maps, notice if there are any themes that are carrying through. 

Day 4

Use the theme that you are most drawn to and fill in the layout page (in the dummy section) using cumulative or "de-cumulative" story structures. Consider if there is a question that your book asks. 


Day 5

Transfer your page layout idea to a dummy book. I often use a small dummy at this point, but you can also use something that would be 100% of a final book size. Write and draw everything in the book that you can think of for your story. I like to keep a word document going at the same time so I can also see the book in word form. 

Some other things to keep in mind while creating stories:

1) Repetition

2) When to break repetition or when to make the response different.

3) Long languid sentences or short snappy sentences

4) Sounds of consonants in your words:

   Soft Sounding Consonants: L, M, N, and R 

   Hard Sounding Consonants: B, C, (when it's a hard C), D, K, P, Q, and T

5) How can your story build / cumulate?

6) How can your story decrease / "de-cumulate"?

7) Does your story have parallel themes of building and decreasing?

Day 6

Page through the book dummy and make revisions. If an image comes to mind, draw it so you don't lose it. You can make revisions in the dummy by taping pieces of paper on over the old ideas in the dummy. I will sometimes layer a few times per page. Once you feel your dummy is used up, start a fresh one. If I am scaling up in size, I will often scan my dummy into the computer and where I can scale up and print out the dummy in a larger size.


Have fun! I hope you enjoyed this lesson!


xo, Kristen | Brooklyn, NY 

© 2018 by Kristen Balouch

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