Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 26, 2021

PART TWO: Motion, Movement & Action by Mira Reisburg

PART TWO: Motion, Movement & Action

Hello Lovelies:

Today, we’re talking about Part Two of two staples that can lead to brilliant writing and illustration: motion, movement, and action. In my last post, I wrote about the power of emotion in hooking and keeping a reader/viewer hooked. Now it’s time for action (and keep in mind that actions can be small with big consequences or big with small but important consequences).

Have you ever watched a movie where it’s just people talking and thought how incredibly boring that usually is? This is why dialogue-driven picture books can be really hard to do (unless it’s something brilliant like Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, where it’s all about the talking heads or a graphic novel format, which tend to be heavy on dialogue text but LOTS of action in the art). But I digress.

In general, the antidote to boring is movement. As you illustrate your characters, make them move, give them action, give them agency, give them lots of life. Show us through movement, whether big or small, what’s going on with actions that mirror their emotions. Create wonderful negative space, which is the space between and around whatever is happening on your page whether it’s illustration or writing, make sure to leave room for the reader/viewer to breathe.

We haven’t really spoken much about pacing except at the composition and thumbnail levels, but you want to speed up and slow down the images to match the text with how much movement you’re showing, as well as with what kinds of shapes and colors you are using, and the amount and kinds of things that you are including in the spread and/or the kinds of emotion being shown.

However, here’s a wee disclaimer in terms of movement and pacing, if your story is a quiet story or a story leading to bedtime, you want to slow that movement down as you head towards the end and calm the child to sleep.

So how do illustrators communicate dramatic action? If you want to make something powerful or scary, make it big, so big it spills off the page. You can also use color or shadows to make something scary too, but we’re talking about composition. The reverse can also be true of course to make something feel small and insignificant or vulnerable. Cropping can also be a wonderful tool for illustrators. Angles, diagonals, spirals, and circles all play roles in guiding the viewer’s eye and in creating pleasing or disturbing underlying shapes in your compositions. Also, look to maximizing the power of page turns and the element of surprise. Generally, you want each spread to be a delight and a surprise using different angles, points of view such as bird’s eye, worm’s eye, straight on, from the side, near, far, and mid-range. If you can create a visual connective thread throughout that’s great.

If you like these creative nudges, we’ve got a big old shed-load of them in our upcoming Craft & Business of Illustrating (& Writing) Children’s Books ! Co-taught by two multi-published illustrators, an editor/art director, and an acquiring agent, this game-changing course is packed with everything you need to jumpstart or polish your kid’s book illustrations and improve your writing by learning how illustration works and maybe discover a beautiful long-forgotten part of yourself! Save $100 with the ARTLOVE Promo-code. Also, FYI, my deeply discounted critiques will be ending at midnight (or soon after) so sign up soon with whoever or whatever you want! 🙂

Sending much creative love, Mira & the CBA gang xoxo I hope you found this helpful.

Dr. Mira Reisberg is a multi-published award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. Besides running the Children’s Book Academy, she is also an acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork. Mira is also a former children’s literary agent, and a university professor who taught kid lit writing and illustrating courses as well as teacher ed.  She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature and has helped MANY writers and illustrators get published. Her job at Spork allows her to help even more people (although of course she can’t guarantee that everyone will get published, many of her former students have).

Learn about us and our courses at Children’s Book Academy

Like us on Facebook

Join our interactive FB Group

Find us on Twitter

Follow us on Instagram

Look for us on Pinterest

Watch us on YouTube


Talk tomorrow,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: