I love writing for Archie. He says whatever comes into his head, has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and oozes a certain cheeky charm that can’t help but make me smile…
My eldest daughter was very like Archie when she was little. Her days were filled to bursting with chatter, fun, busyness … and endless questions! When I was asked to write a book about the “NO!” word, I was allowed free rein with the writing style and content. As Archie’s character quickly took over, (which is just the way I like it) his first story emerged as pared back and edgy, with the kind of humour that sometimes makes adults and children smile for different reasons.
I had to think back to that vibrant child that was, and still IS my daughter! While such vibrancy is wonderful, there may be times when – as a parent, you’re suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of super-activity!
And then there’s that moment when your little angel (and it happens to us all!) flatly refuses your most reasonable suggestions. Eeeek!
Now, I’ll tell you a secret. Archie began life as … a mouse. Well, in my head (and in my notes!) he did at least. It was, therefore, a great surprise to me when the first character sketch from Tim showed Archie … the rhino!
But it was ok. No – better than ok. Because Tim had made me think out of the box. He’d interpreted Archie in his own way. And this is one of the great advantages of not illustrating my own work. Someone else can take my thinking further, or in a totally different direction for the better.
Writing for Archie is some of the most intricate and complex writing that I do.
That’s because there are so few words, and so each has to convey small oceans of emotion. So as I write and rewrite the story, my editor and I have to meticulously work out what will be dealt with in the visuals, how the vignettes might be composed, and how the humour will work with a pared back (and sometimes ironic) one-liner. Also, we consider what part of the story will be told in speech bubbles and what in narrative, making sure that the narrative has a satisfying arc so that if the speech bubbles were skipped over, the story would still neatly hold together.
I then have to hand over to Tim a very sparse text. And for me this is harder than handing over a wordier story as I feel far less in control.
But Tim always delivers such energy and charm, capturing the real essence of Archie. And now I can’t imagine him as anything else than a small, (and completely adorable!) rhino – full of fun and busyness. Oh… and endless questions, naturally!
(Published by Little Tiger Press 6th July 2015)