May 5th, 2018

dinosaur firefighters: how we made it!

People often wonder how I get from having an idea to holding the real book in my hands. Here's how it happened with Dinosaur Firefighters!

dinosaur firefighters

The basic idea: Dinosaur Firefighters started with my editor suggesting the title, and its predecessor, Dinosaur Police was just the same. So I needed to come up with a story to fit it! I've gotten into a habit of running story ideas by Philip Reeve; we're often on the road to events and this time we were meeting up for a drink the evening before school assemblies the following day. We sat down and talked through possible storylines and came up with the basic plot. (Thanks, Philip!) He even sketched out some possible characters, a couple of which you might recognise from the book.

Character design: After that, I went back to my studio desk and started sketching out all the dinosaurs that might be in the Dinoville fire brigade. I like to post them right over my desk, so I can refer to them for continuity as I work.

I wanted to make Dipsy big and blue, and not obviously girly (I mean, eyelashes aren't really a big thing in Dinosaur biology anyway. You can read a bit more about the ideas behind Dipsy the Diplodocus in a previous blog post.)

Thumbnail roughs: The next step was figuring out how to fill each 'double-page spread'. (A 'spread' is what editors call the two pages facing each other.) In a lot of ways, knowing the exact number of pages simplifies things a lot, I just have to work out how to make the story fill these little boxes. This is when I think about the story's pacing, create a sense of story rhythm, and create build-ups to surprises when people turn the pages. Sometimes I write the text first and then do these, but this time I did very, very basic scribbles to help me figure out how to structure the story. (No one would be able to work out what I've drawn except for me.)

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