Splash pages are tricky beasts. Used right, they can be amazing beats. Used wrong, or at least with little effect, and they become placeholders, structural ticks on a checklist of formula, turgid, ho-hum, forgettable.
I don’t write a lot of splash pages. I don’t decompress so rarely find I have the space for a splash page. I say that like I’m bragging when in reality it can be a fault at times, it means I’m trying to cram too much in, I want too many little beats, I want my words all over everything. Sometimes your story needs time and space to breathe.
And splash pages add both – time and space.
Used right, they slow the reader down, make them feel the moment, bring them in and invest them on an emotional level – whether that emotion is awe or infinite sadness or extreme guttural horror. The splash page is the signifier that the reader needs to stop and soak it in for a moment, or maybe three moments.
I’m not here to preach which splash pages are the best and the worst – though I would like to write a future post about which splash pages have hit me hard in the past few years as a writer/reader – for now I’d like to point you to a link and make you think about it in regards to your writing, and illustrating (though I usually speak from the writing/writer’s perspective because there’s no way I’m lecturing about art).
Yep, this is click bait, but it’s got 75 pics that are pretty good, and I want to highlight a few that might make you think differently about how you’ll write splash pages in the future – however, as always, ymmv.
Look at this shot. It’s beautiful, right? Haunting, emotional, inspiring, and all just with a cityscape. You can use your environment to do this to the reader. Do it.
Have your character doing something dramatic. Post them with their environment, frame it real pretty like. Have everything point to them and their message, and make it so their message points to them, and they are the central point of their message. Extra points for making their pomp a true farce.
CHARACTER POSE – EMOTIONAL EDIT
Drop that emotional beat. Character posing in maximum emotional mode, tears on display, or anger, or whatever. This is the action shot of their soul. But also, look how this mother’s body frames around her daughter, and the colour juxtaposition, the interlocking human pieces that fit perfectly, this is a pretty shot that also manages to evoke so much. Don’t rely purely on the shown emotion, just because I see tears doesn’t mean I’ll care. Draw me in, use your craft. I also think the business pants guy clearly just walking on by says so much, this lady is melting down, he’s just looking for some java before making his connecting flight. Sometimes these heightened emotional moments are just yours, and no one else cares, we are pockets of hyperfuel for whatever we are feeling and rarely do others get burnt by our flames. That in itself is a fascinating concept about empathy, and time in the day, and just how much emotion we have to give the world and still function.
This shot also goes well with this shot below:
Look at that body language. Ooof. Masterclass right there from the real world. Capture something as real as this and I’ll read your book.
Use scope and numbers to your advantage. Whether it’s an army, or a family, or mourners, or protestors, make us care because you’re bringing a thousand peeps who care.
Now, this won’t always work – sometimes it feels like saturation and can be numbing – but when done and framed right for the very perfect moment, it can stop us in our tracks.
THAT ONE CREEPY MOMENT
Look at the lighting on this one. If you wanna think about mood you think about the shadows, but only as they juxtapose against the light, and as they differentiate because this pic has pitch black, but also weird greys, with multiple light sources. This is just great.
Be bold. Tell your moment in a way you have not seen before. Damn the rules.
FIND THAT ONE MOMENT YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE AND NO ONE’S THOUGHT OF BEFORE – BE FIRST
Because if you think something is preposterous, or will feel like a contrivance, or not plausible, or will be laughed at, just know something crazier has happened in real life.
But if you can capture those moments, and think about them first, and present them with a modicum of craft, respect, enthusiasm, and talent then the world will love you for the opportunity to share that beautiful moment in space and time.
So the next time you go to write a splash page, consider why you are writing it, what do you want to make the world feel? How are you going to evoke that feeling? Scope of size, or body language, or by bringing something new and worthy of study for just a moment. Because the world has plenty of pages of the Spider-Buggy zoooming through the air, and of cape teams launching inexplicably through the air, but they don’t have enough moments of soul searching on a bridge or macking out in the middle of a riot.
If you are going to stop the reader and make them slow down, give them reason to do it and make them feel that page for hours later.