Starting your story with an art fact sheet?
Isn’t an art fact sheet something your editor asks you to complete once you’ve submitted the manuscript and it’s been approved? That’s the norm for authors writing for Love Inspired Books anyway.
Love Inspired authors are fortunate to have an opportunity to provide input on covers. Not that all our ideas are used, but we do get to provide insights into the story for the cover artist. LI actually has a database for this purpose that an author completes!
So how can doing an unofficial art fact sheet (known as an AFS) as you’re beginning to formulate a new story help solidify your plot, characters and scenes?
The Love Inspired AFS database will ask you to provide:
A 30-word “teaser” that will hook the reader. You know, something simple like “Drawn to a spunky woman ten years his junior, can a guilt-ridden widower overcome his fears and trust God for a second chance at love?”
A two-line pitch. This forms the introduction to a story synopsis. A 500-word synopsis. 3-5 paragraphs focusing on the conflict and its resolution, not the backstory.
Precise dates for historicals.
Story location. Seaside resort? Montana ranch? Military base? Mountain country Arizona?
Season or holiday. Autumn. Christmas. Valentine’s Day. Fourth of July. The artist may want to play up these seasons or special events.
Story themes. Friends to lovers, second chance at love, military rescue, mail order bride, marriage of convenience, woman in jeopardy, save the ranch.
What the book is about (beyond plot description). In other words, the story’s moral premise. The takeaway.
The most appealing points/elements for the reader. For instance: opposites attract, Southwestern Christmas, guide dogs, May/December romance, wagon train, a wedding, Texas cowboy.
Interesting visual elements. Objects or places that have great significance in the book, such as: An heirloom necklace. A Model T. Pottery the heroine designs. Snow-covered mountains.
Story scene details. The mood, time of day, season, weather, situation/location that would make an eye-catching cover.
Hero and Heroine details. Age, occupation, hair style/color, eye color, race/ethnicity, marital status. Love Inspired also asks for a single defining trait for each character (guilt-ridden, dreamer, headstrong, impulsive, dependable, burned out), as well as a single character type/theme (former bad boy, fugitive, mountain man, tomboy, working mother, undercover cop). These concise portrayals force you to dig out the core essence of your hero and heroine.
You’ll also be asked to provide photo images or links to images of your hero/heroine, children, pets, settings, clothing and images representing action in a scene. Currently, Love Inspired requests ideas/images for three cover options–-two with people and one with scenery only.
I always find photos of people who resemble the hero and heroine I have in mind for my story and place them in a “Wanted Poster” next to my desk to keep their faces fresh in my mind as I write. (But more on THAT in my next Seekerville post!)
Can you see how an Art Fact Sheet might serve as a magnet for drawing ideas and getting the creative juices flowing when brainstorming a new story?
Because you’re not submitting the AFS at this pre-writing point, when things change as you actually write the story, you can modify the AFS. An extra added “beauty” of using AFS basics to help you establish the core of your story is that if your publisher is one who asks for input on cover ideas, there’s no frantic, last-minute scramble. You already have a draft ready to polish and submit.
Plotters, pantsers, and plansters: What advantages/disadvantages do you see in using the elements of a basic art fact sheet to dream up that next book? What other “devices” do you use to nail down the essence of your story and characters as you prepare to launch into a new fictional world?
To celebrate a win in the short contemporary category of the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope & Love “Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award” contest, I’ll do a drawing for a copy of award-winning Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday. If you’re interested in being included, please note which book (or both!) in the comments section.
GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood.
A Future to Build On - All widower Luke Hunter wants is to raise his three kids—and be left alone. When Delaney Marks arrives in town to oversee the youth group's house renovation project, Luke decides he must come out of hiding. He's worried she's too young to get the job done. He'll have to keep a close watch on her—and on his heart. Because being with the vibrant girl makes it easy to forget their age difference and to start hoping for a future he doesn't deserve. As tensions rise over project pressures, Delaney tries to make Luke see that some things are just out of his control—and that he is worthy of happiness...with her. (Release: October 2015)