Why, you ask? Does it matter, say we? Because they’re fucking fun, and they can turn someone’s frown upside down. And that’s all the reason you should need.
But, you say, how can I, lowly PopGurl wanna-be, make a sassy and fun activity book?
Because we care, we’re going to walk you through it. Step by painful step.
Step Numba One: Brainstorming. What belongs in an activity book? What is your theme? Will it be black and white, and thereby a coloring book, or will collages from magazine clippings be more your groove? How many pages? How will you bind it all together?
Sketches of ideas for the layout are important; start doodling to get an idea of the magnitude of the project. Also, a key factor to consider is time: How much of it you have and how much of it you are willing to invest. If you are like me, and find timeliness to be a restriction inflicted upon you by the bourgeoisie and being perpetually tardy is your god given right, then this will not be an issue. It will also not be an issue if you have understanding friends who do not mind getting their birthday present in February. When they blew out the candles in November. Heh. Yeah, sorry about that Amy.
Step Numba Two: Materials. Now that you have a general idea of what you want to do, you need to decide how you want to do it. Will typing paper work, or would heavy-duty drawing paper better fit your needs? How much paper will you need? Will you be drawing everything, or will you be cutting and pasting? If the latter, may I suggest rubber cement for all your gluing/sniffing needs. While Elmer’s glue certainly does the trick, it also leaves unsightly tracks. Go for the cement. Plus, when you get bored, you can roll up little cement boogers and flick them at the waitress as she walks by. If you were doing this in, say, a restaurant while on a lunch break at a seminar. Which I do not suggest. No. No, I can’t suggest that.
Do a mental check of things you might need: Pens, glitter glue, pencils, stencils, sanity. Make sure you have all the necessary items before launching the campaign. Trust me, once you start, it is imperative that you not stop. Or you might just find out that this cute little project is still not done months later. Just, you know, some friendly advice.
Step Numba Three: Okay, you have the ideas. You have the materials. Now comes the difficult part: Seeing your wonderful, unique ideas become reality. Because, as we have often found out, reality does not often bend to the wonders that are our minds. Play with it. Have fun with it. And, if you get stuck, you know who to turn to. We’re here for you, really. And we only mock a little.
THE MAKING OF AN ACTIVITY BOOK, the Hero’s Journey
To assist you in your first endeavor into the world of dot-to-dots and paper dolls, we detail here the making of the Roswell Activity Book – which, come to think of it, didn’t have dot-to-dots or paper dolls…eh, that’s inconsequential. If you need advice on paper dolls or dot-to-dots, drop us a line. But can I give you a bit of sanity-saving advice?
Skip the paper dolls. They’re a total pain in the ass. Trust me, I do these things so you don’t have to.
Okay, brainstorming…what belongs…what belongs…After much debate and research (read: Sitting in the children’s section of the book store, thumbing through coloring books), it was decided that a proper activity book based on a whacked-out TV show should include at least one of each of the following: mazes, crossword puzzles, word searches, color-in-the-squares-with-the-dot thingys, find-this-in-the-picture things, decryption, games, pictures to color in, and lots and lots of inside jokes mocking said show.
After much cursing, suffering of looks of curiosity from passers-by and general pissiness when something didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to – like Liz’s nose or Michael’s fucking hair, for example – the primary sketches were complete. The clues and answers for the crossword puzzles were planned out. The mazes had been drawn. And now, it was time to transfer the dream to paper.
A format of typing paper, stapled inside a tough, construction paper cover, was decided upon. Veering away from collages – I like to use that for my greeting cards – I chose to draw everything by hand. Yeah…Can I just suggest you cheat and cut out pictures? It cuts, like, YEARS off of your projected completion time. YEARS. Okay, I’m exaggerating. Months, maybe. But it felt like YEARS. A lot more cursing, lots of crumpled, torn up paper, some alcohol and YEARS later, the character drawings were done. Cute labels for the pages were created and oh so finely written in with my slothful handwriting, such as “Max Evans: Possessor of the EARs.” Hey, I’m not going for perfection here. Fine, great, dandy, moving along. Now it was time for the fun stuff. The activity stuff.
Now, one might assume that a crossword puzzle is a beast easily tamed. If you’re me, this is really not the case. There are a few basic rules to follow, which I have always managed to ignore. Do as I say, not as I do.
A few handy rules to keep in mind:
1. Make your questions as oblique and obtuse as possible. For example: “Michael suffers from this” leaves much more room for brain-wracking, speculation and frustration than, say, “Michael shares this trait with many habitual smokers of herbal remedies.” See? See the fun inherent in this? Yeah, most people who do my crosswords don’t either. [Oh yeah, try sitting in a hotel room for hours, trying to figure out a 12-letter word for “Liz does this.” Michelle is sooo lucky she got in the next day. – Amy]
2. Make sure you have the proper number of squares to fit your answer. Too few is just as damaging as too many. For example, if the answer is supposed to be “hotfroboyaction,” yet you have only provided 12 squares… chaos could, hypothetically, ensue. Learn to count.
It is your friend.
3. Erase all of your answers from the final product. Completely. Sure, this sounds like common sense. Just trust me on this. And besides, copy machines can pick up amazingly small traces of writing. Really.
4. Make the answer key before erasing the answers. Once again, just trust me on this. This one is key. Shut up Amy.
There really aren’t any hard and fast bits of advice I can give you here. I like to draw a grid, fill in the words I want them to look for, and then fill in suggestive words and expletives (Checked all the way through that *NSYNC one yet, Melynee dear? Ahem.) anywhere I can fit them when filling it up.
But that’s just me. You can also try random letters. I hear that works too.
I like to keep them simple. My only piece of advice here is to make sure there is actually a way through. Otherwise, it kind of defeats the purpose. View mine!
Fill in the Square with the Symbol with a Certain Color
What are these called? Do they have a normal fucking name that doesn’t take forever for me to type out? I’m going to have to look into it. Though the name says it all, and probably more than it should, these are the ones where it looks like a cubist’s nightmare, and each block has a symbol or a set of dots in it, and at the bottom there’s a key, telling you what color to use. And when you’re done, ta da! There’s a picture! Um, if done right. Let me just warn you, these are a pain in the tuchus. Really. If it can be avoided, do so. If not, draw the picture first. Keep it simple. Slash it up randomly with a pen, dot at will. Define random colors, then try to forget the entire, trying experience. View mine!
I love doing this stuff. There are a few different ways to do this. One – and this one takes time but I’m a geek and love to do it – make up a new alphabet. This was easy enough to fit into the Roswell theme, seeing as how they’re aliens and it was important information written in their native language on a cave wall. See? It just clicked. I’ve seen other coloring books cram “Egyptian hieroglyphs” into the “theme” of their books, and others just blatantly don’t care if it fits the theme and do whatever the hell they feel like. The heathens. Once you have as many letters as you feel your new alphabet needs, create a key on one side of the page. If you’re feeling nice. If you’re not, don’t give them the key and see if they’re as smart as they think they are. HA! The other way is to write your dialogue, or clue, or whatever it is your brilliant mind has come up with, then mix it up. So it’s more of an unscrambling thing, but we’ll call it whatever we want.
Where’s Such and Such in the Picture?
Another item that really must have a cooler name than this. The trick to this is to draw it as busy and as cluttered as possible. For the Roswell book I stole the theme of Liz losing her journal and searching through her room for it, which automatically gave me license to make it as messy and evil as I wanted it to be. Also, questionable definition in the drawing helps up the confusion ante. I mean, are you sure that’s the pirate’s eye patch underneath the dresser, and not just a random sock? No, you’re not, are you?
God, I love to make games. And, in reality, they probably only amuse me. Do I care? No.
This one really requires pre-planning. One, you have to decide what the point of the game is. Yes, it needs one. Two, careful plotting of the squares is essential. Unless you’re me. If you’re me, you draw it willy-nilly off the top of your head, fill in the squares with things that amuse you and send it off without testing it to see if anyone can actually win. Once again, do as I say, not as I do. Especially if your game is propelled by instructions in the squares. For instance, your game probably isn’t going to be played more than once if the last square sends you back two, which sends you forward two, which sends you back two… See where I’m going with this? But, once again, if you’re me, this is inconsequential.
A few tips for the aspiring game creator
1. Decide if the
victims players will use die, draw cards, or follow the instructions on the squares. Having used all three, I can’t recommend one over the other. It really depends on your energy/creativity level. If you’re not feeling the game love, go for die, it’s easier and takes less time.
2. Make cool game pieces. Do not just instruct them to use a penny or a button. Where’s the fun in that? For the Roswell game I printed out two of the same cast picture, glued them head to head, photocopied it and voila! – A playing piece for each player!
3. As previously stated, make sure it is possible to get to the end. If you’re feeling generous.
4. Make it confusing. Confusing is good. Also, mocking is acceptable.
Complete the Drawing
This one’s fairly easy – basically, a space filler. Draw something – I drew Isabel getting ready for a not-date with Alex – and have the beneficiary of the book complete it. Amy got to clothe Isabel, the lucky bitch. View mine!
Ta da! Still with us? Sane? Blood pressure is relatively close to normal? Excellent!
You are already well ahead of me, grasshopper! We’re almost done! Now you just need to put it all together.
Having completed it all, traced it successfully with black marker, photocopied it without remembering to erase the crossword puzzle answers, and completely failing to put in an answer key, I was ready to send it off. But first, it needed a cover. Having exhausted most of my mental abilities for a year, I went the easy route. I printed off color photos of the cast, glued them on heavy construction paper, stapled the pages inside in the PROPER order (another key issue) and mailed it off. Never, ever, say I don’t love you, Amy. Or I will hunt you down.