In the last post I left off saying I would outline what I’ve done so far. Rewinding back to the beginning, everything started with the story. And that is the step that tripped me up during my recent attempts to put together a comic project. I needed a story. One thing I’ve come to learn in recent years is that illustration isn’t so much about HOW you draw, but rather WHAT you draw. It’s what you are saying with the things you are drawing. So I wanted to be sure to give this step the attention it deserved.
One suggestion I ran across was to look for a public domain story that you could either use or modify. I did go down that road a bit, but in the end I just didn’t find anything that I thought would be a good fit. Or, they were too long for what I wanted to tackle for this project. And to be honest, I was drawn to the idea of creating my own story vs repurposing something that is already out there.
Once I decided on this, I started gathering ideas and jotting down notes. I wrote out some outlines, then scrapped them and started over. I’d have to say that this part of the process is the most unfamiliar to me, so I definitely felt out of my comfort zone. I mean, pretty much everyone has come up with stories of some kind at some point, but it’s different when you have to actually write it down and plan it out. I remember one day I had a bit of a writing breakthrough and outlined an entire trilogy of a story. Still, what I sensed I was missing was some kind of “plan of attack” when creating this story. I’ve read books on story and screenplay structure, so I understand the basics, but I needed to either revisit it or take another pass at some more formal instruction.
Coincidentally, at a local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meetup (pre-coronavirus shutdown of early 2020), I was talking to a writer and the topic of story came up. He mentioned a book called “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron. He said it was pivotal for him when writing his most recent story. I did some research on her, and found out she has a course on LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) about story called “Writing: The Craft of Story“. Since I have access to LinkedIn Learning, that seemed like a no-brainer. That was just what I was looking for. She outlines a number of things you want to have in your story to make them compelling. I took diligent notes.
I went back and checked my previous ideas against this, and ruthlessly peeled away and retooled until I had what I thought was a good kernel of a story. I also reduced the scope of the story as well into something I thought was more manageable for this project. I then fleshed this out in to more of a short “treatment”, and that’s where the story is at this point. It was enough for me to do a pass at some character and environment design. I wanted to be careful not to get carried away here, but just create an illustration of each character, important vehicle, and the environment just so that I have something to look at to help me write the full story. I actually do have most of these illustrations created at this point too, but I’ll leave that for the next post.