Tucked away underneath the futon cushion, shielded by years of dead skin particles and all manner of bodily fluid stain is where you will always find Bread Crumbs from the Void! For those of my three or four readers that reside in the good old U. S. of A., I hope you have found a suitable outlet for the dismay and anger the current administration has been causing. Be that vice chemical, animal, or mineral you and I both will need a proverbial pillow in which to shriek for the remainder of the Commander-In-Tweets reign. Those in my limited audience that may reside outside these divided states of America, consider yourself fucking fortunate!
As I have stated in previous installments of this column, reading and writing are both top notch evacuation plans for me. I devour weighty tome after weighty tome losing myself in the gravity of the subject matter regarding another (typically fictional) person’s existence. While I do diverge from time to time, literary fiction and graphic novels are my drugs of choice when extrication is a necessity. Purchasing a grip of books always remains a thoroughly enjoyable practice though with my perpetually eroding bank account this is not a ritual I partake in with any amount of frequency.
One of the joys to be found in these cornucopias of jocularity is the influence and inspiration to propel my own work. Submerging myself in a project or perspiring towards a deadline are also techniques which I employ to allow the threat of the exterior world to dissipate. In fact, when I am buried in work I scarcely have time to consider the woes of life or looming desperation lurking just outside my own front door. If not for this reason alone I have enmeshed myself in an array of labor spanning form and skillset. Be sure to keep your different projects as varied as possible. This assists in avoiding the dreaded work doldrums, otherwise known as creative fatigue.
Naturally your instinct may be to recoil at the very thought of subjecting yourself to such torture. In the event that I have not expressed this enough over the course of the last year, if you are not busting your ass every second of every spare moment you are privy to then you will never accomplish anything with your writing. To keep myself from plunging into a canyon of apathy regarding my ventures I have elected to — on top of my full-time job — produce a weekly online illustrated series (Decades of (in)Experience published by Antix Press), a bi-weekly writing column (the dreck which you happen to be perusing this moment), a monthly satirical comic strip (Mr. Butterchips published by Drunk Monkeys), and am currently producing a new graphic novel.
Using the latter as an example today’s article will demonstrate just how different the mechanisms can be for diverse writing-based assignments. Follow me as I walk all of you degenerates through my approach to writing for a graphic novel.
Now, if there are any of you prose whores out there in internet land steadfast in your belief that the words actually are the only aspect that matters, you can fuck right off and choke to death. Serving the story is the main objective. You will do well to remember that. With each particular mode of storytelling comes a specific role of writing and said capacities can drastically transmute.
To be fair “All in the Words” may be a bit of an oversimplification for such a unique art form such as comics, but the writing remains to be of the utmost importance to be sure. The art and words interplay to such a degree that the illustrations themselves become a part of the writing… But, I am getting ahead of myself.
Most comic scribes will attest to the fact that writing for sequential stories is comparable, or at least analogous, in form and function to that of screenwriting. A specific module is employed where dialogue and action are separated to convey a clearer directive to the artist. In my innately contrary manner I wipe my ass with such time-honored practices and compose my scripts using a far more intuitive methodology. It veers closer to prose, however I separate lines to denote each panel.
If you are aiming to write for comics and you enjoy the screenplay style, by all means knock yourself out. I am speaking literally if you plan to simply emulate Jeph Loeb or Brian Michael Bendis. For shits and giggles here is how a sample of my “script” appears:
(Close on MC’s head on pillow as eyes open)
There were numerous reasons we waited to announce that Yvette was pregnant. One was the pendulous, and realistic, threat of losing the pregnancy.
Both of our families shared a devastating history littered with miscarriages.
Once my manuscript has been revised and rewritten around twenty thousand times to a point where I consider the stack of murdered trees and jumbled nouns to be complete, I progress to the thumbnail stage. My tendency is towards spewing verbiage diarrhea in excess of what is necessary to communicate the story in a graphic novel. Constantly I must remind myself that I can allow the drawings to carry their fair share of the narrative.
Economy of language is paramount in comics.
Whilst I flagellate through this layout phase my aim is to construct the pages to allow for maximum movement and flow. By this I mean the succession of panels must be painfully evident to even the dimmest of fuckwits. There can be absolutely no shadow of a doubt remaining as to which narrative box or dialogue bubble is read next. There should be no hesitation as to the order of action depicted.
Thumbnails are merely intended for the artist, in this case myself. So, though the following sketchy communique appears rough to the laymen outside observer I alone have the ability to interpret this visual Morse Code:
The script has been completed. The order of every single panel has been meticulously fucking conceptualized. The only sadistic avenue left to explore is ink on the page. Believe it or not there is still revision which occurs during this final act. As I craft the thumbnails at roughly a quarter of the size of a finished page there are often times when I will need to rearrange panels — if not completely transfer them to another page — to better facilitate the pace. Additional dialogue may need to be trimmed to afford my page the shapely bikini body it so desires.
Do not take my word for it. I could simply be a snake oil salesman attempting to con my way into a position of power… Er, popularity for my work. For legitimate proof feast your peepers upon this sample:
I do hope this aggravatingly limited peek at my new graphic novel has made you just a teensy bit wet for the finished product. As my agent and I are currently attempting to find this stray a loving home I simply cannot divulge one detail more. Not without booze offerings or sexual favors anyway.
If you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: https://alexschumacherart.com/about/. Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, or declarations of lust.
Bread Crumbs from the Void will return in two weeks with another thrilling edition of hard-nosed reality for you big-talkers and wannabes. Until next time, keep scribbling you freaks.
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