Where Words and Pictures Party

Building an Idea pt.3

Added on by Timothy O'Briant.

I've taken the past couple of Comic Curves to tell you about how I wrote my first self published project Mera.  I started with just a vague notion of affixing a story to some of my songs, erected a loose framework around that, and slowly filled in a story plot point by plot point.  It's all fabulously entertaining and I recommend reading the previous two entries before this one.  Today I'm going to talk about an addition to my writing process that I think I will use on every project hereafter.

Thumbnails are wonderful.  Well, truthfully I made a little more than thumbnails.  I took all the notes and lyrics I had written down previously and folded a stack of computer paper in half.  I counted it out to make sure that I would have my 48 pages and a cover, no more no less.  This became a minicomic version of Mera's rough draft. 

I would look over the notes I had written down and then go about drawing out the panels and pictures page by page.  I wanted to make sure every page progressed naturally even without dialogue.  A major goal for my art was that I could present a story clearly.  By creating each panel before I had dialogue I hoped to ensure that every panel was servicing the narrative.  For an example, page 8's description was "sinking underwater unconcious".  This was obviously beefed up and modified.  One reason being that I had wanted to end the previous page on the moment he was struck off the boat.  The other reason was I felt showing him falling off the boat and sinking was a lot more exciting than just sloshing around in the water.

After I had done layouts for the entire book I felt a lot more confident about my story.  Everything seemed to progress in a congruous manner.  Though the chapters were going to be fairly different from one another I felt the transitions were never jarring.  As I came up with the layouts and looked over my 'mini comic' dialogue slowly started popping up in my head.  Some things in the book are nearly verbatim from conversations I've had with people throughout my life. 

With 3rd World I tried very hard not to let any of my particular jargon slip into any of the characters.  In Mera I wanted everything to be as natural and organically me as I could put onto the page.  When the sailor feels defeated I wanted him to say and think what I do when feeling defeated.  If sections of the book sound preachy, or aloof, or sarcastic it's because those are all parts of me reflected back into my work.  This slowly became the driving motivator in the story.  Without even realizing it (or maybe because I had no plan) I had written a story about a man who is set free by his art.  I needed to share my music, I needed to make a comic.  The sailor's journey was a direct parallel to mine.  Some of the details are fudged (the sailor making sculptures instead of my cds/books being the most obvious) but pretty much note for note I'd written a story where a man had learned to take his loss and make something worthwhile out of it.  A way of taking our pain, and instead of dwelling on the immutable, creating something beautiful to share.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you check out Mera.  It's available online right here on Strips4. 


Hopefully soon, we'll have a way for everyone to buy the hard copy right here off the site.  I guess the lesson to be taken from this is that if you put a little of yourself into each of your project you may learn about more than just your doodles.

-Jon O