0001 - Why write this story?
Thought I'd get started today on my little 'insider look' at the making of a comic book/graphic novel. Before I get started, here's my disclaimer: I don't claim to be an expert on any of this, but with a bit of confidence, smarts, and help from my friends, I can probably work my way through most of it. These journal notes are NOT intended to be perfect, essay style entries. Comic book deadlines are hell, so I make no promises on the quality of the information I'm presenting. You'll find typos, grammar problems, logic errors, constantly contradicting information, and all sorts of things that will annoy and offend those with an eye for perfection. I publish these entries in several different places, please feel free to choose your favorite and stick with it, or jump around if you'd like.
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So toughen up, don't sweat the small stuff, and enjoy the process of making comics, presented in no particular order:
Lets talk about "ideas" for a minute. I've got a massive amount of 'raw ideas' in my notebooks waiting to be hatched. They include high-concept premises, raw story arcs, interesting personal experiences, newspaper clippings, interesting scenes, character sketches, dialogue chunks, anecdotes, scene transitions, etc. These pieces don't really have a home. They're just random idea snippets without a purpose.
Then there are those OTHER ideas. The stronger ideas that build themselves inside my head and try to claw their way out. They actually devour those other 'raw ideas' and use them to fill in holes and create something I didn't expect to find. I don't normally do this intentionally, there's a subconscious evolution of these ideas that just sort of happens. Sometimes I can snap in a piece and it fits great, but most of the time, the pieces just build themselves in the background of my mind. The PROBLEM with these ideas is they have no patience. They're constantly trying to sneak out onto the page. And I suppose that's a good thing.
The story idea I'm going to discuss here is one I've had for a few years. I've been beating it back, sitting on it, waiting until I had enough writing practice and art chops to pull it off. I'm not sure if I'm 100% ready, but the time feels right to give it a shot.
I've been asked a few times why I 'decided' to start writing my own stuff instead of just continuing to be a freelance artist, and the truth is that my plan all along was to write my own stuff. It was just EASIER to start freelancing as an artist first, then transition into writing, and I knew I had a lot more to learn about writing before I was ready to jump in. But, yes, I have thought about WHY I wanted to start writing. I think the desire to write is born in one of two places, or a combination of the two:
For the first group, writing is like breathing. They've got stories in their heads that MUST come out. These stories can ONLY be told by that particular creator because the stories are personal, real, and authentic. The stories are part of the fabric of that individual. So they write. If they don't write, these stories build up stronger and stronger like inflating a balloon. The writing is the RELEASE of that energy, not the source. The advantage these writers have is an endless source of ideas and inspiration. Ideas are a fountain waiting to be turned on. The danger is a story might be so personal it never reaches a wide audience, and suffers forever in obscurity.
The second is the desire to BE a writer because they're a fan of quality writing and strive to become one themselves. It's the pursuit of a career they find interesting and inspiring. So WANTING to write is the source of energy. This second group is often on the 'hunt' for new ideas and is probably the group that most often gets writer's block. The advantage with this type of writer is they know how to reach a wide audience because they ARE that audience. The danger here is the writer will spend a career re-creating rather than creating and never realize it.
I think both groups are valid and I know very skilled and successful writers from each of these groups. But if you happen to be a healthy mix of BOTH, you've got a real shot at greatness. I do think you can survive and thrive if you only have ONE of the two, but you've got to be able to overcome the limitations of that group to succeed. As of today, I haven't figured out where I fit in, but this particular story contains a little of both groups. I'm curious to see where it goes from here.
Thanks for reading!
— Kody Chamberlain