Saturday, November 14, 2009

Back in Action...And a Title!

I am officially healed following the surgery on my back. I'm hesitant to call it "back surgery" because that implies some sort of spinal procedure which this was not. But I must say it's nice to have the stitches out and the bandages thrown away. I'm a fairly squeamish dood and the idea of having bleeding openings in my skin that I could neither reach nor see was very unsettling. I can't imagine what it's like to go through surgery that's actually for something serious. Ich.

Anyway, since the weather is not cooperating with my plans to use the leaf blower (Shut up, Christian!) and this will probably be my last free weekend until after the holidays (Crom bless new business!) I'm jumping full steam ahead back into the 'Haps pages. My output has been shameful of late and not even my usual whining about having a demanding day job can excuse it. So I'll keep this brief and be getting right to work.


Every time they do a comedy bit about Brian working on his "novel" on FAMILY GUY, I cringe a little. It's a hilarious running gag but it hits a little close to home. I've never entertained the idea of writing a novel (too much work) but I have written several unpublishable short stories and one self-indulgent novella (for a writing class in college) and I've written an untold number of scripts for never-produced comics. So you can see why I'm only laughing out of one side of my mouth at the FAMILY GUY bits.

All this makes me a little leery of posting anything about "my story" that I've been discussing for a while. It's setting me up for epic ridicule if nothing comes of it. But that's partially why I'm doing it. It's forcing me to keep going. My convalescence has allowed me some time to work on my script during my lunch breaks which are usually spent at the gym and I'm having a blast seeing this thing that's been in my head coming to life.

One side effect, though, is to see how things that make perfect since in your imagination fail all tests of logic when you start setting them in stone. My stories usually come to me in a series of set pieces. I come up with the premise (I guess what they call "high concept" in Hollywood) and then figure out the ending because that's usually the toughest part. Then it's just a matter of linking and filling in the gaps between the "moments" and working out the beats that comprise each issue. (I have no idea if this is how the pros do it. But it works for me.) This time around, though, I'm finding that one of the earliest "moments" that the entire story hinges on sort of destroys the need for one of my favorite scenes later in the story. I guess this is why Stephen King says you have to be willing to "kill your babies" if it serves the needs of your story. I spent some time trying to reconcile the two scenes but I think I'm just going to have to let it go and move on.

Another thing I'm finding out is just how hard it is to fit everything you want into 22 pages and still have an issue that isn't all talking heads. I'm really struggling with trying to convey the necessary information while, at the same time, keeping the story moving along quickly and leaving time for characterization. First issues are the toughest. You've got to set your story up but you also have to hold reader interest and create a situation they'll come back for in issue two. I think writers have not been given enough credit in comics. Yes, it's a visual medium but if your writer doesn't know what he's doing, nobody's coming back to look at those pretty pictures. I have an all-new admiration for those who can do this job and do it well.

I've also finally settled on a title for the series with the help of my good buddy Christian who helped me choose from a list of about ten possibles. I love getting advice from Christian because he never pulls punches. I sent him my first choice for a title, one that I was fairly excited about and said everything I wanted to about the story. It was going to be called OBEY. Christian sent me back this:


So, after a couple weeks of soul-searching and a couple more stingers from Christian, I've settled on (drumroll, please) THE HAND-ME-DOWN HORROR. Maybe not as serious-sounding (or, to be honest, pretentious) as OBEY, but I like it. It feels a little more like the kind of coming-of-age tale I'm hoping this will be. I hope yo like it.

And I hope you like the sketches at the top of this post. I'm jokingly calling this batch "Battle-Damaged Vampire" after all those ridiculous action figures they come out with these days. I had a lot of fun with these. I've been doing a lot of 3D rendering at work lately and, in between renderings, I've been grabbing up the pencil more and more frequently. Seems my urge to doodle has been returning as the healing itch on my back started subsiding. I cranked these out almost without thinking about them as this guy's big debut has been approaching in my script.

Okay, chums! To the drawing board! Have a great weekend.



Christian D. Leaf said...

You made the right call on the title. You can overthink it and lose some of the punch or keep it simple and fun (and still somewhat menacing), which you're doing. Looking forward to seeing this in print.

Brian said...

I like "Hand Me Down Horror" much more than "Obey."

First and foremost, it tells me what genre the story is in and will grab the attention of folks looking for horror books. Second, it makes me want to know just what the "Hand Me Down Horror" is.

Good work Christian.

And Matt, really like that "battle damaged" vamp. ;-)

P.S. I know what you mean about unpublished scripts, but you have to start somewhere and, the more you write, the more you learn.