Creating a Comic Book - Dungeon Buddies - Part 1 of ?

I'm writing a comic book.

Here's how it happened. I was at a 5X5 meeting in Muskegon, Michigan, that's a uniquely structured venture capital seed fund. It's fun to go watch the presentations. I saw a few people that I know: a guy that I used to work with at Muskegon Community College who I found out was an original founder of the Muskegon Inventors Network, a guy that I went to a political training course with in Grand Rapids a few years ago, and Michelle.

I know Michelle through Toastmasters. She thought it was funny that I was an English teacher and writer and that I would write the shortest notes when I gave feedback on speeches. She was a judge at the venture capital fund meeting and asked me how my writing was going. I told her about the stories I'm editing for "Horror Without Borders", the weekly article I'm writing for 88.9 Hey Radio, the speeches I'm writing for the Potter in the Park festival, and a few more things I'm working on. She said that she had someone that I needed to connect with who had an idea for a comic book.

Chuck and I emailed a bit and arranged a time for me to meet him at his house. I thought we might talk about the idea for a couple of hours maybe. There had just been an ice storm. I needed to get gas on the way and the gas station near my house was out of power. The next gas station had power but their outdoor card slot wasn't working because it was frozen. Luckily, I made it. We ended up talking about all sorts of things for 5 hours. That was a month ago.

Since then we've been sending messages back and forth, and met at Lange's comic book store to go over things. Chuck had the kernel of an idea, but he needed a writer to really bring a narrative together. He's an illustrator. I've been trying to lay out all of the information and options and get my mind wrapped around this story idea.

I've been playing with documents for sharing information between us. I think I may need to create a story bible, where you have all of the information that you need to track through the story so you don't contradict yourself about clothing, or money, or eye color, or whatever. I might do this in a grid format. Then there's the big one, the script. Comic book scripts are written a lot like movie and television scripts, with some variations.

Chuck wants this comic book to be able to be done in print format and as an electronic format. In the electronic format there will be a whole page that is broken up into three even pieces. This allows you to easily zoom in on each of these three sections if you're using a phone or tablet. I have to make sure when I'm thinking about the panels that I don't break a piece of dialogue or narration between these pieces, and that the pictures won't be broken up in an odd way.

I think this might be quiet a clunky process because the idea isn't fully coming together in my mind. There are a few things that you can do in this case: 1) You can wait. This is fairly common, even among great writers. Mark Twain often did this, there was one short story that he thought about for 12 years before he took the 4 hours to write it. Michael Crichton thought about "Jurassic Park" for 8 years before he started writing it. 2) You can stumble forward. The process probably won't be as smooth this way, but the progress will be much faster. This is the only real choice I have here, and that's good because I have a tendency to think about things for years. That's a good way to really mull over your ideas and come up with unique things, but it isn't very productive.

I want this to have the possibility of moving forward as a story after this first plot concludes. That means that I want it to end without a power increase on the part of our protagonists. If their power increases after each adventure then the power of the enemies has to increase and eventually everyone is just way too powerful. This power creep is common in superhero comic books. This isn't a superhero comic book, but the problem still needs to be avoided.

I've been exploring comic books. A few years ago, after I got back from my misadventure in Africa, I realized that if I recovered I wanted to do some writing. I knew that I wanted to write in a few different mediums. But, I hadn't read in a few of those mediums. I had read thousands of books, a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I had tried a lot of other things, but I really hadn't read very many comic books, screenplays, television scripts, plays, or epic poems. Over the last couple of years I've been exposing myself to these.

It seems to me that many things in life are an acquired taste. The first 7 times that I tried sushi I didn't like it. But, after a few years of trying it I eventually tried it one time and liked it. And I liked it ever afterward. It's the same idea with these different forms of reading and writing. You have to be in a different frame of mind to read a comic book versus a novel versus a movie script. It's just different.

Luckily this process has finally come through for me. It's a beautiful thing to see something that you've been working on come to fruition. Now I have lists of favorites. The first comic book that I ever picked up and read in the store where I was like, "Wow! This is a good story." is "Venom #10". "The Secret Battles of Genghis Khan" is an amazing graphic novel, a graphic novel is the same idea as a comic book, it's usually just a bit longer and is sometimes focused on different subjects than you may associate with comics. "A Contract With God" by Will Eisner is a graphic novel that will blow your mind. It starts with a man walking home in the rain from his teenage daughter's funeral. Comics can be intense.

The first television script that I couldn't pull myself away from was the "Taboo" pilot. The show stars Tom Hardy. I'm reading the screenplay "Passengers" right now. I've tried to read this screenplay probably 5 or 6 times over the last few years. Each time I stopped a handful of pages in because I just wasn't into it. The format threw me off, then I would read a novel instead. But, this time is different. I'm truly enjoying this screenplay and sometimes stay up too late reading it.

I'm almost continually reading "Prometheus Bound" by Aeschylus at this point. The more I read it the better I think it is. It's a 2,500 year old epic poetry play, and still great, and still applies to life.

Anyway, back to my comic book. Chuck already had a name, ideas for characters, some plot and scene ideas, and a few other things. "Dungeon Buddies" is the name. It's an adventure story. For this first story arc I'm thinking that there will be 10 individual comic books of about 20 pages each. This will work well to publish them separately and to put them together into a single volume. Let's think about how these may breakdown.

The first book will start our mystery. Our two main guys are Lut and Gaza, Lut is pronounced Loot. Their names are from the Latin and have meanings that fit in with their backstories. We'll dive into that more in another article. Lut and Gaza are adventure hunters. Our story opens with them finding a magical gauntlet in a cave. Lut puts this gauntlet on and can't get it off. It also seems to be indestructible. This discovery process should work for the first book to get the mystery going.

The tenth book in the series will have to resolve the gauntlet issue in a way that our characters don't end up with more power. Somehow we have to use the gauntlet to defeat the evil plot behind all of the adventures we've had over the last 9 books.

In between the first and the tenth books there are a few things we'll need to hit on. There are two other main characters that will be joining Lut and Gaza. We don't have names for them yet. One will be a girl who will probably be a goblin, and there will be a guy that will probably be a race that we invent called Brutes. Introducing each of these characters along with moving the plot forward could be a book. I have a lot of their characteristics and such worked out in general. We'll dive into that more in another post.

So far we are up to four books: the opening, the ending, and two character intro stories. The goblin girl and the Brute could have their backstories explored in the same book that they're introduced in. Maybe the backstories for Lut and Gaza could be revealed slowly, or maybe a single book should do them both along with their meeting, or maybe it should be one each. I'm not sure about that yet.

The rest of the books will simply focus on moving the plot forward. Now, when I usually write I don't do much in the way of plotting. Sometimes I have a general idea and sometimes I don't. For this story I think I need to have a solid outline. Writers vary so much on how they do this, I've written posts breaking down the process that different famous writers use, it's all over the place. I've been thinking that I want to work on plotting more anyway, so this works out well.

I watched Christopher Paolini on a panel at Grand Rapids Comic Con last year. He's famous for writing the fantasy series "The Inheritance Cycle". He started writing that when he was 15, self published when he was 17, was picked up by a major publisher when he was 19, and is a huge international success. After that he wrote a bunch of other stuff that sucked. It was awesome hearing him talk about that other stuff because most successful people don't really dig into their failures, especially their failures after they have been successful. Paolini wrote an entire epic science fiction trilogy that he didn't publish because it wasn't good, along with a few other things. He said he finally realized that he wasn't producing good material because he had forgotten how to plot. Something to think about.

In the next post we'll dig into the characters and plot more. I have many ideas about these things, now the decisions have to start being made.

(I wish some of the writers that I love had done this when they were writing, e.g. George R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, Patrick Rothfuss, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ken Grimwood, etc. It's unusual, that's true. I have an unusual take on transparency, I think it's a good thing to engage in voluntarily. That's why I have four psychology profiles and my full resume publicly available on my website. I also don't believe in spoilers. If it's a good story then you can't spoil it. Many people disagree with one or both of these views of life. Luckily Chuck is fine with me writing about the writing process. I think I'm going to make it a personal policy that I only work on projects that I can publicly post like this. I basically have so far and I greatly prefer it. I've had several comments from people that are learning to write telling me how me revealing my process has helped them. It's not the same when writers talk or write about their writing after the fact. Some publishers won't accept your work if you have published it before. But, some of them will if it's on a personal blog, which this is. Time will tell if this approach leads to good consequences, but it's definitely a more enjoyable process.)

Here's that post about some of the processes that other writers follow:


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