Friday, 20 January 2017

Writing 'Ezra'

My new writing project is a comic strip called Ezra & His Human. It is the story of a shadow, Ezra, who finds he no longer agrees with his human's politics and so detaches from him!

The idea stemmed when I messaged a friend called Judit. We met at my days working in cinema, and we bonded over my love of all things Hungary. Judit let on that she liked to draw and had, in fact, studied architecture in Budapest. One night she drew me this image - and instantly, my brain whizzed away, and came up with a story to fit what I saw:

Initially I thought of this as a 5 page strip, along the same lines as the other comics I had recently written. Over the Christmas period, with web loads at work minimum and no events to run, I found I had a lot of spare time - and used it wisely, crafting the opening few pages of the story.

You may know my technique already (I can't recall if I have ever explained it on here) - but I'll detail it again anyway. I take my notebook, and make various doodles - crafting panels of the comic, creating the story as I go. Once I'm happy with a page (and it's not unusual that I go back and have a second go at it) I then transcribe what I have written, and turn it into text. Like this:

PAGE NINE - Seven Panels (2/2/2/1)

Panel One: Medium long shot, from a high angle, as Ezra walks down the street – behind a smaller child (maybe 10/11 years old), who watches something on their table as they go. From the tablet, small:
1: ANNOUNCER:  We interrupt this broadcast for a special message from the President.
Panel Two: Medium close up on President Popular, delivering a speech from the White House Press Office. Here, to begin with, he’s calm. There’s a slight filter effect used on the image, to signify that we’re watching something from a tablet.
1: POPULAR:          Shadows.
Panel Three: A little closer on Popular, who’s expression is now a pretend puzzled, used to support his point... Filter effect gone.
1: POPULAR:          What do they even do?
Panel Four: Closer still. Popular has a very snarky look on him.
1: POPULAR:          Seriously. They contribute nothing!
Panel Five: Closer... Popular looking mildly angry.
1: POPULAR:          They’re free loaders.
Panel Six: Closer... Popular looking angrier.
1: POPULAR:          Vermin.
Panel Seven: Extreme close on Popular’s mouth, shouting, furious.

1: POPULAR:          And they need to go!!
This process continues until I have completed the comic, and then I send it off to my friend Jonathan Stevenson - who acts as my editor (he is, in fact, a professional editor with Titan Comics). His feedback is much appreciated and actually quite helpful. He will tell me that a page is a dud, or if the strip can be shortened, what sequences need a new focus, etc.

After that, I send off to the prospective artists.

In the case of Ezra, I quickly found the 5 page limit to be restrictive - and I spoke to Jonathan to ask his advice about extending the idea. In the end I settled on making it 22 pages instead (standard for US books) - and as a result found that I had a lot more material needed to make the story reach that far, because obviously, there's a lot more content needed for 22 pages than 5! But Ezra has a great political backbone. I think it warrants the extra breathing space.

So, every day I have been crafting (on average) a page of this new beast. Saying that, I did kinda get stuck all this week on one pesky page - that I still don't think I've successfully cracked (page 10), but it's drafted now, and I've finally moved on to the next sequences! It means, as I write this, I am up to page 12 - thus entering the second half of the writing process. It's exciting, because every page gets me that bit closer to the ending, but I am still nervous that the second half won't live up to the first, and will put every ounce of my writing ability into ensuring it does!

No news on who will draw it. Judit can't commit to something this long, which is a shame. Also a shame is the fact I know somebody who would be perfect for this - Gabi - but I feel I can't approach her to do it.

Further updates to follow!


I'm also (!) writing a couple of new issues in my Darkened Avenue series (030 & 031 to be exact!). The first of these is called "Milk" and explores a simple idea - what does a child think when their milk supply runs out, and they are suddenly faced with the reality of life during wartime? I'm about 7 pages into that as of right now, adding more nightly.

I tend to split writing Ezra into daytime (so whilst at work/on lunch break) and "Milk" when I get home at night.

Seems to be working. Haven't been this active with my writing since at least 2005!
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