Making Comics and Graphic Novels with Kazu Kibuishi – The Sunday Reblog

If you get a chance to see a writer at work and talking about their craft… I highly recommend it. I got to watch graphic novelist Kazu Kibuishi at work at the recent Alaska Library Association conference, and it was just amazing. And so I wrote one of my longest ever posts…

Comparative Geeks

Last week I wrote quite a rant about comics, and about how I don’t find them to be a bad thing. I tried to also stress the point that this hasn’t made me blind to the state of the world, doesn’t make me a child. Well, somewhere in the process of writing the rant, I got it all pretty much out of my system.

Kazu Kibuishi Presentation - Amulet Covers

Which was a good thing, because the next day, I had the opportunity to see graphic novelist Kazu Kibuishi presenting on “Making Comics and Graphic Novels.” And I pretty much came at this with my mind clear, which led to five and a half pages of notes (taken on my iPhone no less). There’s no way I can include all of the insights from Kazu, so at the very least, I need to pretty much leave myself out from here.

Kazu is known for a number…

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I need a couple of character names!

A male and female character name. For science fiction. Human.

Go!

W – Writer’s Block

WAh, Writer’s Block. That scourge of writers the world over. I suppose. Is it though? What are some of the elements of Writer’s Block?

For me, the very first and major hurdle of Writer’s Block is how to start. I, like many writers I imagine, have a number of stories mapped out in my head, notes hidden around in margins, on smart phones, tablets, writing programs. When do you know enough? About your characters, your setting? Do you understand it all? Have you read enough to know that no one else has already written your story? And how do you hook your readers?

This is a hard wall to get past, for sure. As best I understand, at some point you just have to start. For me, that’s still a work in progress.

Once you’re going, maybe you started too soon! Oh no, how do you resolve this part? Describe this scene? How do you convey to your readers exactly what you feel when you think about it? Or maybe you know time needs to pass, but don’t know what might happen between where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Maybe you need to give another character some time in the sun, but aren’t sure what to have happen.

Or maybe Writer’s Block is just your excuse – your excuse for having a life, for letting time get away from you, for not being as diligent in writing as you feel like you ought to be. Because while the largest category is likely the books never written, there is still very likely a very large selection of books started but unfinished. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s life.

And then there’s towards the end, you have a written story! But you’re editing. Thinking it through, revising. Have you developed your voice enough? Have you used good language to convey your points and story? And is it something unique, something that hasn’t been written before? Is it something new under the sun?

At some point you have to let it go, have to decide it’s good enough. Not everyone can be J.K. Rowling or George Lucas and edit their works after they’re already published. But before you reach that point, you can likely hit the hardest road blocks, the most doubt: is it good enough? Will anyone, in their right mind – or at least the mind they bring to the table on the day they’re making the decision – publish it? Would you even self-publish it yourself? As you might be your hardest critic, after all.

I can see a lot of things we might mean by Writer’s Block. Once I get going, in a single session, I tend not to stop when writing – I tend to flow. For me, the trouble is getting started, is having the time, is taking the time. How about you? Any Writer’s Block stories or tips to share? Venture forth to the comments below! Can’t think of what to comment about? Writer’s Block strikes again!

U – Understanding

U

Okay, so on the one hand, this seems like me reaching for something that starts with U for the A to Z Challenge. On the other hand, this is one of the ones that made some of the most sense to me.

The famous quote is, of course, Write What You Know. Because in so many ways, writing is taking what you know, and making it so it’s a thing the reader knows. Maybe they won’t know all of it – maybe they’ll only take a quote away. Nonetheless, you’re adding to what they know.

However, as you may have noticed, I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy – genres that are impossible if you take a literal interpretation of “Write What You Know.” Only a handful of people would be qualified to write about travel in space. No one has been to Middle Earth (except apparently anyone who has been to New Zealand). And yet, these works can be written, and read, and understood.

So that is the crux of the matter: it’s about understanding. The writer should understand what they are including in their book: understand the language they are using, understand the grammar and words; understand the characters they are including, their psychology and experiences; understand the setting and the things that happen there, whether that’s the climate or how the people fight or what they eat for breakfast.

And maybe you don’t have to know all of those things. And certainly you don’t have to have experienced them all yourself. But the writer should have an understanding of these things – whether that comes from education, research, reading, experiences, talking to people or experts, or wild extrapolation.

Because when you understand it, and put it in such that it makes sense and is believable, your readers will get it too. Not to say all writing must be realistic in that it is only real things that happen; however, the things that happen should be internally consistent, should have a realism within the world they are in. Whether that’s how alien technologies work or magic systems or biology or computer software (No click enhance! Bad!). By understanding these things happening, you can create that consistency, make things make sense, and have their own logic. And then your readers will understand, too.

What do you think? Write What You Know? How much do you need to understand? Let me know in the comments down below!

C – Characters

CIn all of my thinking and planning for the A to Z Challenge, I have found that C is a pretty easy letter to work with. Almost too easy – you end up with too many things to choose from. There are a few letters like that. And maybe why I’m thinking about it is because today’s topic matches what my wife and I are doing on Comparative Geeks: we’re going A to Z characters.

When it comes to writing, though, characters are kings. Even in non-fictional pieces, the subject of the piece often ends up as the character, as we get the history, or current goings-on. Maybe not fully anthropomorphized, but getting there. But when you get to fiction, a story needs its characters, perhaps even more than those characters need a story. I’ve read absurdist literature. It’s doable.

I do a lot of my thinking and writing about Science Fiction, and Fantasy, and it can be easy to get carried away with these sorts of genres… lost in ideas, in world-building, in all of those sorts of gritty details to make the world seem right. Carried away too much, and the characters fall flat, and the reader ends up unengaged. You want a story your reader can get lost in… but for whatever reason, it’s through the exploration and experiences of the characters that we get lost.

Which means the most common sort of character is the one that is a stand-in for the audience, or the one who is new to the world being presented. Whether it’s just the new guy or rookie, or the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, this character is essential. You don’t want to make them too blank – this is actually something that happens a lot in video games. To give the player the control of the situation, to feel like they are this blank slate character, the character does not speak throughout the game themselves. I think the Nintendo games especially have a lot of this – Link never really gets any lines in the Zelda games!

But even, think of non-fiction, or better yet – think of political speeches. They always seem to reach a point where they need to personalize it, where they have to bring up some real (probably) people in a real place, experiencing whatever it is they’re talking about. They can give you facts and ideology all day, but they give you that character to latch on to as well.

Because let’s face it – characters are a fundamental to stories.

Character Creation

I got a great App on my Mac, has lots of great workspace for writing. It’s called Scrivener, and it has templates for creating characters, as well as great workspaces for your chapters and sections. You can move them around, and rearrange. You can show multiple panes at once, so that your notes or outline can be showing on one, and you can be writing in another. Overall, pretty excellent.

Then I got an iPad. Read more of this post

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