Letters to Holly

Monday, May 14

Mother's Taters

We planted seed potatoes Saturday morning, our first try at growing food. We made two rows, planting about 40 pieces of quartered Kennebuc potatoes. We'll add fertilizer and mulch as they sprout. If they sprout. Really, all the hard work is done. we've prepared the ground for the food. Now we just inspect, water, and weed as necessary. A late lunch followed, and I began the page layouts for the comic.

I finished a full script draft Saturday morning, writing dialogue as the story unfolded in my head and breaking the exchanges down into manageable panels. I know the dimensions of the comic will be small (4 x 5.5 inches at most) so panels can only hold so much information. If you start a new scene, you need an establishing shot (and of course my first page breaks this rule as I'm starting with a dream sequence, and withholding that info adds to the mood). If you have a conversation, the amount of words per panel limits the amount of art in that same panel.

I've found it much easier to write and then draw, but I tend to see the scenes moving like a movie. I make mental snapshots of each crucial movement or phrase, and then I tailor those snapshots into a coherent panel sequence. But sometimes, the mind presents a full developed location, and I find myself trying to write within it.

An example looks like this. I already have the established location, but this bit of script doesn't say how the heads will be located in the frames or which will be the dominant image. That will be figured out in the layout process. But, again, sometimes, I know exactly how the panel should look, and I'll note the details so I don't forget. Artist Me will sometimes forget what Writer Me was talking about.

DR: Your rang?
CAP: Evening. Or afternoon. Whatever it is.
DR: It's evening.

PANEL, show more of Doc
CAP: How's Carter?
DR: I’ll run a scan on Carter once he wakes up and eats something.
CAP: You think he’s getting worse?

Carter asleep, strapped to the bed, with the machine in his room. Maybe an attendant with machine.
DR: I think he wants off this ship and away from us.
CAP: Smart man.

I need to figure out names for my characters, but nothing depends on that information right now. Too often, writers will come up with a snazzy name and gimmick and construct a flimsy plot around it. I'm working from the opposite direction. Some folks have names. Some don't. I'm writing a situation, not a narrative.

With the script done, I returned to the comic after lunch and started sketching the panels. I made a page template at half the size of the mini-comic dimensions. The rule of comic design is that if looks good small, it will look good big. Also, sketching small restricts the temptation to draw in detail. At this point, I'm just trying to ensure eye flow and composition. This grid works out to nine panels per page with sketch and note space beside the grid. There is no standard way to do this. This is how the templates fit in my sketch book. As I look at the script, I see how many panels could conceivably and legibly fit on one page, and how the panels can accentuate dramatic tension. As I draw each panel, I check it off the script. And if a panel flow changes how the dialogue will play out, I'll note that on my script printout.

See how the third panel is crossed out and next to it is a replacement panel. I changed the perspective to allow more information. Currently, my script hits 15 pages -- pretty short. I now have the luxury of adding pages to pad out the story. Some pages are a little tight with panels, and I can space those frames out to let the pages breathe. And that's where I am now.

Sunday, we visited my parents, fed them dinner, and strolled Lowe's to talk gardening. I'm thinking we'll try corn next. We know we'll get tomatoes from the compost bin. This was my Parent's first time seeing the new car and Your Sister's new haircut. They liked both a lot.

This morning I checked a local printer to see how much it would cost to produce 100 copies of the comic. The estimate hit $230. That's not practical. So I'll print the comics at home. That may not leave me enough time to make and print the comics for the June convention, but I can still send my publisher the finished product for shows later this year. Still, I'd like to sell a few copies at my nearby show.

Moving Picture of the Day
An old scene amended for current movie audiences.

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