I know some of you have been wondering about the progress I’m making. I am behind on posting art work, mostly because I want to show progress and I’ve hit a plateau I can’t get off. Instead of posting artwork I thought I’d fill you in on the writing end of it.
The OEL manga project has evolved considerably, including a name change, since I started it. This is the first in a series of six blog posts about developing the Do-Over project. I used two criteria for deciding how long to make each post and how many I’d need.
- Subject matter. Part One is about where I got the idea, Part Two is about developing the story’s main character, Part Three is about developing the setting, and so on.
- Post length. Science says around 1,600 words, approximately 7 minutes of reading, so that’s my upper limit. This post is around 1,000 words, a rough lower limit.
Neither are hard limits, of course, but if I put the whole thing in one blog post I’ll lose my audience (all six of you).
First, an overview of the project. The original concept was just The Dragon Core; that’s how I built the website and named the story. Over time I decided there were a lot of potential points of interest to the story, my main character’s personality, and his adjustments to a new world and culture. I also wanted to play with different genres. Finally, although The Dragon Core ends satisfactorily there is plenty of room for a sequel or two. I decided on three books.
- The Dragon Core, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy story. A scientist named JD is transported to a new universe and does battle with both a legendary dragon and his own internal issues. He finds the dragon an easier conflict to resolve.
- One and One Make One, a slice-of-life story. There is sadness and joy, humor and tragedy, in this book. The title comes from a song by The Who, Bargain.
- Last Man Standing, difficult to characterize but closest to “the man who couldn’t be kept down.” Ben-Hur is an example of that type of story.
This project will take something like 7-10 years to complete, depending primarily on how fast I can learn to draw well enough to justify the effort I put into the story, and then the time needed to do the illustrations. The script for The Dragon Core is complete except for two chapters (17 and 26); those two chapters have complete notes but the dialog hasn’t been written. During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November I’ll finish (or nearly finish) One and One Make One. I’ll finish the script for Last Man Standing in 2017.
This novel must be written as a graphic novel; it’s how it’s developed in my mind. I can’t explain why, it’s just a feeling about story flow and how I want to express the story’s content. I have learned a lot about drawing in the last six months but still can’t draw believable people in action; that will take practice and lots of it. I had originally intended to begin The Dragon Core in July of 2016; that’s not going to happen, obviously, and it’s going to be a struggle to make January of 2017.
I am capable of drawing simple people. For example, I could begin the story using characters of the quality used by artists like Gary Larson, Charles Shultz, Scott Adams, and Bil Keane, to name a few – but those artists are humorists and I’d like this story to be taken seriously. That includes quality backgrounds, reasonably accurate characterizations of people and animals, and so on. I’m not there yet; I’m figuring that will take a year or two. When I look forward that seems like a long time and I admit to getting discouraged at times. When I get there, though, it won’t seem as bad.
I borrow heavily from many sources; not for story lines per se (there are only 7 or 8 plots anyway) but for inspiration and ideas to make my own. Sources range from anime and manga (InuYasha, Dragonball, Clannad), American works (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Life Among the Savages), and classic literature (Lord of the Rings, Ben-Hur, The Chronicles of Narnia). If you’re familiar with those works you’ll see ghosts and shadows of them in various places in the project – and I think that’s part of the fun. There are even places I’ll reference Monty Python, Spongebob, or other modern cultural phenomena, albeit in a very oblique manner.
(There are places in the story where I’d like JD, the main character, to quote Monty Python or Spongebob, or sing songs from our own culture. I can’t have him do that without paying royalties, so even though it would be something any of us would do (recall memories of what we grew up with) the best I can do is make oblique references and hope people get it. In one place in The Dragon Core I have to reference a modern song (JD sings it as a major plot point); when I do that I won’t quote the song but will mention its name in the comment section of the page so you can play your own copy of the song while reading the page.)
Of course, you may wonder about the wisdom of “borrowing”. For that I refer you to this piece by John Cleese of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers.
That is what I’m trying to do. Besides being unethical, rewriting an old classic is full of hubris. I’m not a better satirist than Mark Twain; Rumiko Takahashi (the author of InuYasha) is a very good story teller; and let’s not even go down the road of comparing myself to Tolkein or Lewis. But all of my inspirations are quality story tellers; emulating their style (without stealing their prose) and combining it into my own style is both doable and an homage to all of them.
It’s up to you, my readers, to tell me how I’m doing. When this project gets off the ground and I begin to publish it I’m really looking forward to all feedback. It can only help me grow as both a writer and an artist. Thanks for reading; the story continues in the next blog entry, “Do-Over”: Part One, Genesis of an Idea.