Archive | July, 2011


31 Jul

I’m trying to get better at storytelling, so I’m looking for little signs about the craft. Hurray for podcasts!

After listening to Mur Lafferty’s interview with Tracy Hickman on I should be writing, Hickman did an offhand remark about story and realism, that story is how the world should be, not how it is (or what I thought, could be).

Then, after listening to Comic Book Outsiders, with special co-host Stacey Whittle and host Steve Aryan, where they talked about the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, there was another offhand remark. If you go from one book to the other, some time has passed and while reading the book you get a hint of what has happened, off camera, so to speak.

It was a subtle hint to write another blog post, before all of this fades away in oblivion. I just can’t keep all of this in my brain. I need to dump it onto my blog for later reference. So here it is.

A story is an amped up anecdote

Compared to anecdotes told among friends, a written story should be amplified for dramatic effect. Personal anecdotes are only interesting for those who know the storyteller intimately and can related to him or her. If you are writing for a wider audience than your friends and family, you need to step outside the bubble of personal life experiences. You need to stylize what you tell, so it will be more accessible for people who don’t know you. They can use their own life experiences to fill in the blanks you left in your story on purpose.

This means you can’t simply let the words flow from your mind to your keyboard, but you have to craft your story. What you can assume known amongst your friends (and if not, they can ask while you are doing the telling) has to be conveyed to a reader somehow. However, if you merely state the facts, most readers will get bored, because facts have little emotional impact, do little to engage. It’s all about packaging the facts that are required to understand the story. Therein lies the craft of fictional storytelling.

So you don’t want to bullet point facts. You may assume anyone above the age of six has some level of storytelling ability and you can and should make use of that ability. Hence you can assume some level of sophistication when it comes to relaying story facts in imaginative and novel ways.

That’s as far as I dare to go. Nuggets of knowledge about the craft come in little chunks. I suppose this is because most authors have little to no insight in their creative process, at least at a level that is useful for novice writers. They can tell you how they write, which could be totally different from how you best write.

One thing is certain, though. You learn how to write by actually writing, not by merely thinking about writing. Even so, you should do so with the intent to entertain your reader, to grab his or her attention, while (and hopefully beyond) reading your story.

Tell it in your own words

What does that actually mean, “in your own words?” To me it means that you interpret the story, give a spin of your own. If it’s a factual story (an anecdote), the amount of imagination you will put into it will be low. However, if it’s a fictional story, you can put as much imagination into a story as you want.

Now I have ventured out into unknown territory, where I have no authority (at least not yet). I feel lost and unsure of myself. I know I’m not yet ready to write stories that are worth publishing.

This is actually a good thing. How many novice writers are sure they are about to write the next bestseller, while they’re clearly not ready? They couldn’t write themselves out of a paper bag.

So there seems to be more to storytelling than merely retelling in your own words. I’m puzzled, at a loss. What am I to do next?


Yes, I’m here, but I’m still not sure what’s next.

I promise I will tell you once I know more.

*Sign of presence, answered with the same word by anyone present.

Preston Blair inspired drawing

16 Jul

I have been trying to draw from the book written by Preston Blair about animation for several years now and giving up because it was just too hard. However, with all this life portrait drawing, clothed figure sketches and the like under my belt, it seemed more feasible to try and do the examples in the book and create some examples of my own.

After spending 3 weeks on 6 pages, I thought I was ready to do a test, to see if I grasped the principles discussed by Blair. My piece was a couple of mice in a festive mood (perhaps drunk?). I didn’t expect much, but I tried anyway. Below you can see my first (and only) sketch. I’m a firm believer in master Yoda’s words of wisdom: “There is no try. Do, or do not.” (Mind you, this is Muppet Yoda, not CG Yoda.)

Jolly Mice pencil sketch

I used a sphere for the head and a basic skeleton for a cartoon mouse. After I had the basic poses done, I added the features and then the details (I really need to work on hands and feet). The result was better than I expected and made me believe I was on to something.

Next day, after having spent some time on Livestream with young artists drawing their Manga art, using Easy Paint Tool SAI, I thought I could do a digital drawing in the Mac equivalent of SAI (which is Windows-only), Sketchbook Pro. I even did some live recording on Livestream (here, here and here—no audio).

Jolly Mice illustration sketch

Looking back at it, I can see it has potential, but also that I still have a lot to learn, both in how to use Sketchbook Pro (which hung up on me during the recording) and, more importantly, how to design a character.

However, I didn’t want to get hung up by details. The intent, what I wanted to show, was more important than the exact details and even the execution. And boy, did it show these are jolly mice!

I’ll be practicing my cartoon sketches for a while so I can finally do an adaptation of a fairytale in comics format. The style and design should be early 20th century Disney, because I think that style best fits the telling of fairytales. I’m sure once I’ve started I’ll be writing about it on this blog.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave your thoughts, ideas and any praises in the comments section.

Clothed figure sketch 31

1 Jul

To keep pushing my drawing skill, I did another figure sketch with a camera recording it. As always, I’m easily distracted and things didn’t turn out as expected. Nevertheless, I soldiered through and even did a somewhat decent voice over.

Here is the scanned sketch.

Clothed figure sketch 31 - 2011/07/01

I’m wondering if I should do two or more versions of a sketch, because I can see so many things wrong with this one. It might be the recording equipment (rather the fact that it’s being recorded, which makes me nervous), or just the lack of a proper workflow during the sketch.

So many things to think about while drawing. And yes, I see that both feet should have been drawn touching a floor. I wonder why I can’t think of such things while I’m drawing. Maybe 17 minutes is still too fast and I need to take breaks between the separate steps.

Ah well, progress is slow. I’ll get there, eventually.

Thanks for reading.