Monday, April 28, 2008

And The Winner Is...

Me! I won Script Frenzy, anyway. I took my Spanner script and story ideas, and wrote well over 100 pages. In fact, I'm well on my way to 150 and beyond by the end of the month! Furthermore, I have a script for Spanner #1 that is in effect the shooting script for the series pilot! Now all I need is to completely reorganize what comes after the end of #1, and improve my drawing skills to an acceptable level by the end of May, and I'll be ready to start actual production work on Spanner for the first time ever, starting during NaNoMangO this June! Now to acquire the champagne and expensive chocolates, and I'm ready to celebrate my victory! Finally, last year's abortive script project, The Jennifer Theory (from my '06 NaNoWriMo novel), is avenged at last!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bad Company: The Terrorist Incubus

Charlie's lovers (her sister Desiree and her ex-girlfriend Yasmin) are stolen away from her. By a man. This man is a terrorist. His name is Ramón Gabriel, and he is a former Colombian right-wing death-squad terrorist turned Dictel corporate mercenary turned Islamic terrorist who answers to Rashid. His MO: he seduces women in such a way that they become his love slaves; then he turns them into what can only be called weapons of mass destruction. This terrorist, you see, happens to be an incubus. A demon lover.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Company: Midpoint

In his guest article for Script Frenzy, Blake Snyder, author of the book on screenwriting called Save the Cat! (and its new sequel, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies), writes about the crucial importance in a story of the midpoint. So many screenplays and produced movies, for example, have weak second acts because they neglect the midpoint. But Snyder insists that the midpoint is "the key to cracking any story." He insists two things must occur at midpoint:
  1. The stakes must be raised.
  2. The Ticking Clock must start counting down.
And so the midpoint is where one of the most important events in the story must occur. Snyder writes: "Cracking your midpoint is the key to figuring out not only where your story goes, but what it means."

Bad Company Backstory: Charlie and Desiree at Dad's...

In the backstory to Bad Company and the rest of the Dictel trilogy, Drusilla Becket doesn't let her estranged ex-husband Cedric Thomas to have their two daughters over or even visit them much. However, whenever Charlie and Desiree are allowed to live with their father, they act as if they have just been liberated from a fascist dictatorship. The Richter-Thomases (at least starting with Cedric's generation) have a loose and liberal attitude toward nudity, for instance; and so the first thing the girls do is throw off their clothes and run around like "wild savages", or wild animals newly liberated from their cage. After Desiree seduces Charlie for the first time, the sisters are ardently affectionate around everybody else, and use as much of their private time as they can for making love.

Their father allows this. His own sisters won't have it otherwise.

Actually, in fact, their father — and both their stepmothers (Cedric's first wife Betty Shears and third and current wife Hope Reston [Shira's mother]) — fully accept their decision to commit themselves to each other as lovers. Their aunts (Cedric's sisters) Willa and Reva actually encourage them, since they themselves are longtime lovers themselves, as it turns out. (In fact, in Black Science, when Dr. Julian Blair treacherously leaves Willa for Dictel Corporation, the first person Willa will turn to is Reva.)

This becomes one huge reason for Drusilla to continue trying to keep Charlie and Desiree away from Cedric as much as possible. Dru tries to stop her daughters from doing what Dru considers repulsive. However, when she finds that her punishments only succeed in reinforcing their desire with defiance (they're teenagers, after all, and teenagers rebel), she is stuck with the hard choice between allowing the affair to go on and threaten both Charlie's career and the Becket family reputation, and forcing Charlie and Desiree apart using thos bluntest of all blunt instruments: Dictel and the law.

I'll need to plant this backstory in places throughout the story, not limited to flashbacks. Maybe I should gradually reveal it. The relationship line climax needs to have a strong foundation not only in the actions Charlie and Desiree take within the story, but in their shared past beyond the story as well.

Bad Company: Desiree Takes the Initiative...

I've been reading both the stories and the testimonials at Sisters in Love (warning: adult material!), and many of the yuri manga at (ditto!), and I find myself struck by how often it's the younger sister who strikes up the relationship. And so it comes to me that even though Desiree was too passive and even mopey to be herself when I first started writing Bad Company, still the redhead has a stronger personality than her older sister Charlie. (I'll make it up to Desi when I make her the hero of Points of Authority this next NaNoWriMo by allowing her to dominate it the way she deserves to.) And though it's Charlie whom Drusilla is threatening with the "nuclear option" of child molestation charges, it was Desiree who seduced Charlie to begin with and who dominates the relationship in the long run.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Charlie & Desiree's Crazy Idyllic Plans

Charlie and Desiree have big plans for when they get back together after the Beckets stop picking on them. The scandals surrounding Dictel and the Becket clan in the wake of Colonel Tom Becket's disastrous coup d'état attempt give them enough of a breather to be able to at least attempt to make them a reality. These include:
  1. Getting married, of course, despite the fact that they are sisters.
  2. Adopting their little sister Shira as their own daughter. Their oldest sister, Ruby Shears, suggests they adopt their cousin Jennifer Blair as well, in order to keep her and Shira together so they can become as inseparable as Charlie and Desiree are.
  3. A special "body positive" method of childrearing they long to try out.
  4. And so on...
Nearly everybody who finds out about these plans call them crazy. You probably will too. But they're sticking to them.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spanner: "Shira & Jennifer, 2gether 4ever!"

During the last several years of Project Notebook entries, I had Shira joke that her beautiful, bespectacled blonde cousin (and adopted sister) Jennifer Blair is her "wife". But sometimes your characters take over the writing themselves: Jennifer has determined to make it known, not just to her author but to the other characters, that Shira is in fact not joking at all. She says they have in fact been married, at least in spirit, since she vowed eternal love to Shira at the latter's fourth birthday party; their upcoming wedding, which Jennifer insists must be on Shira's 15th birthday (coming later in the story), will merely formalize what has been the fact for a decade.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forces of Antagonism

Every story needs at least one villain, or at least antagonist. The nature of life is that one has to fight for one's desire in order to get it. It has been said that story is conflict.

Here's a particularly potent example from my fiction. As you now know, Charlie wants Desiree. The problem, of course being that the two just happen to be sisters. The two have to overcome some fearsome obstacles (society, religion, the law, etc.) and fight some really nasty villains (including their own tyrannical mother) if they want to live together, happily ever after. This is the situation in Bad Company, and it's looking to be a major factor in my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, Points of Authority, as well.

In Spanner the antagonism is provoked not because Jennifer loves Shira, but because Shira cannot conform (note to self: I'll have to write an entry on this). Conformity is considered a primary virtue in any society that mows down tall poppies and hammers down all nails that stick out. Such is the "Eurosocialism" of the Euro=American Union, the enemies of which bluntly call it "Stalinism". And so Shira finds herself forced to fight battle after battle against authority, society, and religion just to be able to be herself, and she ends up starting a revolution.

This should be a lesson to me. I have a tendency to write scenes with lots of cool witty dialogue but little real conflict, or write feverishly idyllic little love (or other) scenes not counterbalanced by the characters' need to defend their loves (etc.) against social, religious, and political forces determined to destroy them. I have to put some balance into it, and remember that story itself is conflict. In a story, it's the villains (the "rogues' gallery" in superhero-comics terms) that makes the hero; the more effective the villains, the stronger and more interesting the hero. No conflict, no story; no villains or other antagonistic force, no hero.

The Key Emerges: Mad Love + Revolution

For most of this month, my work on Bad Company has been stalled, and that has interfered with all my other projects this month. I haven't even been writing any of Spanner. However, the key to unblocking Bad Company has finally emerged. It's the answer to the burning question: What could possibly be more controversial than a Blackwater-type corporation like Dictel trying to take over America to force it to intensify the colonial oil wars in the Middle East? How about this: the self-destructive pop singer who is the novel's heroine falls in love with her own sister! The trick, of course, is connecting these two. The connection is the Beckets, the clan of military aristocrats who own Dictel. The youngest of the Becket siblings, right-wing New Age guru and tyrannical stage mother Drusilla Becket (think JZ Knight or Elizabeth Clare Prophet crossed with Lynne Spears or Dina Lohan) is the mother of Charlie and Desiree Thomas. Colonel Tom Becket (the irony of his name is deliberate), the patriarch of the Becket clan and chairman of Dictel, considers his wayward nieces a liability to the clan; when Charlie and Desiree fall in love, he declares that they are blackening the family honor and orders their murder. And so the final confrontation between Charlie and the Colonel becomes inevitable. "Mad love" thus provokes political revolution. I'll explain...

Double the Controversy!

As if an evil Blackwater-type corporation invading America weren't enough — now I've doubled the controversy! The new idea I'm throwing into the mix is "mad love" — obsessive and/or forbidden love that causes personal upheaval and social revolution — something I took from the Surrealists (note: there's no Wikipedia entry on "mad love" or "amour fou", surprisingly enough). I originally planned to use it for the love affair between Spanner's two main female characters, Shira Thomas and Leila Shelley, as early as 1996. But now any old yuri-manga lesbian relationship is no longer enough for the Dictel trilogy. Now:
  1. in Bad Company, Charlie's primary love interest becomes her own sister Desiree;
  2. in Black Science, Willa's husband leaves her for Dictel and is pursued by her own niece (Charlie and Desiree's older half-sister Ruby Shears?), who is in love with her, even as she turns to the older sister with whom she has had more, let us say, intense relations in the past; and
  3. the chaos in Points of Authority may begin with Charlie and Desiree publicly announcing their determination to get married despite the legal obstacles and social stigma.
The inspiration for this is a website I found called Sisters in Love [Update 11/26/2010: That site is now dead] and its testimonials from real-life sisters who are lovers, plus one woman who succeeded in marrying her one true love — her own aunt. Sound crazy? It's certainly not socially acceptable. Which is perfect for what I have in mind for the Dictel trilogy. The challenge I have is connecting/counterpointing this theme with Dictel's corporate villainy.

Next Week Is Mine...

I got little work done on Spanner and Bad Company. You see, most of the last week belonged to my mother and brother. It was too hectic. But the next week is mine. I hope to get some work done. After all, there's only 10 days left in Script Frenzy, and MayNoWriMo is coming up at NaNoPubYe.

I have one sequence left in Spanner #1: the terrorist attack foiled by Shira defusing yet another of the Toymaker's infuriatingly complex bombs, followed by the "rattlesnake flag" prank ("Freiheit oder Tod!"). That's my last fully plotted sequence. After that, I'll have to get some more plotting done if I want to write the full 100 pages of script. Bring out the index cards...

Bad Company has been stalled since last month. Why? It's been refusing to come together. The plot still isn't very coherent. That seems to be coming to an end. I've got some wild new ideas to throw into the mix (and into Black Science as well), which will not only tie the story together but increase the controversy quotient by a factor of at least 4 (rough guesstimation).

Since I've made so little progress on Bad Company so far, I've decided to add another goal to MayNo: not just 50,000 words of Black Science, but also 30 hours of editing to finish the second draft of Bad Company as well. Plus, I still need to complete my drawing self-instruction so I can enter NaNoMangO.

The key idea for Bad Company (and the newest one for Black Science)? Mad love. In other words, obsessive or forbidden love with the potential to provoke an outright revolution. This is one of the major ideas of André Breton, founder of Surrealism. And so some yuri ideas and pairings that have been floating around my brain and the Project Notebook for years (since 1996 and my introduction to yaoi under the full impact of Camille Paglia) now have their perfect justification. And so now Desiree returns to prominence in Bad Company — as the passionate lover of her own sister Charlie. They are famous, so they get into big trouble, and the Becket clan with them. Meanwhile, in Black Science, Willa's husband, one Eric Blair in the past several years of Project Notebooks, is now Dr. Julian Blair (named after a Boris Karloff mad-scientist antihero), the inventor of the brain scanner, who turns against her for the blood money offered him by Dictel and the US government. And the Cuban refugee scientist from the 2006 NaNoWriMo version, who becomes Willa's ally and lover, has been replaced by — Willa's own niece, who is as determined to marry her as her other nieces Charlie and Desiree are to marry each other. I'll have more about this in my next entry. I think I already know what to call it...

So I'm entering the homestretch in Script Frenzy, and I'd better make the most of it. After all, I'm going to have to pull off yet another come-from-behind...

Friday, April 18, 2008

My "How To Draw Comics" Plan...

Since 1999 I've been trying to teach myself how to draw comics. In the years since then, I've built up enough knowledge of one thing, the human figure (specifically female), that I realized I should offer a Web course on how to draw comics. I can do this. In the spirit of "If you can, do; if you can't, teach", I realized that the best way for me to learn how to draw, and keep it learned, is to draw everything I need to create such a course. And so, after several years, I've decided to actually do it. My goal is to put it online by the end of May.

I'll have to make an admission: my own self-instruction has been sporadic. 9 years, and I still haven't completely learned how to draw the human figure, or even the head. I realized that this is what I need to spur me to actually draw, and pretty intensively, so that I can prepare for NaNoMangO, which comes up next in June. This will also spur me to return to writing the script to Spanner, which I've been neglecting this week.

Earlier this week I drew the first set of illustrations for my comics tutorial site, then created the table of contents page. Since I've planned a complete website for all my projects and essays as long as I have the tutorial, I finally decided to organize the complete site hierarchy as well as the tutorial, and edit the site using the best website editor I had in Linux, which turned out to be Quanta Plus. (I also have Dreamweaver MX in Windows, but I'm told it's fairly hard and confusing to use...) When I'm ready to put the site up, I'll have not only the tutorial ready, but the project pages for each of my comics and novel projects: Spanner, The Jennifer Theory, and the Dictel trilogy (Bad Company, Black Science, and this year's NaNoWriMo entry, Points of Authority), plus the first complete essays written.

That's the website plan I've had for almost a decade, though I've never yet acted on it. (I had my own Tripod homepage back in 2000 or so, but I never put anything on it and allowed it to die...) It starts with the comics tutorial.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Script Frenzy Halfway Progress Report...

Here I am, halfway through April, and yet the current page count of my Script Frenzy edition of the Spanner book 1 script is barely past 35. At the pace at which I normally write, I should have had the whole book scripted by now. Still, I got 10 pages and 3 complete scenes written tonight.

The problem is that I've allowed my focus to be broken. This got especially bad Thursday night, when I stayed up all night doing nothing but downloading and installing software in what I call an "Early Download Stage". Also, I told myself that I need to lay out the plot using my index cards before I can even think of scripting. That task was made a lot easier when I salvaged story cards from previous decks I'd used for previous Spanner book 1 scripts.

I'm posting some of my previous drawings. However, I haven't done any of the improved versions I've been planning for some of them, nor have I done any new ones in the last year and a half. I need to get back to drawing if I want to enter NaNoMangO, during which I plan to draw the first chapter/issue.

I may be less than halfway to 100 pages and sure victory, but my writing's back on track. I'll finish the script for chapter 1 soon. I'll need to pick up the pace for a while. And I need to return to drawing very soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Character Profile: Shira Thomas (revised 8/25/2010)

Shira Miranda Thomas, main character of Spanner, was born on September 9, 1999 to Cedric Anthony Thomas III (the legendary rocker Ric Thomas/"Red Mercury") and Hope Maureen Reston. This red-haired, dark-skinned, large-nosed beauty was a wild and mischievous child who attracted all kinds of controversy and scandal to herself. Today (i.e., during the Spanner timeline that starts in late August 2014), Hope Reston is the liberal Populist mayor of Metropolitan Seattle, making Shira a major player in the struggle to keep Seattle and the entire State of Cascadia from falling under the theocratic tyranny of the reconstituted Confederate States of America and still escape the rival tyranny of the United Corporations cartel that rules the EuroAmerican Union under the state-socialist system of Corporatism. As a leading champion of democratic Populism, Shira strives to rally people to her side through music, dance, style, and direct persuasion. But those who try to stop her in the name of Authority will find out that she is a legendary prankster for a reason...

Sketch of Shira from 2002

Friday, April 11, 2008

A little progress to report...

Last night I worried that I wouldn't be making the kind of progress that I hoped in writing Spanner and improving my drawing. Well, I haven't drawn anything since then. But I have done some writing. And then I had to do some more correcting...

My problem is that I haven't been plotting well enough. I've skipped some scenes I intended to write, put the wrong characters in certain scenes (the terrorist fleeing with Shira's older half-sister Talon Reston is not Josh Horton (a new character) but Adam Gabriel, the right-wing assassin from Bad Company, who by the time of Spanner has shifted to the opposite extreme). My solution is to bring out the index cards again so I can fix the plot.

Last night I did manage to write 16 pages of script. That is easy enough for a writer who can write 4,000 words a night during NaNoWriMo, and it takes less time. I wrote nothing but scene synopses on index cards tonight. But doing that, I finalized the plot of the first chapter/issue of Spanner. And I've started on the second.

Tomorrow I'll finish the script for chapter 1 and work to prepare chapter 2 for scripting. Then I'll down a 48-ounce energy drink, play the techno music loud, and start drawing. My next lesson: a review of the oblique views of the head, with a new principle added (horizontal and vertical center lines).

I'll start posting character sketches and quick profiles soon. Also, I'm going to write more about various story ideas. Stay posted...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

(Lack of) Progress Report

The first week of Script Frenzy hasn't been all that productive at all. I've only written 10 pages, and I haven't yet gotten my rusty drawing skills back up to a level at which I can post presentable character designs. I need to pick up the pace, and soon, if I don't want to have to pull yet another exhausting "come from behind" like both my NaNoWriMos. Also, I haven't been posting here as regularly as I want.

Fortunately, I've plotted out the complete first issue of Spanner. My task for tonight: script the remainder of this issue. Tonight, I'll also finish plotting issue 2.

In my drawing self-instruction, I left off last time (the night of the 5th) with a review of the 3/4 views of the head: front and back, horizontal and vertical. My next lesson is also largely a review, involving the oblique views combining the horizontal and vertical 3/4 views.

I was going to say the forums at National Novel Publishing Year were down, but today they came back up (WAAAHOOOOOO!!!!), so I can resume posting my progress there. I'll give my fellow NaNoPubYe'ers a big update on my progress during the time the forums were down. The "Daily Progress" threads have been a very important weapon in my never-ending battle against my archenemy, procrastination. Even so, I'll still post a weekly progress update here, just to keep you posted.

Two things I should start work on: the Spanner site at my still unposted homepage, with its story summaries, character profiles, and image galleries; and a tutorial on how to draw comics the way I've been teaching myself to draw them the last 9 1/2 years. As the saying goes: "If you know, do; if you don't, teach." I figured that one good way to keep myself drawing is to show people how I do it. I'll start on these sites soon.

Will I do these tonight? I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spanner: Plotting the Story

Comics scripts are accepted in this year's Script Frenzy. This gave me the opportunity I needed. Now I'm writing the script to Spanner. So while I'm struggling to improve my drawing skills so that I can at least create decent character designs, I'll post here some of the scenarios most likely to make it into the actual published version.

So far, I'm considering these already composed scenarios for inclusion in the first issue:
  1. The incident on the bus in which, after a pretty blonde asks Shira if she has accepted Jesus, a would-be suicide bomber attempts to blow up the bus from the seat in front of them. A change in the scenario: I originally had Shira kill the terrorist with the "evil eye," a trick she uses earlier in the novel Bad Company. But then I realized that there are some Muslims who believe that cameras steal people's souls. So now Shira will "shoot" this particular Islamist cultist with her cellphone's camera, and direct others to shoot him with their cameras as well.
  2. The "flag incident." At a government function of the Euro-American Union, Shira pulls one of her legendary pranks: she torches the one-star flag behind the platform as the band is playing the instrumental version of the "Ode to Joy" that is Europe's "national" anthem. The flag burns quickly, revealing another flag behind it: a "rattlesnake flag" (or Gadsden flag) from the American Revolution, only with the legend "Liberty or Death" (or is it "Don't Tread on Me"?) replaced with, in German, in the traditional gothic typeface, the words: "Freiheit oder Tod!"
  3. The scene I had once proposed as a prologue: the combined vision of a group of precognitives working for the government. Their precognition of the sequence that follows this is accurate. But then the visions fall into chaos. This is the point in the next sequence where Shira arrives, and the "Flag Incident" follows.
Along with a few new scenes and sequences, I'm building the first issue (the one I'll be drawing in June for NaNoMangO) around these three scenarios. This will make it easier for me to write the story.

I'll post these and other plot ideas here, along with various ideas behind the story. Also, I'll link to any posts in my more political blog that are relevant to the story. And, of course, I'll post my initial character profiles when I get some adequate character designs; some I'll scan from my notebooks (the picture I've posted to the initial story entry is scanned), but most of them I'll draw soon.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Goals for April

I've begun writing the script to Spanner. But getting at least the first 100 pages of script written is just one of my goals for this month. Here's the complete list.
  1. Writing at least 100 pages of the production Spanner script for Script Frenzy.
  2. Continuing to edit Bad Company until I finish the second draft. I intend to finish it this month.
  3. Finalizing the plot for the sequel, Black Science, so I can get back to writing it in May.
  4. Finally learning how to draw the human figure competently, to prepare for NaNoMangO, coming up in June.
  5. Learning how to play my guitar, and learning some music theory, to prepare myself for the upcoming "50 Songs in 90 Days" starting in July. This will make up for my being totally unprepared for FAWM last February. I want to be able to play an instrument and write songs.
  6. Learning more about how to set up and run a blog, and learning HTML and web design so I can create my own sites beyond the blogosphere. Also, I may want to find a host for Spanner once I finish the first few issues, or I may want to put the comics on my own domain.
  7. Exercising more. Obligatory. I need the stamina to be able to handle all my projects.
  8. Learning German, just because.
I'll keep posting updates on my work. Soon, I'll start posting pictures again: I'll start by scanning some of my old sketches, then I'll add some of my new character designs as I finish them. When I put up my homepage (still in the works, since my original one died in 1999 due to lack of interest from me or anybody else; I simply wasn't interesting then), I'll add a gallery of my comics art and a direct link to it here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Work Begins

Script Frenzy has begun. Thus begins the most important phase in my comics career: production. For the first time ever, I'm now writing my comics for publication. I've passed the point of no return. Now the world will soon be able to see my vision. Spanner is about to be unleashed on the world.

In Script Frenzy, you're a winner if you write 100 pages of script (movie, TV, stage play, comics) in April. For the first time, comics scripts are allowed. This is why I took the manga project I've been working on intermittently yet obsessively since 1992, Spanner, and took it out of mothballs after almost 1 1/2 years of writing novels for NaNoWriMo and so on. For once I now stand a chance of getting it published, even if I simply publish it on the Web.

Now that NaNoEdMo is over (I'm a winner, of course, even if the second draft of Bad Company still isn't finished) and I've taken a break of a few days, I'll start writing the script for book 1 of Spanner. But before I can publish it, I need to learn how to draw it. I've already resumed the drawing self-instruction that I've delayed since early last year. My skill hasn't yet reached the point where I can start doing character designs again, so in those entries this week in which I introduce my characters I'll post drawings I did in the first half of this decade. I'll probably be able to get the first preliminary designs done by next week. This week I'm working out all the remaining problems I have drawing the human head this week; next week, I'll turn to the figure, which I've had even more trouble with over the years. By the end of this month I'll have improved my skills to the point where the characters I draw will be good enough to publish. Ultimately, I'm preparing to draw the first episode of Spanner for NaNoMangO, where you pencil 30 pages of comics in order to become a winner, in June or November.

Stay tuned...