On Writing a Comic

I’ve shared lots on Instagram (@withgreatexpectations) about an idea for a novel I intended to call Of the Night. Over the summer I determined that with words I was only telling half of the story and, at that moment, decided Of the Night would instead be a comic.

I went to work on transforming the pages I’d written for a novel into a script. What I had translated into a first issue I feel great about and an outline for at least the start of issue two, plus some scattered details that will play out beyond that.

The project’s been on hold for a while but I’m bringing it back. I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than use Wednesday Whittling, where I’ll be providing monthly updates on highs and lows through the process.

Below, I’ve categorized common feelings I get when writing by putting them in pairs – like ratios, almost – which is how I’ll share the information. Next month’s update will detail the newest writing, while today’s will focus on the process of all prior writing.

Exhilarating:debilitating

It was a pretty big rush realizing my characters were going to have a chance to be seen in a comic as opposed to imagined from a novel. I still catch myself daydreaming about how the art will tell the story. Meanwhile, it’s an absolute bear to catch myself flatly writing a character. There are times I suddenly need to be strong for them because I don’t realize I’ve been writing their moments out of convenience. Those times suck and often make me feel like I’m stuck in mud.

Spontaneous:meticulous

At a certain point when Of the Night was still a novel, one character in particular reached up from the page and shook me, saying, “Hey, stupid!” I was writing this character as a schlub and punchline but now he’s critical. Figuring out what’s critical is an exercise in itself though, particularly going from novel to comic. A novel enables so much free space for writing because the whole story is words, but ain’t nobody got time for that in a comic. I learned pretty quickly and out of necessity that less is more here.

Empowering:false Imprisonment

Holy butt does it feel good to write dialogue for something about which I care so much. Of the Night is a story I’ve had in my head for years and it’s based in Philadelphia. Since I started there have been points where I feel like I’m really nailing the spirit of something. And then there are times I go back and read it and it’s garbage. I feel trapped by hackneyed language that I swear had a little glimmer when it comes out of my pen, and I go back and forth on it like that viking ship ride at the boardwalk.

Invigorating:exasperating

Deciding to turn OtN into a comic breathed fresh life into the entire project. It’s a completely different way of storytelling and something I never imagined doing – not because I didn’t want to, but simply because it hadn’t crossed my mind. So not only did the story go on a different path but so did my brain. That path doesn’t leave room for exposition though. I had to cut some pivotal moments when turning my manuscript into a comic script because the art would be responsible for conveying them. I try not to look at it as words wasted, though, because in some way they’ve still contributed to the story.

Be sure to check back next month for another update on Of the Night, and the weeks in between for other fun comic explorations. 

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