Digital art of a well-fed monarch butterfly caterpillar helping itself to more milkweed leaves. The art is done in a style with thin black outlines and cel shading, but is otherwise rendered true to nature. There are three milkweed leaves in the picture and they have been eaten through the middle by the hungry caterpillar, leaving the steps and tips intact. The caterpillar, who is peach with black stripes, peels back the final leaf to nibble its edge.

Cocoon Year: May Woes
I keep saying I’m not going to restart the outline, but I wasn’t having any fun writing my rough draft and I think that’s a sign. Re-simplifying the story should help get the finish line closer.

 

Cocoon Week 19

I wrote many scenes in Warlock’d and was fairly confident in them, right until I hit the part where Stone returns to the fortress on the edge of town. Something about the character interaction felt lackluster, uninteresting, and not indicative of the world beyond the characters. It felt like a series of events that happen just because. Even though in the summary this part of the story felt solid, the details weren’t building to each other. The suspense wasn’t there. There wasn’t any friction to cause the characters to act in interesting ways.

Feeling lost, I consulted a couple of cozy mystery beat sheets (again) and rearranged my collection of scenes to better match the formula there. I don’t gel with ‘unviersal’ story archetypes such as Hero’s Journey and Save the Cat. However, I find genre-specific beat sheets very useful. Apparently there is such a thing as writing a story, figuring out which genre it is, and then editing according to a beat sheet. For now, and for my lack of expertise otherwise, murder mystery beat sheets make more sense to me. One curious thing I found was that in a murder mystery the protagonists can actually be pretty passive in the first act. They’re reacting to things, not necessarily pursuing a goal.

When first drafting this version of Warlock’d I used a mystery beat sheet. I stopped referencing it when I edited my summary, and edited it more and more. It’s gotten away from its original structure so I return to the beat sheet to make changes. One important thing I learned from this draft was that too much stuff happened passively while Stone watched in the later acts. This draft makes it so that Stone actively participates in an action sequence to save someone from being murdered by a demon. Prior to this he just watched that happen from above, followed by watching other stuff happen without him. This would be bad, to have the character revert to reaction and passivity in the second act.

I managed to finish outlining my Terrible Histories anthology submission. I feel all right about the lineart, but I may regret rushing the crowd scene. The next thing to do is flat all the colors. I know I will start out strong with the flatting but then revert to just getting it done and have to fix things after the fact. I’m confident that I can eventually beat the colors into shape prior to the deadline at the end of this month.

 

Cocoon Week 20

Screenshot of some flatting in my Troubled Histories anthology that I felt went particularly well. It depicts a man looking up at a fortress tower saying 'He thinks he can just take my stuff?

I’m devastated. I’ve realized that there is just too much going on in Warlock’d — and this was the light version of several prior drafts.

I swore not to scrap this draft and start over just because the writing is hard. I swore! And now I must break that oath.

Having gone more into Stone’s character and motivation, I’ve realized that he is not the type of character who can have much about him hidden from the reader. He can’t have some second mystery running tangentially alongside some other storyline.

I realized my own mistakes while watching Outer Range on Amazon Prime. This show is simply terrible: No focus, characters everywhere, strained storytelling and what appears to be un-charming Fargo fanfiction set in Wyoming for no reason. I wouldn’t be surprised if ChatGPT wrote this series, it’s that incoherent. The show’s principal problem is it doesn’t let the audience sit with anything concrete or form any positive opinions about anything. Some stories can do this in a fun way, but this show does not. I looked at Warlock’d in its current state and couldn’t bear to continue struggling with it, for its stories were in a similar state.

What then? Start over from the beginning, again? Well, sort of — There are bits of the current script that I like very much. They were developing Stone’s motivation and backstory. Stone has a missing friend now, and the primary aspect of his character (kindness) has more opportunities to shine. I want an opportunity to let readers sit with the setting, heresy, and the state of Hell as it was presented in the 12th century. What happens when a message that a religion portrays (an apocalypse in 1000 AD) doesn’t work out? The pivot is so interesting to me. Hell is an amendment to an apocalyptic prophecy. I believe a lot of modern evangelism and cults tend to hedge on apocalypses, and they never quite work out, so hopefully that’s something we can have in common with medieval people.

The scene where I stopped working on the current outline was one where Stone sticks up for himself against an authority figure who could easily kill him. It was a sillier scene meant to make a lot happen at once. It just felt…bad to write it. Like it was disrespecting my characters, somehow. I think this could be a potentially interesting scene with characters who are better set-up, but all I could think about was all the other things I wanted to set up and how they weren’t all quite relating to each other.

I took inspiration from a podcast where Saturday Night Live writers were reminiscing about process. Apparently they cut things that they like. While I feel like ‘Kill your Darlings’ is often too strictly applied, resulting in dull writing, in this case killing them feels right. I’m getting rid of things that I like in the current story. They’re going into the Sequel Fodder folder, as if someday I’ll spring them back out. It’s also interesting that the writers I like the most are humorists, as it seems like they’re less likely to try to write well, which results in less self-important stories.

Immediately, lacking a few of the characters who were too complex to onboard into an existing plot, I see a much clearer beat sheet, with more room to let readers experience the fun aspects of the setting — The food, the buildings in their original states, and especially all the folk spiritualities — without it all being something they need to pay special attention to. Not plot points, just details that build on an overall simpler plot. The last thing I want to do is worry my readers with worldbuilding.

Digital art of a 12th century lock with animals woven into metalworking designs. The lock is handsomely colored with gold leaf inlays, coppery hues, and a rich magenta background.

I’ll just console myself that my Troubled Histories anthology is coming together, although some of the flatting on pages is quite ugly and will need revision.

To Do Next Week:

  1. Writing!
  2. Coloring Troubled Histories
  3. Web design for Codex Apis (short comics collection)
  4. Or, web design for Warlock’d?

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Cocoon Year: Weeks 21 & 22

Cocoon Year: Weeks 21 & 22

Cocoon Year: A New StartI keep saying I'm not going to restart the outline, but I wasn't having any fun writing my rough draft and I think that's a sign. Re-simplifying the story should help get the finish line closer.   Cocoon Week 21 I wrote things. Mostly, I went...

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: April into MayI re-did my outline and dismantled my trello, just to set it up again for more writing madness. I have a definitive list of 20 scenes that I’d like to have in my story and now I’m going to see how they look all fleshed out.   Cocoon Week 17...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: April SummaryThese weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.     Cocoon Week 15 My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart...

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