Digital art of a big, fat monarch butterfly caterpillar. It's covered in a cacophony of black, peach, and white stripes. It has big black feelers on its head and fake feelers on its butt. The remains of leaves that it has demolished in its everpresent hunger are scattered around where it steps.

Cocoon Year: A New Start
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 21

I wrote things. Mostly, I went deep into Stone’s relationship with a new character named Jean. From the most recent discarded draft, I rescued an opening sequence where clerics in 1191 AD discuss that Christians believed the world would end in 1000 AD. I want to portray medieval people as being capable of skepticism. Without knowing any better, I’d say pop cultural belief that they were all unerringly and unquestioningly religious has roots in Victorian misconceptions at best and fascist propaganda at worst. I don’t think there has ever been a time where all humans in a given area have stringently and similarly believed the same things. In other words, ‘everybody was good and Christian in medieval times’ is not really a thing. I know that clerics would often express skepticism although this is a creative process blog so I’m not obligated to cite a particular thing.

I’m trying a new technique where I’ve defined the finish line as 125 pages of script. Screenplays are a lot lighter than prose, and 125 pages is the given length for a 90-minute movie. Since graphic novels are a little bit like movies, and I err towards cinematography rather than literature in mine, the screenplay length makes sense to me. It’s also not something I’ve tried before so the novelty helps keep me focused for the time being. I went through and added pages and page breaks for specific scenes I have in mind. I am also checking a cozy mystery beat sheet and hoping that the connections I’m seeing aren’t just like, when someone randomly overlays a Fibonacci spiral on top of random images to ‘prove’ that spirals are everywhere in art and in nature.

Digital diagram of a golden spiral confusingly laid on top of a photograph of a spiral staircase. The spirals do not match up. The proportions are outlined via number and graph lines, but this still doesn't make any sense, nor is it supposed to make sense.  Photograph by: https://pixabay.com/photos/gaiazoo-spiral-staircase-kerkrade-7844381/ Fibonacci spiral diagram by: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_spiral#/media/File:Fibonacci_Spiral.svg

Legend has it, if you stick a Fibonacci spiral on top of any image, the image becomes well-composed. (This is sarcasm.)

Maybe beat sheets are more like for beginners and once I have a better grasp on how to write well, I can remix them more effectively. That’s also how a lot of compositional rules work.

Already I’m seeing a lot more flexibility as I move chunks of script around. Trello should be more apt for this, right? Well, not really. Trello was probably just making the plots more detailed than they needed to be. Or, they just don’t work with my writing explorations, which are probably also part of my process as well. I’m sure plenty of writers have piles of pages they used to get to know the characters behind their stories. I know I am kind of annoyed when I see someone’s first draft and it’s clear that they haven’t explored anything outside of hitting outline beats. It’s also quite possible that my previous strategy of using Trello is no longer novel so now I’m grasping for reasons why I shouldn’t use it anymore. It’s still possible I might return to Trello or even real physical notecards but that technique would need some sharper rules to keep the scene count from ballooning out of control.

I started doing the final colors on my Troubled Histories anthology. This means taking flats and adding highlights and shadows. I’ve erred towards a lighter touch since these pages will be quite small, chapter-book sized. Overworking images or having too much shading and highlights can make otherwise simple imagery confusing. Having simplified my color selection and shading process helps make these a breeze, so long as I’ve flatted the panel correctly.

Lineart of a king in a throne room toasting a groveling peasant. The lines are thin. There are two other images of process, and the final image will more completely describe what is going on in this comic panel.

Lines. The color was actually added to the lines after I figured out the highlights and shadows, but I’m too lazy to show this in the image itself.

Flatted colors of the above lineart. It's mostly reds and golds, with blue for the focal point of the king. Full description of image is in the version below.

Flats, with some flats acting as highlights and shadows.

Fully-colored and detailed comic panel made with digital art. The style is cel-shaded with special attention to points of interest, and allowance of colors to sit flat with no shading in areas where there shouldn't be much interest. Overall, the panel is very threatening and red in color, with gold accents. A king sits on a throne in a blue cape. He toasts a groveling peasant with a golden chalice in his royal hand. The king is surrounded by helmeted, cloaked knights in crimson capes. This all takes place in a throne room lavishly decorated with red curtains, a podium decorated with paintings and gold leaf, a fancy throne with dragons on the arm rests, and marble tiles in a checkerboard pattern for flooring.

And now I get to define shapes and pull the panel out of ‘flat’ land.

Once coloring is done, the lettering finalization will take place. I am languishing on this project and would like to focus on other things (…Warlock’d…) so I am not feeling anything super fancy or experimental on the letters. This will be a completely normal comic which is fine.

One other thing about this week is that my spouse, in pursuit of mental health, popped open Unity and started doing some hobby-level game dev. I’ve been mildly obsessing over pixel art in my off time so I decided to give him little ‘treats’ in the form of pixel art that he can program to do silly things. We both enjoy games where characters change visually so I’m experimenting with a pixel ‘doll’ that can be dressed up as it goes on an adventure.

Digital pixel art of a naked, doll-like character. It is so simplified it doesn't even have eyes or a mouth, or a bellybutton. The art is intended to be seen at 32 by 32 pixels, but has been enlarged to three times the size so as not to be actually tiny on a webpage.

Nakey 32×32 adventures!

Cocoon Week 22

Digital art of a 12th century lock found on a church at one point in time. This square bronze lock has clearly seen wear and tear, but originally it was an ornately crafted piece with animals entwined in detailed bronzework. It has an enormous crude keyhole in the middle. Dragon heads sprout from its corners. The lock has been posed on a checkerboard-like pattern that alternates between different shades of maroon.

It’s complete! My Troubled Histories anthology entry, ‘We Need to Talk About Locks’ is done. I submitted it this week to remove it from my plate. It helped me refresh my experience with the gaudy Warlock’d palette and how to keep it under control, as well as where and when to expand it. I’m looking forward to seeing this in print although I do wish I’d had more passion for it.

Screenshot of a color palette organized around four bold bands of orangeish red, goldenrod, ultramarine blue, and a very pale, almost neon, seafoam green. There are sixteen other colors gathered around these four main colors, in various shades of darkness, lightness, and saturation. An unimportant hex code remains on the red band from where the cursor was hovering as I took the screenshot.

This is the palette! It’s based on jewel tones used in medieval art. They liked colors. They weren’t sad gray people shuffling around dingy brown cities.

Warlock’d is going interestingly. I’m really slowing down on scenes and letting the writing chew the scenery. Readers can learn more than one thing about a character at a time. Not all of it is important. I can waste people’s time a little bit. I want to give them the sensation of hanging out with a character and really getting to know them, perhaps being fond of them. My points of escalation have also, for lack of a better term, de-escalated, into smaller steps that are more easily portrayed by this little setting. This isn’t an epic fantasy where you need to know a lot about the setting. I’m also trying to be less snarky and more earnest. The humor ought to come from characters remarking on their situations, not from me making fun of weird medieval things.

One thing I’m doing is porting around bits of writing to different sections helter-skelter. If something feels like it should be revealed earlier, then I move it up earlier. Scenes where I don’t quite know what’s going to happen yet become pages with page breaks for later. So far I am sitting at 28/125 pages in my count and hope to make every page count towards the whole. This story may feel ‘slow’ as a result — maybe that’s fine. If I can keep scenes mostly familiar and only introduce some esoteric thing every few scenes that might be better for readers.

I was reading a draft of Idolon, the next story in my Amphiox world, and really hated how many new things I onboarded and explained. I think there’s also something to be said for presenting something without explanation as a ‘well what’s that thing’ and then explaining it later when it’s actually important. But. I do need to write Warlock’d and not Idolon.

So far Margot is a lot funnier as a living character so I hope that her death (and subsequent resurrection as a lost soul) is more interesting as a result. Currently it feels like the antagonistic church forces act too quickly for Stone to work alongside them willingly.

I have also decided that Stone is a burgher whose wealth comes from the gold trade — both selling and crafting. In other stories his status was frequently up in the air — was he an official demonologist? Aligned with the church? Outcast? A random ‘lay cleric’? The way southern kingdoms interacted with northern kingdoms in Europe was through trade. I’ve settled on gold as something that people would immediately recognize as a special part of medieval culture, and that would lend itself to Stone’s background, wealth, and power.

Most people think of medieval caste society as two castes. Royals and not-royals. Looking into this via Wikipedia (bless all wikipedia historians), the society was more formally recognized as three different worlds, that of laborers, royalty, and clergy. Clergy sort of had a subdivision between noble clergy (from the royal world) and lay clergy (from the laborer world). Then, burghers and craftsmen were experiencing more privilege during a mini-renaissance than other times, so this seemed like a good spot for Stone. He only gets pulled into the religious esoterica on behalf of his friend, Jean. The story transforms Stone into a private detective who isn’t beholden to the crown or to the cross. This sounds good to me so far. Who knows if it will change later, but it’s nice to have specifics.

Concerning Lebeau…They’re gone. This poor knight is now sequel fodder. Rest well, my dear enby knight.

In their place is a quasi-love interest and plot macguffin of a character who currently goes by the name of ‘Jean’, pending a name change. Jean is Stone’s close friend. In my head they have an extremely romantic relationship full of physical and verbal affection. Stone, however, is a very private person and would likely not have much in the way of sexual impulses, much less act out on them. So yes, clearly and openly gay, but due to character personalities and situations and medieval people in general being quite affectionate with each other, not a typical romantic relationship concerning sex. I’m really hoping no one misinterprets this as being sex-negative because I’m not, I just find it easier to make Stone asexual. I can understand a lack of interest in sex for oneself. Happy Pride month next week, I guess.

Jean himself seems to be a lay scholar who aspires to the Benedictine order as a monk. He is able to afford a Parisian education, so something in his background out to align with that. He and Stone met as scholars and became friends. That’s all I know about Jean so far. I made an ill-fated foray into researching what people might find sexy about tonsures on Bluesky and found a whole lot of bald thirst. I get what I deserve.

I feel like I need to keep up writing the draft until it is done so that another random direction doesn’t pull me elsewhere. Perfection is a fascist’s tool for keeping control, after all.

Game dev with my spouse has continued. I am having fun chewing on the problem of how to make tiling textures with organic edges. I wish writing problems were this interesting to me. I guess the more I learn the more interesting those problems will seem.

Screenshot of pixel art depicting a forest composed of neatly interlocking 32 by 32 pixel tiles. The trees are in all shapes and sizes and very organic, utilizing a manual anti-aliasing technique. They are a very understated shade of green, almost gray.

To Do Next Week:

  1. Writing!!!
  2. Web design for Codex Apis (short comics collection) (Didn’t get around to this)
  3. Or, web design for Warlock’d? Still haven’t gotten around to it. It still feels so far off!
  4. More pixel art for my beloved

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 19 & 20

Cocoon Year: Weeks 19 & 20

Cocoon Year: May WoesI 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...

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...

Want to chat about this?