Monday, July 8, 2013

Comic/Creative: A Completed Script

Note: I write these a few weeks in advance. Know that I've been doing almost nothing but work on the Random Encounter album since this post was written...
This week I've found myself spending more time working on the comic book than I normally do so it seemed like the right topic. My functions as the developer, writer, editor, producer, art director, marketing, and general continuity guy give me anywhere between five to twenty-five hours of things to do on any given week but the last few days have been exceptionally taxing because I just sat down and pushed through the rest of a complete adaptation of the script from light 90 page film script to detailed 150 page comic book script! It's been a two year journey and I'm extremely proud to finally be done.

Character Evolution of "Cade" from 2006 to 2013
As the writer I've generally looked at the same script I've been working on since 2007 (drawing takes time), made revisions, and revised those revisions a few more times. The main cause for rewrites have been upgrades in technology, back story, location, and plot revisions given to me by the artist & co-developer, who's really helped expand the world over the last two years. How will the characters in the story interact now that they're armed differently? Now that they've been hurt in the prior scene? Now that we've changed direction and killed off (or alternatively, let live) a character from a previous scene? How about now that every building is hex-shaped? A lot of things got changed over the grand transition from inception to script but it's been fun work. Over the last year we also picked up two interactive supporters, basically a kind of "pick your own ending" book (via a series of emails) where our donors control a character in the comic book series. They actually designed the characters with us and dictated what actions they'd take at significant crossroads. It's been pretty fun.

Interactive Supporter
Given the sheer volume of changes, writing and editing have taken up far more time than it should...
Fortunately we've had the benefit (or curse) of being able to revise the entire story because nothing's been released yet, so when a problematic plot point needs to change, like us not wanting to address a side character's medical condition early on in the series because "it takes too much attention away from the main story" I suddenly have a large task ahead. First I need to cut the dialogue from the big reveal scene while simultaneously marking the existing frames that have already been drawn for it. I need to find new content to fill the gap in the story so the comic remains at an even number of pages divisible by 4. The magic number is "4" because comics are basically large pieces of paper that are folded in half, with printed material on both sides. Then I have to sift through the entire script (for the whole series) and remove any references to the conversation. After that I also need to look both in the script and in the pages of the comic (that were already drawn) for required shifts in body language, interaction, and dialogue. Boring stuff to be sure but after the entire script has been read from start to (almost) finish again to make sure that it's still coherent I've been going back to finish the ever-changing final 40 pages.

"M-Guard"... Finally given the name Jax
The story loosely resembles a revolution led by a colorful and dangerous Dirty Dozen style cast. It became readily apparent by the time I'd reached the last quarter of the story from the 2007 script the original ending would be impossible to recreate because we killed off the key character it relied on. Oops... Far from an arbitrary choice (I strongly believe combat deserves a certain gravity) half of the characters I'd envisioned as being alive just didn't make it to the final leg of the journey. It was surprisingly emotional writing the final moments of characters that have been with me for longer than most real-life friends and I found myself questioning if I'd done a decent job of showing who they were within the confines of the script. I know how they'd act in a given scenario, I just questioned if I'd created the optimal scenarios to portray them in. We've also introduced a number of characters to the series that didn't exist at the start of 2012. Some of these characters also died but others wound up surviving, changing the delicate social dynamics of the group, and unexpectedly becoming fairly pivotal. We even had to name them after writing them into over 20 pages. I felt less and less like I was making up lines for characters and more like I was shifting the circumstances through which real people would interact. I felt like a D20 storyteller.

Storyboard "Thumb"
So having put in close to 40 hours over the week I finally made the much needed push to finish the script. Towards delirium on the final night I came across what amounted to a typo in a set of notes outlining the ending that seemed to make sense in my exhausted state. The typo was basically a placeholder idea I'd written in to fill the gaps of the story left by dead characters. It wasn't intended to be real. It wasn't intended to make sense. It was just what I thought would be running through the mind of one of the characters and how he'd justify his actions. However, instead of seeing it as an inner thought I mistook it for a key plot point (because of a formatting error) and ran with it. Somehow, as if by magic, an ending I hadn't envisioned came from it and all the problems and loose ends I wasn't sure about were magically fixed by my sleep-deprived mistake. I had Adam double-check my work the next morning and he verified that it wasn't just the sleep-deprivation, but that the story now had a solid ending better than the ones we were planning. Two complete revisions of the script later I'm sending it off to a few people for their professional feedback. With any luck we're down to minor revisions from here on out so I can put down the metaphorical writing pen for awhile.


  1. Excellent news sir, what's next? -AL

    1. And now we draw... 20+ hours a week until we're done. The next big update should be in December when we finish the storyboard for the entire series.