pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (No Rest for the Wicked)
Wednesday and Thursday I attended a couple of workshops which I learned about through the Pima County Public Library. Wednesday's topic was "Grantseeking Basics for Nonprofits" and was sponsored by the library. Thursday's was advertised as "Revenue Development/Marketing: What is branding and how do I accomplish this for my organization?" on the library website, but our handouts were titled, "BRANDING: Creativity and Building an Image for Your Organization;" it was sponsored by Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Network.

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pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (curiosity)
I attended the last of The Fantastic in Word and Image workshops this afternoon. The guest panelists were "comic writers and artists:" Adam Beechen, Paul Fini, and Benjamin Ilka. Although my original decision to attend was based primarily on a desire to support library programs such as this one, I'm really glad I went as I enjoyed the program and found it very informative.

Adam Beechen, who was visiting from Los Angeles, writes for comics, animated cartoons, live-action films, and other media. Some of the comics and animated series he has worked with include Justice League, Robin, and Teen Titans (plus lots more), and his current writing projects include the Batgirl series and other projects for DC comics. Since I don't know much about writing for comics, and only slightly more about animation, I found his comments very interesting. But, then, I found the comments of all the participants interesting.

Paul Fini writes and draws comics, and publishes his work through IndieOnly Comics, a small press he founded; so far, this includes issues of Bliss, an autobiographical comic, and Plant Guy, a superhero comic. He enjoys being able to work on two completely different art styles in his work, since for Bliss he uses a realistic style and for Plant Guy a more comic-y style. IndieOnly Comics has also published Sequentially Tucson which showcases collaborative works by the Sequentially Tucson comic sketch group. Paul also works as a graphic designer and musician.

Benjamin Ilka created the comic book Ventriloquists Pay Double and the graphic novel A Boy and His Shadow. He has illustrated the coloring books, Navajo Code Talker and Caves!, for Rio Nuevo Publishers. He publishes a number of "Ash Can" comics through his small press, MadSeaDog and he's also a printmaker. Benjamin once traveled to Nepal with the Peace Corps and will be leaving for Ethiopia in a few weeks with his wife and their one-year-old child (a boy, I think) in association with his wife's work. Their Tucson home is on the market, so please wish them luck for being able to sell it quickly.

The three discussed a wide range of topics about comic art and writing. All of them fell in love with comics at an early age and it was their love for the art and the storytelling in comics that drew them to make it the focus of their careers. There's so much I could write about, but since my focus is primarily writing, I'd like to pick up on a comment Paul made, that the storytelling for movies and comics is very similar, as each is composed of a number of shots or panels which work visually to tell one event or aspect of the story. Adam elaborated on this topic, explaining a few of the differences he sees in writing for different visual media. When writing a script for a live action film, the writer typically gives a minimum of direction on the page, allowing the actors [and director] scope for their addition to the collaborative work. When writing for animated films and comic books, however; the writer may give a little more information about visuals, perhaps suggesting that a scene or image be drawn as a high or low shot (a technique which contributes the mood being established), although it's still a collaborative process in which the artists interpret the script. One very important aspect of a comic writer's work is also to be very aware of page breaks: each page must draw the reader through the page and end in such a way as to make the reader want to turn the page.

I know that many writers find that techniques that apply to writing for live-action films can be useful to writers working on short stories and novels, so my question to ponder at this moment is whether writing techniques that apply to writing for comics may also prove useful to those of us working in less visual mediums.
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (writing)
This afternoon I attended The Fantastic in Word and Image Author and Artist Workshop, which featured Will Shetterly ([ profile] willshetterly) and Robert E. Vardeman. Moderating, was the fabulously talented Liz Danforth, who is a librarian here and was IMHO, an unadvertised bonus.

The format was very similar to a panel at a con, except that it was four hours ling with a break in the middle and a few snacks on a table in the back of the room.

I arrived late, due to a combination of factors that included a last minute conference with my husband over a trip to the grocery store, construction that required a detour to a different freeway underpass, a train which I handled by a second detour, and then me driving to the wrong location even though I'd checked the address twice and looked at a map, and even though I don't normally confuse the streets Tanque Verde and Golf Links. I might have even managed to get there in time if it hadn't been for going to the wrong place. Despite arriving twenty minutes late, I was greeted with friendly smiles and discreet waves by the people who know me. And as I crept into a seat, a woman sitting a couple of chairs down did a double take. She and I know each other from our involvement in the Society of Technical Writers, but had never discussed our interests in fiction.

Most of the audience were beginning writers, and the basic premise was that they would "hear trade secrets from veteran fantasy, science-fiction and comic book writers and artists." At this point, I'm not sure how many actual secrets there really are, since sff authors and artists are, in my experience, pretty open about the process of creating fiction and getting it published, but our panelists did their best to introduce folks to the basics.

As I walked in, the topic of discussion was outlining. Both Bob and Will favor the use of an informal outline or synopsis. Bob, if I understood this correctly, has always used one, even for short stories. Will, OTOH, came to them more slowly, starting his writing career with a preference for just sitting down and writing. He suggested that people who prefer not to use and outline or synopsis try playing with them and reminded us that if, as the story progresses, you find yourself wanting to deviate from your chosen script that it's okay to do so. Toss it out and write a new one any time you feel like it. Which, as he expressed it, was just common sense, although I have proved myself more than capable of twisting myself into all kinds of knots when attempting to follow an outline. (And, what do I think I'm doing when I use a fairy tale as the basis for a story, after all? Perhaps, my difficulty with outlines is all psychological and if I can think of them from a more relaxed position they can become a useful tool, instead of yet one more barrier.)

The discussion segued neatly into plotting. I had a little trouble with taking notes and focusing on what was being said at the same time (obviously, my super-student skills are fading), but IIRC Will mentioned that there were three different "plots" that are all active in a story: 1) the action plot (I think this is the one most of us are familiar with), 2) the relationship plot or story, and 3) the transformation plot or story. Will used O'Henry's "Gift of the Magi" as an example. In the action plot, we have a young couple who buy each other Christmas gifts. (Will said this better, but I think you get the point.) In the relationship story, we have newlyweds who don't yet know each other as well as they think they do, so each sacrifices something they value and which the other wants to honor, in order to get the money for the gifts, in the process bringing their love for each other into greater focus. In the transformation story, each of the characters grows just a little. It is the interaction of the three plot-types which give us a satisfactory story. Had only the action plot occurred, without the other two, the story would not have worked.

Bob commented that the action plot keeps him on script and helps him to avoid straying off on unproductive sidelines, but he thinks he would be very uncomfortable trying to plot out the relationship and transformation aspects of the story in advance, as he prefers to "discover" them in the writing of the action story; that's where his satisfaction as a writer comes in.

At one point, and it may actually have been at a different moment in the workshop, but I think it fits here well, Liz told us a story about her ex-husband, Mike, who is also a writer. Once while traveling abroad, they were asked to declare the purpose of their visit. "Business, or pleasure?" the guard asked. "Pleasure," they replied. But, looking at their passports, the guard responded to Mike, "No. You writers are always working." Liz went on to tell us that this was very true of Mike. Even when he wasn't sitting at a keyboard, he was always thinking about his writing. When he finally sat down to write, his fingers would fly over the keyboard like crazy, as if he were "channeling" the story, but what was really happening was that he had the complete story in his head, ready to be told.

I'd like to pause at this point to get your thoughts on outlining, plotting, and story arcs. When you're writing, do you like to use an outline or synopsis? If you don't, is it possible that you're doing a lot of this work in your head? Have you ever tried working (playing?) with plots other than the action plot?

My answers )
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (the lady or the tiger)
As mentioned in a previous post, the local library is sponsoring workshops on "The Fantastic in Word and Image."

Here's the library's description of tomorrow's workshop:

This is the second of three workshops where you'll hear trade secrets from veteran fantasy, science-fiction and comic book writers and artists.

In this half-day workshop, authors Will Shetterly and Robert E. Vardeman will talk about how they work, what inspires them, big mistakes they've made along the way, and any other insider tips you can get out of them! They'll fill you in on their latest books and upcoming projects, and of course, there will be a Q & A session afterward.

This session is great for fans as well as would-be writers.

Light refreshments will be served.

Call 594-5357 to register and for more information.

You can find Will Shetterly on LiveJournal as [ profile] willshetterly. Bob Vardeman doesn't seem to have a LiveJournal, so we have to make do with his website. I doubt he'll remember me, but I met Bob back in 1990, when I attended my first SF con as an adult. His story, "Eating Vacuum," is the lead story in Space Pirates and the story I wrote with Karl is the last, which facts seem significant to me, in a very small way. :)

I'm planning on showing up, as well, although only as a participant, since with one and a half published stories, I don't get asked to tell secrets of the trade. However, this rarely stops me from speaking up. ;>

ETA: The location of the event is the Miller Golf Links Library branch at:
9640 E. Golf Links Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85730
Google map
pameladlloyd: Alya, an original character by Ian L. Powell (UFO over desert)
If you're local to the Tucson area, you might be interested in the series of three workshops hosted by the Pima County Public Library that starts tomorrow (Saturday, September 20, 2008), with the theme: Fantastic in Word and Image: Author and Artist Workshops and Contests.

The first workshop will be held tomorrow at the Himmel Park library from noon until 4 p.m.

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What amazes me is that I actually learned about this before it happened.


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