Monday, July 30, 2012

not sure where this is going


Seven years ago, i started writing a fairy tale. I had intended it to be novel length (which, according to the almighty Google, should be somewhere above 200 pages). When my little masterpiece was all neatly typed and edited in Microsoft Word, it was 25 pages. But in the meantime, i had written several more fairy tales.

The first one, begun in the back of my diary on a slow night at the Quiznos where i worked, was supposed to be a stand-alone project. Over the next few years, the stories were written in Quiznos, in church, in my bedroom, in airplanes, in German living rooms, in Spanish kitchens, in English dorm rooms, in Italian hotels, and in the great outdoors. And as i wrote, i began to see connections between my stories, places of contact where the smaller pieces could be woven into a compelling whole.

Can't you just picture cute forest
animals helping her bake a pie?
I began editing in different colors of ink, writing and rewriting by hand until there was an established shape and structure to my narrative. I filled whole notebooks with studies on races, languages, geographical features, economic structures, histories, and diplomatic relations between countries i had invented. I drew maps, illustrating shipping ports, mountains, areas of high magical concentration, types of commerce and industry, and major cities. I created charters for magical societies, drew family trees, and studied existing fairy tales and fantasy novels for clues about battle, magic, sociology, layered meanings, and how to create an original fairy tale that was recognizably a fairy tale. When i had writer's block, i found a popular fairy tale and re-wrote it to fit the history of my own stories (Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White all got this treatment. I also wrote an outline of an alternate Snow White narrative where this snow-white-skin-ebony-black-hair-blood-red-lips girl was a modern Goth teenager). 

I began typing and transcribing and editing further. I re-drew my maps. I sent pieces of stories to friends for review and suggestions. I put my notebooks and flash drive away for months at a time to focus on school. I pulled them out again to do more editing and transcribing and dreaming.

A few weeks ago, the final story was transcribed. All that was left was the final editing of the overall structure and the story would be complete and ready for publication.

Except that, as i worked on these stories, i realized something important: they suck. I know: it's shocking that a fifteen-year-old writing in the back room of a Quiznos between the dinner rush and the dirtbag rush didn't come up with a literary masterpiece, but somehow this was the case.

However, there are still elements worth redeeming. But i'm not sure that short stories or novels are really my "thing". In the interest of preserving the good parts and replacing the bad parts with more good parts, i'm looking into what can be done to "save" this endeavor. And here is my thought: graphic novel. See, the parts that i suck at the most are the descriptions. I can do dialogue, and i can do exposition, and i can do romance and humor and tragedy and all that crap. But i can't show you what's happening, and we all know that the cardinal rule of writing is "show, don't tell".

As i have been reading graphic novels and comic books, i have seen that they are a really great shortcut for the "showing" part of writing. With the exception of very early comic books (X-Men, i'm looking at you), works in these genres let the images do the showing, allowing the writers to concentrate on the other parts of the writing. I've learned that writing a graphic novel is a little like writing a TV show/movie/play: what the writer produces is, in fact, called a script. It has things like dialogue and exposition, but it also has things like, "Full body shot of girl in a skimpy blue negligee. She has choppy blonde hair and is thin, but painfully so, like she's malnourished. She is facing the reader, but is gazing at nothing -- zoned out." The writer collaborates with artists, inkers, letterers, and colorists (these may not all the the technical terms) to produce a beautiful, fascinating, cohesive work of art and literature.

I want to do that, please.

Catch 1: i can't draw. Like, at all.

Catch 2: the people i know who can draw can't draw like what's in my head when i write these stories, and i don't want to do this if i can't do it right.

Catch 3: being a broke blogger/aspiring poet/grad student/administrative assistant with ZERO experience with any actual publication, any novel/short story writing, or any real publishing credits to my name, i don't have anything to convince a real comic book/graphic novel artist to work with me. For free. With no guarantee of compensation.

Catch 4: the limited Google research i did before writing this post has led me to conclude that publishers won't look at a graphic novel script. They only want to see a polished manuscript complete with artwork. If you're someone with some clout, like an employee of a comic publisher or Neil Gaiman, you can announce that you'd like to create a graphic novel and someone will probably respond. If you're me, i don't know what you do.


I plan to continue editing/polishing/writing, possibly creating two copies of this book (one written as a traditional text novel and one as a script for a graphic novel). I plan to continue blogging/writing poems and being too scared to submit them anywhere/working toward my education degree/answering phones. And one day, maybe i'll meet someone who has always dreamed of creating a graphic novel of original fairy tales, but hasn't found anyone to write a script that matches the glorious images in his or her head.

And then magic will happen.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure in your internet travels you've found art that you like, perhaps even artists you'd think are a match for your work. If not, may I suggest you try There are starving artists all over that may be hungry for a fairy tale collaboration, or else a commissioned piece for a reasonable price. Any artwork you have will better your chances of getting that graphic novel published. If nothing else, you can do what I do and get lost among the pretty pictures.