Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Writing A Graphic Novel: Crafting the Tone.

Hi All!

I've been spending the last month sketching out pencils for my first graphic novel, Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker (Random House, Spring 2020.) But before I got to this point, I had to write the darn thing.

This is a project I have been working on for a long time.  For years, it was a side project while I focused on picture books.  But when things started to dry up in the picture book department (meaning, no one was buying what I was making) I started thinking more about the graphic novel and a genre jump.

My earliest draft of the story is in June 2011.  The basic plot remains the same; Pacey is babysitting her little sister, Mina.  They have some conflict, as sisters tend to do.  Mina flies off on a real-life unicorn and Pacey - and the stuffed unicorn Slasher, who is actually alive -  go to the magical land of the unicorns to get her back. 

Over the drafts there was a lot of difference as to who the unicorns were, what they wanted Mina (and other children for) and a lot of secondary characters changed along the way.

Early character sketches for Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker

Here's a sketch of the characters from an early version of the story. The unicorn queen was cut and replaced with a similar character.  Dave got cut completely.  R.I.P. Dave. 

I spent a lot of time crafting of the tone of the relationship between Pacey and Mina.  In general, I think the older sibling is usually annoyed by the younger sibling, especially is they are the same gender.  So Pacey is pretty annoyed by Mina most of the time.  But, Pacey was coming off as unlikable.  That's not so great in a lead character.  So I had to increase the annoying qualities of Mina, and calm Pacey down so she was really trying to get along.  That made Pacey a nicer, more likable sister.  But there still needed to be some conflict, and Pacey is not a perfect person.  She likes to be in charge.  So instead of using the time with Mina to play with her - like Mina wants - Pacey uses the opportunity to play more of a care-giver/mother role, and that drives Mina crazy.  Mina wants to be like Pacey, she wants to be equals.  When Pacey treats her more like a baby, Mina freaks out and leaves on the unicorn.  (You may be asking, Is there a unicorn readily available, like a taxi?  No.  It makes sense in the book, tho.)

Once I got the sister relationship down, things went smoother in the character development part. 

Then I had to nail down the tone for the plot.

Why would unicorns take children?  Well, I knew I wanted to steer away from a My Little Pony sensibility.  So the unicorns are not awesome, fun characters who bring love and friendship.  In an early version, they were taking kids and forcing them to work in mines.  That was probably a little too harsh.

Then I went the other way.  I made it very silly.  Unicorns were out scouting children to perform in a talent contest to amuse the royal unicorns.  But the stakes were not high enough to cause a full rescue.

Eventually I settled on a unicorn population that felt a little more high society.  The unicorns of the tapestries. 

Image result for unicorn tapestries

Unicorns are the national animal of Scotland, after all. 

So I wanted to create a group that saw themselves as high status, cultured, and intelligent and did not appreciate how children have turned them into rainbow-maned cutie dolls with hearts on their butts.  So when the unicorns find a child - like Mina - who is particularly guilty of this cultural offense, they do something about it.  (I won't say what.)

The balance there felt correct.  Then I proceeded to scene work.

In the next post, I'll talk more about the format of writing a graphic novel.

Thanks so much for stopping in!
Have a great day!

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