Today was supposed to be my first day back at work after a week long holiday. Then my student caught a cold and my class was cancelled, so woohoo! Extended holiday! Armed with a cup of tea and an empty house, I did what I’d been doing for the last week: I was creatively productive for Bone Wall. I tickled out another 1700 words today and that combined with what I wrote over the break put me at just over 33,000. Awesome. But it’s still only a fifth of my word goal, which is actually a good thing considering I’m 33k in and I still haven’t gotten my main character’s butt out the door.
To be fair, things are a little rough in that protagonist role I gave him. Specifically, he doesn’t have all the much to do in the first half of my outline. Mostly, things happen around him that frustrate him until he does something stupid. Which is fine. But set up needs to happen via the other characters, and one of them in particular became so amazing that I accidentally gave her an 8000 word chapter, all for herself. For real.
That chapter wasn’t even supposed to be there. It wasn’t written into the outline at all, but a she had to take a three day journey through the desert that I had originally intended to be a time jump until I realized hey, this is a good opportunity to set down some scenery and toss in a few world building seeds for later. Well, it turns out that those seeds grew like hyperactive bamboo, and the next thing I knew, I had a whole other subplot in my arms, wailing and soiling itself. Fortunately it’s an easy enough thing to tie into the main plot later on, however, I now have 8000 words devoted to a secondary character, while my protagonist, for all intents and purposes, is at home twiddling his thumbs. It’s a problem, and I’m struggling to find things for him to do.
“Well, why don’t you just make the more interesting character the protagonist?” I hear you say in my mind, because my readers have suddenly become telepathic. The answer to that is, because the secondary character has nothing to do in the second half of the book, and the protagonist is running around having all the cool adventures. It’s a tag team; they’re working together to frustrate me now, and I won’t have it! Hardship and turmoil all around. That’ll teach ’em.
Because I had a week to kill and no plans to go anywhere or do anything other than turn my brain off and drool for a couple days, I thought I’d flex my art fingers and do some sketches for my WIP. Drawing is a nice way to relieve some pent up creative energy that won’t go easily into writing. Mostly, I wanted to do some costume design. I have a sort of a vague notion of what the cultural costumes for the characters are, but because I’m absolute shit at retaining images in my head for more than a few seconds, it really doesn’t hep me unless I can physically see what I’m trying to describe. It also doesn’t help that every single costume book I’ve bought has this bizarre idea that, aside from France and England (and the rest of the western European counties to a lesser extent) no one else in the world wore clothes.
Anyway, I’ve based my designs on what I could scrounge up on Pinterest of Turkish costumes, as those are as close as I can get to the vision in my head. At the moment they borrow heavily, but I can’t branch out creatively until I fully understand the root of what I’m drawing.
Before I self-consciously reveal my artistic soul to the whole, cruel internet, there’s a few things you should know:
1) I’m not phenomenally good at visual art. It’s not a skill I’ve spent a lot of time honing in recent years. As a child, I drew and drew and painted and painted, and there were some offers to attend art school and all that, but my father told me again and again that there was no future in art, and I stupidly believed him. (Lesson here, kids: if anyone tells you that you’re a fool for pursuing what you love, stick your fingers firmly into your ears and shout “LALALALALALACAN’THEARYOU!”). Anywho, in the end I decided I wanted to be a writer more than I wanted to be a painter, or a banker, or a veterinarian, and so I’m aware that my art will never make it into any beautiful galleries. I’m fine with that. (Really *sniff* I am *sniff*.)
2) Copics aren’t my usual medium. I get the most satisfaction with the finished product of my artwork from pencil or acrylic. But I now live next to an art store (just as dangerous as living next to a bookstore, believe me) and a whole world of medium has opened up to me. Copics are a sort of alcohol based marker that are more versatile than regular old Crayola felt pens. You have more control over transparency and blends and they can combine to form some really cool visual effects. I like working with Copics when I want to put some quick color onto a drawing, or experiment with color combos, but I am by no means fluent in their use. I’m a two year old finger-painting on the wall with my own diaper leavings compared to some of the art that can be drawn up with them.
3) These were mostly done as an experiment in design and color. Not a great deal of planning went into any of the designs here. I messed around with different pens and markers until I got something close to satisfactory, and changed my strategy for each new picture I did.
So, with that in mind, here is the product of three days of tinkering:
I started with this one. At this point I was just messing around, considering how my characters might dress. It’s not all that spectacular.
Things I Learned:
– I really need to find my outlining pens. Regular permanent markers bleed like a stuck pig when used with Copics.
– The colorless blending marker is not very good at blending. It is, however, somewhat decent at highlighting, if you can control the bleed.
– Textured paper is no good for Copics.
– Small detail work in a vastly different color needs to be done with another medium. Copics bleed together too easily. Probably because of the paper.
– I’m not skilled enough to make large shoes not look like large feet.
– I need to learn how to draw proper folds in clothing.
This one I had much more success with. I had a mission: to actually create something aesthetically pleasing. Something with some cool design elements. Something flashy. I ended up flubbing the pencil sketch, but the coloring turned out all right.
Things I Learned:
– As much as I shudder at assigning different poses to different sexes, drawing a noblewoman in a skirt with her legs spread looks awkward.
– Boobs mess up perspective.
– Either a cloth is all the way shear, or all the way opaque. Combining the two looks confusing.
– Light source is important.
– As is knowing the direction of the cloth fall.
– The colorless blender is boss at making something look like damask or brocade. Especially when used with a jell or milk pen.
– Reds bleed like, well, blood. It’s very messy.
With this final picture, I had a lot clearer picture in my head when I started it. I went in it with some clear ideas as to what I wanted the final product to look like.
Things I Learned:
– Screw finding my old outlining pens. Let’s by a new, expensive Copic drawing pen… that bleeds just as badly as the permanent marker.
– Even if you’ve got no other shade to use for shadows, don’t go with one that’s radically darker than your base palette.
– It doesn’t matter if it works in the photograph, the design has to make sense on your own page.
– Don’t get lazy with shading and highlights.
– White milk pen makes amazing patterns for cloth.
– Lighter Copic colors are easier to work with than darker ones.
– Outlining designs in fabric doesn’t work. Line art is best reserved for outside boundaries only.
– Don’t use shadows sparingly. There are three different shades for each color for a reason.
So that was a little view of my artistic endeavors for the week.
How do you blow creative steam?
Have you ever had a story hijacked by a side character? What did you do about it?