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Starting a Story From Fresh pt.1 – Liam’s Journal

Posted by Josh Wilkie ,
Liam's Journal | Permalink | No Comments »

I promised, a while ago, that I would write a journal that addressed the writing
and creative process as much as anything else – how I start, and even why.

What makes a memorable character?
What are the themes?
How much do you care about popularity – ie. is it a project you’re doing for
yourself, or because you hope it will generate a huge, mainstream audience?
What age-range is it?
And as mentioned earlier – why is it important you do it?
But let’s start with…

Where do you get you ideas?

Great ideas do not come fully-formed out of the ether. Even the ideas I’ve
had that were born of dreams, and dragged screaming from my subconscious
before I forgot them, were an accumulation of living experiences. In Metawhal
Alpha the setting is somewhere I lived as a boy. I know every inch of the 
Clock Warehouse, the noises and smells of the place, as well as the referenced
folklore. The Pub in Death and the Myrmidon was indeed a local, and it does
have a well covered in glass that you can imagine some ancient, slime-slick
creature inhabiting…

Metawhal Alpha by MadefireStudios Death and The Myrmidon by MadefireStudios

The point here is that it pays to write about what you know.

I’ve broken that down more specifically into three areas to write about:

1. What you live
2. What you love
3. What you learn


What you live is your first-hand experience – your direct knowledge

of interfacing with the world. That is your feelings, your emotions, what
scares you, excites you, angers you or gives you peace. This includes the
people you know – which will become important for how you build your
cast of characters. You know from living how people interact, how they
respond to things. You know from living how everybody responds to
the same stimulus in unique and individual ways. You know from
living how things smell, how they feel, how they look. And you can 
extrapolate whole imagined worlds from this knowledge. Use it!

My life in Shardlow informed Metawhal Alpha and my upcoming
novella ‘Paradise Rex Press, Inc.’ My life in London informed
‘January Man’. My life in the UK and the US, as well as what I
have witnessed historically and culturally, has informed ‘Captain
Stone’.

January Man by LiamSharp Captain Stone is Missing... - Episode 1: Chess by MadefireStudios

What you love is part of what defines you, and you will almost
certainly be an expert in these areas! It will help you chose the kind
of characters that populate your world, the genre, the period, the
the smells, sights and sounds. Your love will give your project one
of the most essential ingredients – authenticity. This is crucial to
any fiction if it is to be believed, no matter how outlandish! 

I’ll comeback to this in the next section!

What you learn is where your world gets its depth. In most great
stories you learn something from the author, and quite often it is 
something the author learned that triggered an idea in the first place.

Over the years I’ve gone from blindly believing in God, for instance,
because my teachers told me I should, to discovering evolution at
a young age, to realizing that there are many compelling points of
view around just about everything. There is no one answer. Over 
time my views have radically changed, but my trajectory took me
from blind faith, to science, to a wider look at all religions, to finding
a deep love of anthropology, to new age hippy spirituality, to a
fascination with particle physics and astrophysics, to agnosticism,
to pretty much atheism, and still onwards. My point isn’t to say my
path is the RIGHT and only path, it’s just to say that my questing
and inquisitive mind led me to a wide and wonderful variety of
subject matter – material that has informed ALL my writing over the 
last couple of decades, and the net result is richness and balance.
‘The more you know the less you know’ is a cliché, and therefore a
truism. It’s is also the best way to generate story ideas. Learning
and research will form the bedrock of your story. You need to
know the answers to any questions that may be asked of you.  

What makes a memorable character?

The best characters feel real, and that is generally because they
are based on somebody the author knows, or a fusion of two or
three people. Giving your character the voice of a friend – or
enemy – gives them an immediate cadence. You can imagine
precisely what they sound like, their use of language, their
mannerisms, etc. The way they look can also play a big part.
A friend of mine very precisely matches a character I drew in
‘Spawn: the Dark Ages’, and he later became Tunny MalTuboly
in my novel ‘God Killers’.

You may also be inspired by historical figures, or aspects of
yourself. You may find that a character represents all the aspects
of yourself that are suppressed. He or she may be the calmer,
spiritual aspect of yourself, or the fearless, uncaring beast. 
There’s fun to be had with wish-fulfillment, setting yourself on
a journey within these stories, this world you are building -
though you should be wary of creating a perfect protagonist
who wins at absolutely everything.

When it comes to imaginative characters you can go way
more exotic. Here your knowledge – what you have learned,
your research – will really help. You might have discovered
the incredible clothing styles of the Inca’s, for example (maybe
you watched Apocolypto!) and think, hey – this flying reptile
would look amazing covered in dried white chalky mud, and
festooned with Indigo gemstones! 

Alway go a step further than you think you need to. The
added layers of thought will bring your character more life.
He/she/it will seem to have lived more years, and have a
mind unique to them. Remember, your characters have
generally lived a long time. With that comes nuance.

While I was writing ‘God Killers’ almost out of the blue
it struck me that my character Cherry Longorn could get
really ill at some point. She developed psoriasis, which almost
killed her, and directly informed how she looked and acted
in the wake of such an experience. In fact if she hadn’t had
this (unnamed, undiagnosed) condition in the book much
of her resulting experiences would have seemed, well, lame!

Here’s a character I am currently developing. I know he
needs to be powerful, and ancient. He needs to have horns,
but I want to somehow not be overboard with that. I’m
fixed on the beard, but should it be white or brown? 

New character concept 3 by LiamSharp

A little detail is the tattoo on his face, which represents his
familiar – a horned snake.

New character concept 1 by LiamSharp

And with the musculature – because he’s so far beyond human
concepts of strength and power is it OK to go really over-the-
top with him? Or should I reign myself in?

New character concept 5 by LiamSharp

Do I show his face, or does he wear a mask? 
Is his face always in the shadows?
How do I make him more alien and other?

When you create your characters you need to know what
part they play in the grand scheme. Are they pivotal? Do
we need to care about them? Even love them? What is their
most prominent quality? Their kindness, or the fear they
instil? Or does the way they look not conform in any way
with the way they actually are?

Regardless of all the above – nothing will ring as true unless
YOU fall in love with your characters and believe in them.


Next up:

What are the themes?
How much do you care about popularity – ie. is it a project you’re doing for
yourself, or because you hope it will generate a huge, mainstream audience?
What age-range is it?


Meanwhile:

Which fictional characters have you most identified with over the years?

Meet Emma Vieceli—writer of Fran Kenstein!

Posted by Josh Wilkie ,
Fireside, Interview | Permalink | No Comments »

Meet Emma Vieceli—writer of Fran Kenstein!

Good morning, gang!

It’s update time on Madefire’s Fran Kenstein Art Challenge. So far, things are going swimmingly and the community’s overwhelmingly positive feedback has been gratifying—reaffirming our excitement for this!

As a special treat today, let’s meet the voice behind our story—Fran Kenstein writer Emma Vieceli! 

First up—tell us a little about yourself!

Hi there! Okay, so I’m Emma (http://emmav.deviantart.com) and I’ve always loved telling stories; whether on stage, through writing or through comics – which combine the best of everything, I think.

Some of the projects I’ve worked on include: Alex Rider (current), Vampire Academy, Manga Shakespeare, The Avalon Chronicles, Young Avengers, My Little Pony and my creator owned titles, Dragon Heir and BREAKS (Which you can read RIGHT NOW for free at www.breakscomic.com). You can find out more about me at my website: www.emmavieceli.com or on my deviantART page. (Which I must update!)

How do you come to be acquainted with Liam/Madefire? Are you a fan of what we’re doing with digital reading both as a creator and fan?

I’ve known Liam for a long time. Comics are a pretty happy family most of the time, and it’s hard not to get to know your fellow creators. Years ago I got to know Liam through the London MCM Expo event; a show which had just started to grow back then – and that apparently saw over 100k people through the door this May! Liam and I stayed in touch off and on over the years, and then we found each other on devianART! I’ve been following Madefire with interest as they’re really on the button in terms of what can be achieved when you combine comic storytelling with media. I’m not a fan of standard ‘motion comics’ as they often run the risk of being a watered down version of either animation or comics, but Madefire are doing incredible things with the medium and are coming up with ways of genuinely forging a new way to read comics. A lot of it follows on and improves on steps I took along with the fantastic Thrill Electric (http://www.thethrillelectric.com/) team a couple of years ago – so it’s a medium I’ve always had interest in.

How did you come to be involved with this project?

I was lucky enough to be approached by Liam and Ben, and asked if I was interested in scripting a short comic for them. Fran sounded a really fun concept, as was the idea of seeing deviant artists working on it. So I immediately said I’d love to join in!

You’re known as a writer-artist but have you ever written a script for another artist to work from? How was that different, process-wise, then how you write for yourself? And, honestly, how did you get into the business of writing/drawing your own stuff?

This is the very first time I’ve scripted for someone else, and it was so much fun! I’m used to scripting for my own purposes, and I’m very used to drawing from other writers’ scripts, so I think I had a pretty firm idea of what an artist who had never worked with me might want to see in a script.

I was able to consider what was feasible in a direction, and what could be done with the space without making things really difficult on an artist, because I AM an artist :) What I did find was that I was a lot more careful than I would have been when writing for myself, haha. When I script for myself, it’s very messy and loose as I know I’ll be re-scripting more firmly once I’ve seen how the pages actually shake out visually. With Fran, I had to be sure that any artist could understand what I was explaining, so I had to be a little more clear than my own messy scripts ;)

Hopefully I’ve still left enough room for any artist to play, though, and make the pages their own. That’s a lot of the fun of comicking. 

Any advice for aspiring creators?

Gosh, there are a million things someone can offer as advice but, when it comes down to it, everyone will forge their own path in comics and art. Few paths are the same. But in terms of handy coverall advice, I’d definitely recommend challenging yourself to practice everything…especially the things that you don’t want to draw or write. Sticking with what you’re comfortable with will never lead to improvement; only within very small boundaries. Comics often require us to step out of our comfort barrier, so get ahead of the game and test yourself early! Hate drawing cars? DRAW CARS! Hate writing romance? WRITE ROMANCE! ^_^

Lastly, can you tell us some of your favorite deviants?

Oooh that’s hard! I follow so many people on deviantART and it’s very hard to pick any above the rest. I guess some of my favourites are:

http://spoonbard.deviantart.com, http://mooncalfe.deviantart.com, http://beckycloonan.deviantart.com, http://davidkawena.deviantart.com, http://svetlania.deviantart.com, nazgullow.deviantart.com, http://elfkin.deviantart.com, http://sixpennies.deviantart.com and http://razimo.deviantart.com. But there are many more!

And it’s time once again to announce another judge…so ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a warm welcome to:

Dave Gibbons (http://davegibbons.deviantart.com)

Dave Gibbons truly needs no introduction as the co-creator of many of the greatest sequential stories ever told. Ever heard of Watchmen? Yeah, that Dave Gibbons…and we’re insanely lucky to have him on-board!

Lastly, today’s design by http://alchemaniac.deviantart.comis that of Oscar, Fran’s near-perfect male classmate:

8_27_art_by_madefirestudios-d7ww0x1

Liam’s Journal – We need to treat ourselves better

Posted by Josh Wilkie ,
Liam's Journal | Permalink | No Comments »

We have to treat ourselves better.

Will we ever find that ease we dream of – the one where we wake, every day,a bright vessel brimful of inspiration? Anticipating the siren-call of the canvas, so magnetic in a way. Brushes and paint are drawn to it. We don’t have to think. This art makes itself. We are a conduit, a mother-father of pigment children.

Yes – I dream of such things.

There’s not a day when I don’t consider this. Art has weight, and it weighs on us. Our arms grow heavy even as we contemplate the first line. Fear is a big part of it.

Fear that we’ll be found lacking – not by others, but by the inner bully-child.
Younger, bitter selves that stand at our shoulders muttering obscenities and abuse.

“That is utter shit,” he/she says. “You’re wasting everybody’s time. Who gives a crap about you? What good is this? Why are you still doing this? The world burns, and melts, and children are killed. And still you spend your waking hours trying to give precious meaning to this testosterone-fueled drivel! You can’t draw. You can’t do anything. Give up. Stop now, while there’s still time…”

There’s barely a creator I know who doesn’t treat themself worse than ANYBODY ELSE would ever treat them.

And then – to dare show it, this cruelly battered work! To release it into the world, where surely it will be likewise mauled?

The reality – bar the auspices of subjectivity, and the pointless cruelties of the modern troll – is that our art fares much better in the real world than we generally imagine or hope. Because for the vast majority what we do is like magic. It’s a form of alchemy, creating new realities born of deft penmanship, a sensitive slip of clay, a surprising flurry of words.

We ask our worst critics to represent us – ourselves!

These journals are now a huge part of my work, and there’s good reason for that:

Authenticity.

What I’m trying to do is genuine, and it comes from a place of knowledge and experience. It comes from failing, but trying again – from learning. It comes from knowledge that only a tiny number of creators get to do what they THINK they want to do.

Let me explain: I had thought I wanted to be a fantasy artist, or science-fiction illustrator. But I also wrote short plays in the vein of Woody Allen. I imagined I might one day make claymation movies. I thought I might write a novel. Perhaps I would draw comics…

It ended up being comics. And then I got, for the greater part, stuck there.

Children at some point stop drawing. We shed bits of ourselves. We stop playing. Games become competitive sports. We are advised by supposedly older, wiser people to turn to more profitable possible futures, subjects that are ‘sensible’.

But some of us rebel – at least at the start!

The more I am free to look at what art is – what comics are, what motion books can and might be, and what creativity is – the more I feel a need to advise against the obvious.

If this is truly to be a ‘creative revolution’ then we should, as much as possible, try and free ourselves of the fabricated shackles that we don’t even know are there. We have to unlearn everything.

Maybe we need a dogma, a declaration. Something like:

I will not bully myself, or judge myself against my peers.

I will be free of the tyranny of style, the cruelties of fashion.

I will dare to learn.

I will be free of all expectation, and will not judge the fruits of my labour, as it all leads to greater knowledge and nothing is ever a failure.

I will not follow the rules, as all rules are man-made and subjective.

Well, y’ know, maybe that’s a bit pretentious! But you get the gist! Let’s create for the love of it, and aspire to that perfect dream I mentioned at the start. If we take away all the chains, and stop all the judgement, then – why not? Why shouldn’t it be a blissful experience?

And then – who knows what we might create?

(And damn you who say art should be all about pain! I’m not having that either! Pain can inform our art – we have plenty of pain in life. It needn’t be an aspect of the process. I’ve had enough of that!)

dA Artist Hunt Update

Posted by Josh Wilkie ,
Uncategorized | Permalink | No Comments »

Update!

Happy Monday!

Did everyone have a terrific weekend?

WOW the initial response on our artist challenge has been HUGE! Thank you everyone who’s shown interest and enthusiasm, we’re as excited about this as you!

For our latest update on the coming Challenge I’d like to formally introduce our next two guest judges:

Terry Dodson (http://terrydodson.deviantart.com)

Nei Ruffino (http://toolkitten.deviantart.com)

Terry is one of the top artists in the world…want proof? Check out any stack of Marvel or DC comics from the last 15 years and see his name everywhere. Not convinced? Check out his amazing and best-selling work in the European market—you’ll thank us once you do.

Nei is a tremendously talented artist who’s work has graced many a cover over the years and also happens to be one of the most in-demand color artists in all of comicdom! She’s a true force to be reckon with!

As we wrap our update, let’s have a look at today’s character design reveal by http://alchemaniac.deviantart.com. It’s Fran’s beloved, custom-made pet Igor:

8_25_Art

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