Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Come on, Cat! Let's go!!


(Click the image to "MONSTER Size" it)
And we're off!  Anyone hazard a guess as to what kind of car these "cool cats" are driving?  And what the heck is following them?  I'll bet "it" isn't what you think!

I wanted to give a big "thanks" to those folks who bought one (or more!) of my posters last week!
One of the guys who bought a poster was a fellow artist named Jim McMunn who has been busy spreading his artistic seed!  Check it out!

Oooo!  Thanks for the Ghost Zero love, Jim!  I hope you enjoy your poster AND the original art! One this thing gets rolling and you want to catch the comic from the beginning, you can click on the "Doc Monster" image in yellow on the right side of the page -------->
More Doc Monster soon!
-Dave

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Invasion Begins...

Well folks, the feature is about to begin, but there's still time to pick up some ice-cold drinks and piping hot treats at the snack bar!  Buttery popcorn, spicy hot dogs or your favorite candies, they've got them all!

So we begin.  I was so fired up after Up! Fair a couple of weekends ago that I wanted to get the Doc Monster story started this week.  So, I jumped right into it...even though I didn't have it fully mapped out.  In fact, after watching one of my favorite movies, "The Iron Giant", I may change the story in a big way.  It may make the story much better, so it's all worth it, right?

Also, I'm returning to the story format I had when I first started Ghost Zero back in 2007 - a single panel that is very similar to the old newspaper strips like "Rip Kirby", "Flash Gordon", and "Steve Canyon" that I enjoy.  It'll bring it's own challenges, but in many ways will simplify the thought that goes into the comic.  I hope you enjoy it.

I've got the art for the first two panels done already, all that is left is the lettering.  Hopefully, one of the advantages of the single-panel format is that I'll be able to update more often...twice or three times a week.  When I started Ghost Zero back in 2007, it took me a whole week to complete a single panel, now, I hope to reduce that time to a third while still adding color.  Should be a heck of an experiment!

No matter what the shape or frequency turns out to be, I hope that you'll enjoy the characters and the story.  I'm really looking forward to it, and to getting back into storytelling after so long.

So, run out to the concession stand, put your snacks on that handy tray that hangs from the car window, and get settled for action and adventure in...

"DOC MONSTER in SHADOW OF THE SKIES!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

I'm enjoying a break from my day job right now, so I thought I'd post some of the sketching that I've been doing, and some art that has been sent my way.
You should notice that the header of the page is different now!  The drawing to the left is the original art scan for the "trinity" image.  That's me in the middle, by the way.  The idea came from good friend Anthony Schiavino, who sent a DC picture done by Darwyn Cooke.  It looked like this:
I love Cooke's work (if you haven't read his "Hunter" adaptation, you should), and liked the Norman Rockwell influence in the piece.  Anthony suggested I replicate it with my own characters, but as I was working, I liked the simplicity of the three images.  Everything else seemed stuck on.  Interestingly enough, the heights are about right.  Yep, GZ is short because Eddie hasn't reached his full, adult height yet. :)

I wanted to take a moment to say "THANKS" to the people who participated in the "Poster Preorder" event I had last week!  I'll be getting the posters on Monday of next week, and should have them shipped (along with a piece of original art) next week as well.  I'll be adding some comics, original art, and other goodies to the store as time passes.  If you'd like to see something specific, let me know!

Check out the super-cool headshots of Doc, Clay and Charlene (a new addition to the story) sent my way by creative genius Simon Whitelaw!  Not only does he have a nifty, artistic talent, but he's got a great head for stories.  Check out his blog for the developments in his latest story, "Ramsden of the NorthWest Mounted Police"....a historical tale set in Canadian Country and soaked in weirdness!

I just got back from participating in the First Annual "Up! Fair", an Indy Comic and Sequential Art convention set nearby in Lexington, KY.  It was a blast!  Barry Gregory, owner of Ka-Blam printing (where both of my Ghost Zero books are printed) was there, and when I walked in, Wayne Spencer, who works there said "Dave Flora?  Hey!  You're that guy who does the story about the kid, the ghost and the magic ring!"
Wow.
So, not only did I get to learn how to do screenprinting (I've got to try that), and meet some really great guys (like Matt Zolman, who does the art for a super-fun story called "Epic"), I had a feeling that I don't normally get concerning my art....a feeling of belonging.  These are my people..they're doing their day job and their labor of love, and putting it out for folks to see and enjoy.  It was great.

So, what am I working on?
Well, to tell you the truth, I've had enough planning and I'm ready to start getting art on the board.  One of the great things about working at such a slow pace...perhaps the ONLY thing great about it...is that it gives me plenty of time to think about my plot as I'm drawing.
So today, I'm laboring over how to start the thing.
Starting a story is like that first glance you have at someone across a room.  You want to have the right impression.  The opening should give the reader an idea of what kind of story to expect, and also give them a REASON to keep reading!

I would have loved to have gotten the story started up by Halloween, but it just wasn't ready.  Heck, it may not be ready yet, but I sure am.  Hopefully, I'll have the first page up for everyone to see by the end of the week!
So, stay tuned...and a Happy Thanksgiving to all of my U.S. friends!

-Dave

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making your Characters Talk

Hello again, everyone!  If you're just catching up with me, I'm blogging about the process of writing my new graphic novel, "Doc Monster in Shadow of the Skies!"

In this part, I'd like to talk about building characters; specifically, how to determine the driving force behind the character's motivations in your story.  Once again, I'm working my way through "Writing Fiction for Dummies", which is an excellent resource.

The first thing to do in getting to know your main characters and what they are doing in your book is to develop their Backstory, which is what you know about the character.  When were they born?  Where?  How old are they?  What was their first memory?  What was their school experience like?  When did they first fall in love?  All of that stuff.  Just write as quickly as you can....it's the process of thinking about the character and their experiences that counts.  Remember: it's experience that is going to draw your readers into your story!  Writing a backstory will give you an idea of what sort of experiences the character has had and how they helped shape what happens in your story.  All major characters should have a Backstory.

The next thing to do is to find the core drives of the character.  What really makes the character act and react in your story.  These basically define WHAT your character is doing in your book...why they are involved in the first place.

We do this by finding out a character's Values, Ambitions and Goals.

Values are what the character holds dear....things that are more important than anything else...what they believe.  A character can and should have more than one value.  If you can make the character have conflicting values, all the better.  For instance, Darth Vader might have the value "Nothing is more important that power" and "Nothing is more important than my son".  Do you see that Darth would have been a pretty boring guy if he only had one of those values?  That cool scene in "Return of the Jedi" would never have happened unless he had both.

Ambitions are broad desires the character has.  Frodo might have "Save the Shire!"  Gollum might have "Possess the Ring!"  "World Peace" is also a good ambition.  They're fuzzy things...large goals that the character wants to achieve.  Each character should only have ONE ambition...one thing they are trying to achieve in the story...it's just simpler that way.  Of course, Ambitions should spring from Values.  If your character has the Value of "Wealth", then the ambition of "getting rich" is a solid one.

Goals are how your character intends to achieve their Ambition.  The concrete plans of making them happen.  This is where the rubber of their personal drives meet that road of your story.  Heck, this is the REASON they're in your story to start with, and could quite possibly be what the story is about.  Frodo wants to "Save the Shire!" by "Throwing the One Ring into the Cracks of Doom!"  Since you have one ambition, your character should only have one (conscious) goal.

Sometimes, you're lucky, and the Values, Ambitions and Goals for your character are easy to find.  Other times, however, you just aren't sure what they are.  Oh, but you NEED to know, my friend.  Have you ever read a book review where the reader said "I was never really sure why that character was in the book"?  DON'T let that happen to YOUR characters!  Find our their reasons for being there.

One way of finding out what's going on with your characters is to interview them.  I know, it sounds weird, but start writing down questions for them about what they are doing and why.  As you write down their response to your questions, you will uncover their core drives.  Keep after them...don't give them any slack.  Ask why they are doing a particular thing, or why they feel a certain way.  When they get to the point (and they're usually pissed off at this point) where the say "I don't know....I just do!!", then you've probably hit one of their Values.  Keep working at it until you uncover their Ambitions and finally Goals.

I did all of the above with Doc Monster, so I know it takes some work.  Heck, the interview itself was a twisty process that took three typed pages.  But at the end, I knew more about him than I started with, and knowing the characters is what gives you the ability to write them into situations without effort.  You don't have to think "What would Doc do when the army general criticizes him?"  You KNOW he'd pick him up and throw him, with his chair, out the window.

The really cool thing is that when you really know the characters and what drives them, they'll start writing the story FOR you.  Very often, they'll start heading off and doing things that you didn't expect.

And THAT is when you'll have a character-driven story worth reading!

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So, if you're reading this, and it's not yet November 21st, you still have time to buy one of my cool, new posters AND get a free piece of artwork in the bargain!  How often does a deal like that come around, eh?

See you next time!
-Dave

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Buy a poster...get free art!

So...I've been making posters.


I just love these freaking things.  I'm not sure why I enjoy making posters so much, but I just can't seem to stop myself.  There's something about the imaginary history of the image if it's a movie poster, and sometimes the image is just too cool and iconic NOT to have its own poster.

This poster on the left is one of my favorite Doc Monster images, and a very cool scene in the upcoming Doc Monster graphic novel.
The Judy Drive-In is my favorite, drive in, as well.
So, I thought....why don't I offer a few of these for sale for like-minded people?  I mean, having a poster like this on your dorm, living room or bathroom wall says something about a person, right?

I printed a few of these babies up just for promotional purposes last year, and they look great!  I have them printed locally.  This is one of my favorite images of Ghost Zero...and the first poster design I ever did.

Before getting a whole bunch of them printed, however, I thought that perhaps I should have a preorder deal to see if anyone is interested first!

This "pink" poster I got hands-on graphic design help from super-designer, Anthony Schiavino, who is a comic creator himself.
It's got a retro, 1950's vibe that I really like, plus there's a picture of a guy without a face.  How cool is that?
So, here's the deal.  Go check out my store. If you place an order for a poster before midnight (eastern standard time) on Sunday, November 21st, I will include a piece of original art.

For Free.
I don't have any idea what I will send.  It could be a sketch I cut out of my sketchbook.  It could be a panel from one of my comics.  It WON'T be a drawing of a stick figure.

Remember, when you place your order, I have yet to get the things printed, which should take me about a week.  Your response will give me an idea if anyone is interested in having one of these beauties on the wall.
Heck, I know I am.

Let's just hope this isn't a stupid idea, eh?
-Dave

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"So, you're writing a story? What is it about?"

I've run into this problem before.  You run into someone at work or a store or a convention and you get the question:
"Hey, I hear you're writing a story!  What is it about?"

What do you say?

If you're anything like me, you'd pause, look up into the sky for inspiration and say "Well, it's kind of about two guys...one of which is a scientist and the other is ex-CIA.  They don't really like each other, but they're forced to work together when suddenly they find......"

Yawn.  By that time, you're getting polite nods and they don't care anymore.  Well, it's not that they don't CARE, it's just that you haven't described to them what your story is ABOUT.  You were trying to tell them what HAPPENS, and that's an answer to a different question.

I know, I know, lots of you 'artists' out there are saying "Why the heck do I care what he thinks?  I don't have to explain myself to anyone.  It's AAARRRRTTT!"

Yeah, well, turns out it is important, because at the very least, YOU should have a clear, shining definition for your story.  You see, if you don't have a simple, short and dramatic description of what your story is about at it's core, you run the risk of chasing side plots and running off the path of your story goal. 

In short, a short definition, or "storyline" keeps you from writing crap.

Let's go back to the situation above.  You love your story.  You want to tell someone what it is about (be it your mother or a prospective agent or publisher) and have them say "Wow!  That sounds interesting!"  They could say "Yeah, well, I hate aliens.  Good luck, though."  Which is a fine response too...it lets you know that particular person isn't the audience you are looking for.  Either way, a clear "storyline" or short description gets the idea across.

A good place to get ideas of storylines is to look at the New York Times Best-seller list.  It often will contain a sentence or two that knocks out the basic premise of the book so you can make a decision on if that book is for you or not.  For example:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - "The murder of a curator at the Louvre leads to a trail of clues found in the work of Leonardo and to the discovery of a centuries-old secret society."

So, lets see what we've got here.  There's the word "murder" right up front, along with an exotic setting (Louvre) and "trail of clues".  Obviously this is something that a mystery reader might enjoy.  Then we've got "Leonardo" and a "centuries-old secret society".  Ooo!  History is in the mix as well, AND ancient secrets!  That's an example of a short storyline that reveals some of what the book is about, but not enough to give away the ending.  You'll notice that no mention was made of the main character...which is something that usually appears up front...because obviously this is a PLOT-centered story more than a CHARACTER-centered story.

Very interesting.

So, how do you start writing a storyline for your own story?  Well, according to Writing Fiction for Dummies, it should be:
  • Short.  Don't expect anyone to wait five minutes for you to describe your story.
  • Emotive.  Stir their feelings and make them CARE about what happens in your story.  Otherwise, what's the point of writing it?
  • Curious.  The sentence should raise a question about the story that needs an answer.  If there's no question in the story, you may as well be writing a news article.
If you look back at Dan Brown's book, you can see that the description pretty much fills all of those points. 

As a general rule, keep your sentence to 25 words or less.  Shorter is even better if it contains all three of those points above.
Try not to name characters....describe them.  Don't say "Arnold Applegate", say "a down-and-out scientist".  You can add names if it is a famous person.
Use adjectives to bring in emotion..."young" or "fierce" or "titanic".  A little goes a long way, here.
End with a twist.  Surprise the reader if you can.  Make him wonder what the story would be like.

When I tried to write a storyline for "Doc Monster: Shadow of the Skies", I came up with:

"In 1954, a reformed Mr. Hyde struggles to stop an invasion of aliens from the center of the Earth!" 

This sentence is a work in progress, of course, but let's look at it critically.  At 19 words, it does come in on the short side, and is pretty easily memorable, so I shouldn't have to have cue cards.  "Mr. Hyde" is in there...does he mean THE Mr. Hyde?  What's he doing in 1954?  There's a mystery. 
Aliens are invading, which indicate a sci-fi angle and promises lots of destruction and action.  Good!
But wait...these aliens aren't from outer space?  They're from earth?  How is that possible?

So, you can see, it may not be a book for everyone, but that short sentence at least gives me a way to describe the general premise quickly...AND will keep me focused on the main story if I'm tempted to drift.

So that's it for writing ideas for today.  If you haven't heard it yet, a recording of some USAF personnel in England back in 1980 documents their encounter with a supposed UFO.  You should hear it.  It doesn't prove anything, but it's interesting to hear a group of military men in a situation obviously over their heads.

Take care,
Dave