The way that I write is pretty unstructured and usually spontaneous. Sometimes I wish I had the discipline to sit down and write out an entire scene or book with complete dialogue but that’s not how I roll. I like to be surprised by what happens and my favorite moments are when all of a sudden a new scene, moment, plot point or even a whole new direction opens up and off I go.
This is exactly what is happening with The Retros right now. I am about four weeks ahead of schedule and I am writing stuff that I am really happy with. The scene requires some mystery, tension, uncertainty and love and I think I am really nailing it. It’s turning out a little longer-and bigger-than I expected. At first I thought this would be about ______ and then I thought of a way to add in _________ and then I decided this would be a perfect time to add in the first meeting between ________ and _________ and then touch on the origin of __________. Everything was coming together. Ideas are bouncing and careening off of each other at incredible speed.
Life is amazing, right?
The problem is that this little (well, getting bigger) story line is a pretty sharp turn from the main story and by the time I get back to the main story I am worried I will have lost some momentum, and the attention of the reader. If I am reading a novel and then it flashes back to an earlier time in the character’s life I get pretty invested in those moments and when it jumps back to the ‘now’ part of the story, it takes me some time to remind myself what was happening. I have that problem with some Stephen King books, but that’s not his fault. This little turn off the main road was never planned. I didn’t expect to tell this character’s backstory for a while but someone said something, someone reacted and if I read this scene from a reader’s perspective, I’d be annoyed that this bombshell was just left hanging. So, I felt that I had to get into this a little.
But little is turning big, and that’s okay. The thing I am thinking about is if I should rein myself in. Right now I am 20 pages into this character’s backstory and I could easily double or triple it. I am wondering if I should continue riding this momentum and keep telling this story or I should jump back to the main story and come back at a later time. I have been doing comics for over ten years and for better or for worse and I have always just done what I wanted to do. I wrote what I thought would be fun to draw, I taught myself how to draw cartooney instead of teaching myself how to draw realistic or stylish, I made books I thought would be fun to read. This type of cartooning mindset likely didn’t do any favors in terms of my career. Who knows? Maybe if I did this instead of that I’d have a show on The Cartoon Network and have a million dollars but I am done wondering about the what-ifs and maybes.
The point is that I am having so much fun doing what I do and all the money and success in the world can’t make cartooning fun.
I suppose that following my instincts and letting the story tell itself is a big part of my cartooning career and has made my work fun, surprising and spontaneous. I am lucky to be writing this backstory and having it unfold in my mind. It’s effortless and almost a gift.