Mar 31, 2015

Shaping The Circle

Now that the first installment of The Circle is out the door and setting the internet on fire (one can only assume...), I thought I might take a little bit of time to talk about what form these stories are going to take in the future and what I hope and tentatively plan to do with them as they start to stack up on top of each other.
Because this is it for me, this is what I want to do for the foreseeable future. It's so important to me that I am making 99% of all of my future artistic endeavours be in some way related to this stuff.

I've spoken about this on the podcast and probably elsewhere as well, but I don't think I've gone into any kind of detail here on how I plan to present these stories.

Put simply, I am going to jump from the illustrated prose seen in The Wilds Will Bide to a comic page format whenever and wherever I think either is required, and back again if needs be.
I don't think this is a drastic measure, nor is it particularly novel or new, but I think it is a system that isn't really used often at all, perhaps for reasons I will soon find out!
But I like it. I like the flexibility of being able to look at a part of a story and decide whether I want to tell it through detailed text with some accompanying images, or to look at it and see how it would be more dramatically told through comic panels and word balloons. That, to me, is an exciting way to tell a story.

The Circle, to me, is a story that could probably be told in either a straight novel, or a straight comic, without the need for the intermingling of those two formats. But I honestly don't think either way would reach the full impact I think the story deserves. A novel would be great, because I could get right into the nitty-gritty of character motivations, emotions and reactions. But the actions scenes wouldn't be as fun to do. Conversely, if I were to do it as a straight comic, the action would be enjoyable, but I would be restricted with how much character development I could inject into the story. Many people may argue that the comics medium is a perfectly fine place for character development, to which I would totally agree. But I don't think you can achieve as much depth through pictures and word balloons as you can with the freedom of the written word. Just my opinion, anyway.

So I've gone for the blended format. Now this won't actually take effect until probably 2026. Here's why...

For the rest of 2015, I will be doing short stories that introduce you gorgeous people to the characters that make up The Circle. The Wilds Will Bide (a title I quite like, don't you?) is a mere entree to the main meal that will be The Circle comic being produced next year. But there are going to be lots more entrees to come before we get to that. There are a total of six main characters in The Circle (Alanna, Strongbow, Dryad, Wildling, Longbeard and Hedgewitch), and I want to do at least one (I'm planning on doing two though) story on each character like the Alanna one before I get to the main continuity in 2016. These entrees, which will come under the umbrella of...

...will come out in different forms. Where the Alanna story was told in the form of illustrated prose, the Dryad piece, currently being worked on, will be a traditional comic. Some of them will be your typical origin story, others may just be chapters from their lives, some might even involve circumstances leading directly up to the main story. I am currently working out how to make these stories best fit into the build-up to the main story in a way that is both informative and exciting, with a healthy dollop of enticing in there for good measure.

Once these short stories are done and released for free, things will really get interesting.
Ideally, I want to do a Kickstarter campaign for the main The Circle story. Maybe a Patreon sort of thing too/instead. By then I will have all of these 'Tales From Outside The Circle (TFOTC, for not much shorter) already produced and hopefully they will be getting some sort of notice. The more I can get these stories out there and read (and hopefully liked), the more successful, theoretically, the Kickstarter campaign will be. I'm not entirely certain of how I want the main The Circle story to be released, but my gut is telling me that a nice chunky book (in the blended format of illustrated prose and traditional comic) of a healthy page length is the way to go. But we'll see what happens with that.

This is the area I am the least certain of. I want to keep my options open at this point and there is a lot of work to be done before those decisions need to made. So I'm staying open to what way I go with the project as a product in 2016. The product will get made whatever way I choose, but that way is unclear still at this point.

But let me get one thing clear- I'm not doing any of this for wealth beyond need or some ridiculous and utterly repulsive thing like fame. I just want to make fun stories that hopefully people like. If The Circle gets popular enough for me to be able to quit the day job and concentrate on it full time... well, I won't say no to that!
But only because it will give me the freedom to produce even more of these stories. I really believe that creating The Circle and the Realms of Faerie are what I am best suited to doing creatively with my life.

One guy that I am kinda in awe of and think has it right is a comic artist by the name of Erik Larsen. If you haven't heard of him, go check out his Savage Dragon comic. As you'll see, he's produced over 200 issues of that comic on basically his own steam. He writes, pencils and inks 99% of it all himself. I think that is a bloody amazing effort.

Honestly, I don't think I can produce that amount of work, but I like that Erik has made Savage Dragon his life's work. That's exactly what I want The Circle and Realms of Faerie to be.
It's the sort of thing that if I won the lottery tomorrow, which I actually intend to do, after an extensive tour of the world, I would still want to write and illustrate The Circle and Realms of Faerie.

But at the end of the day, even if I fail miserably at winning the lottery, or running a successful Kickstarter campaign, or even in gaining a meagre readership for The Circle, I will still find a way to tell this story.

So where do I go from here? Well, seeing as I have a lot of stories I want to release this year, and considering how long it took me to get the Alanna story done, I am going to be a little bit more strict on myself. Not too much, though, because I do want to take my time and do this stuff right, and have fun doing it, but I need to catch up by a couple of months if I want to get the twelve individual stories done by the end of the year.

So the plan is to spend more time on the stories, but to still increase the production schedule by actually making more time for the work. That will mean that I simply cannot take on any other freelance illustration jobs for the rest of the year. I have to be very strict about this! I mentioned at the start of the year that I had planned to do this from the beginning, but a couple of juicy projects did come along that I couldn't knock back. But that needs to change. I just can't afford the time or the energy to take on further gigs.
So from this point on, I am only working on The Circle and Realms of Faerie (excluding current ongoing jobs, that is, which will wrap up soon).
So all of this will mean that you will see the first Dryad story, which will most likely be six comic pages long, by the end of April. There will be a Strongbow story soon after that (probably in the illustrated prose format) and I have the first Wildling story written to follow that. Then it'll be Longbeard's turn, with Hedgewitch bringing up the rear for this first round of stories.
So there will be plenty of activity here in the coming months. I've also set up a Facebook page for The Circle, where I will be posting sketches, thoughts and whatever else I think to put up there. I am seriously considering some sort of website too, but that will probably be a while away.

But for now, I hope you like the sound of what I am trying to achieve here and I look forward to giving you all lots and lots of stuff to read in the coming years!

No comments: