Character Development for Graphic Novels
Time for another entry on writing a graphic novel.
In my last entry I talked about the unique character of the graphic novel. That it combines a visual element with a written element. Not only does the creator of a graphic novel see the benefit of having their words in print, but their characters come alive on the page. It’s quite interesting, as a simple facial expression, can say a million things to the audience.
I also talked about the main characters of a graphic novel. Protagonist and antagonist. Remember, I said you need to do some homework if you aren’t sure what these characters are and how they are used effectively in your story. Center, center, center that is what these two characters do.
This entry I want to talk a bit more about the character in general, focused on the graphic novel story.
Over the past 4 years I’ve been involved in two very large projects centered on graphic novels. One is a multi-book graphic novel created in collaboration with a writer. The other is Three Days of the Living Challenged. Along the way several things kept coming up about our characters which was interesting and unique to the graphic novel story telling. In the project with the writer, we had long, hour long discussions about the look, feel, personality and shape of the protagonist and antagonist. I did sketches, we explored pictures, we looked at people we knew for inspiration. For Three Days of the Living Challenged I did similar things. I looked for inspiration around me. I looked on the internet, observed people, looked at what others were doing and tried to find a place I thought that my audience would relate too. Contemporary characters with contemporary characteristics. Using cell phones, texting, contemporary look. Hmmm, all important for the period in which I placed my story, today.
When I think of my characters, I bring my past knowledge into play here. As a teacher for 17 years I saw a lot of people on a daily basis, young men and women, bastards, bitches, introverted, extroverted, back stabbers, withdrawn, bizarre, crazy, lazy, hard hitting, intelligent, privileged, prince and princess syndrome types…you name it. I also had the good fortune of meeting many of these peoples families. I got to know the trends in clothing, music, dance style, interaction and communication. Because of this exposure I have a good idea of what the average teen/young person is like and I like them. I like watching teens interact out in public, their awkward, embarrassed, socially conscience, big mouthed and ALWAYS THINK THEIR RIGHT. It’s great. Having also connected with a lot of adults through my teaching, I have a good idea of the range also. I love to see the variety in how people perceive the world around them, what’s important – material items, family, clothing/shoes, appearance, deportment, what people say about them…you name it. What I’m trying to say is, get out there and interact with people to know them. How can you write about a particular type of person if you’ve never been exposed to it. Marc, my hero in Three Days, is a compilation of several people I know. Handsome, conscientious, a bit ego centered, driven when it comes to his beliefs, and not very aware of his surroundings – as you’ll see in the first chapter, seems a bit out there really.
I develop all my characters in this way. Look, look look. Listen to people, try to take mental notes of everything around you. One of my biggest and best inspirations and sources of information is from my two amazing sons. They are in their twenties (oh, does this age me? I didn’t want you all to know I’m in my early, early 50s-well there you have it I’ve been busted by my own hands). When I’m with these two great people all sorts of things come to the surface, also they keep me grounded with music, online stuff, gaming, movies and other cultural things. They also let me know when I’m being a geek, which is, I’m afraid far too often. But, they both do their best to let me know they love me. They’re awesome.
So, character development
1- Observe people
2- Figure out what is happening now in books, movies about your genre (zombies genres are the BEST…) although I am an Alien fan as well. Aliens are the BEST.
3- Get trending with the times.
4- Start social networking. Big thing here, big, big thing.
5- Talk to people.
6- Take classes to meet people.
7- Figure out what makes a good protagonist. Marc, in Three Days is a stereotypical character. Nice, cute kind guy, a bit dense and not afraid to let the world know what he thinks about what we are doing with the world.
8- Get a good villain/antagonist.
9- Research people
10- Have fun and get writing.
Next time we’ll talk characters in the story.
Cheers and happy writing