Friday, 24 June 2016

Blog survey for writers: 1. Your favourite project

I found this survey when this inspiring person posted a video about it. I got exited, so I guess this blog will be all about too much information about my writing for a while. :D I don't feel like trying to answer briefly, so today I only take the first question:

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why.

Oh my. The hard questions first I guess.

Okay, if I absolutely had to choose, like if I was allowed to write in only one universe for the rest of my life... It would be a comic called ”Four Colours”. Or rather, what started as a comic that I drew with one of my oldest friends from the end of elementary school untill high school. Since then the story has actually developed multiple universes in my head and I have my friend's permission to recreate it in book from. Currently it's not an active project but it's in my mind a lot.

Obviously, the comic isn't very good, at least from the perspective of someone who is serious about writing. I mean we started it when we were 12, had no script, and exchanged a few pages of our stream-of-consciousness doodling at a time (though the ”few pages” turned into a few dozen pages in a couple of years, especially for me). The other always continued where the other stopped, without any hint about how we had thought the story would develop, so it has taken many, many, weird, unexpected turns of events which makes the overall plot convoluted at best. It's heavily influenced by the Italian comic called W.i.t.c.h., both the story and the drawing style, for both of us. For my friend I guess Digimon was the other series her art was most influenced by. And from my part there's borderline plagiarism (picture-wise) from certain shoujo mangas I had just found as my inspiration and sometimes wanted to use for reference to get certain poses anatomically right.

Even so, this was the story that inspired me the most through my teenage years and it was by far the longest of my stories at the time. (Over 500 comic pages when it went on hiatus in 2010.) It was while drawing this comic that I first experienced I was in perfect flow with the story, like there was no pen and paper between my inner world and its expression. The first time I stayed up an entire night drawing, was with this comic too. (40 pages in 14 hours or so.) It was also the first time I got to experience someone really loving what I came up with, and excitedly waiting for me to draw more. All of these are feelings that nothing can compare to.

Also, I don't think I can do anything like this ever again. I mean, I'm interested in writing with a partner but I don't think there's any chance I could do it like this anymore. I take my characters far too seriously for it: I couldn't create a story by taking turns anymore. I would have to know that we agree about everything regarding the characters and the plot. This of course, takes away the surprise element, which I loved when I drew this comic with my friend, but nowadays I just take writing too seriously to do it the way we did. (The exception would be if we decided to continue with my friend for fun. We've already spent so many years drawing these characters that I think we both have a clear enough sense of who they are.)

Ahem, what is this comic really about then? As you might have guessed, (if you know anything about W.i.t.c.h) it's about a group of girls with magical powers. It's mostly set in our modern world.

Meet the Four Colours:

Their names mean their signature colours (with slight variation, in Finnish) with a fail. We thought there was a colour called ”jasmine red” at the time. Turns out there isn't. Oh well. (This mistake inspired a short story were the colour ”jasmine red” is created but unfortunately I never finished it.) Originally, Sini and Keller were my designs, and Viola and Jasmin were my friend's, but for a long time it has felt like they're all equally from both's pen.

The girls have pretty nonsensical colour related powers and outfits. They also have their signature symbols. They yell a lot of nonsense when they use their magical abilities. None of it was planned to function effectively, it's basically all there to support the image we wanted to(?) create for them as characters.

The colours we chose for them didn't go the most stereotypical way, though. Blue is often associated with wisdom, understanding and some kind of otherworldliness. Our Miss Blue is rather head-strong, somewhat simple-minded, and really down to earth. Purple is usually somewhat mysterious, borderline dark, maybe even poisonous, but our ”Viola” is the jester of the group, the most energetic, wild and ”innocent” by nature. I think that's usually what yellow represents, but our yellow character, Keller, is the gentle and sort of motherly empath of the cast. Red is often the colour of power and leadership, and though there isn't clearly anyone with the most dominant personality, if I had to choose, it still probably wouldn't be Jasmin. She's a pretty sensitive and introverted character, who generally avoids conflict, even if she's inflexible at times.

The premise of the story was that these four girls got a mission from a supernatural being, to save a small village by a mountain (apparently somewhere in Africa), plagued by a magical illness. The girls were to fight their way to the mountain, guarded by evil forces, and reach the top of it, where they would unite their magical powers and clear the village from the illness.

(Yes, this is actually what twelve-year-old kids think is a great plot!) No, it is never explained why the village is plagued. No, it's never explained why only the power of these girls can save it. The girls don't even wonder about it. Nor do they give any second thought to whether they should do something like this or not, of course they're all in for putting their lives in danger! (I think this might have something to do with the W.i.t.c.h. influences. It is shown over and over again in W.i.t.c.h. that the chosen ones just can't escape their fate, so maybe we just accepted it so we didn't need to raise the question, haha.)

This, and brief character profiles, were all the planning we did. Then we just started drawing. And oh boy, didn't it get out of hand. Kind of in a good way, from the eyes of someone who loves the story despite its shortcomings.

I think the most endearing thing about this comic is how reluctant both, me and my friend, were to actually move the plot forward and focus on the whole ”fighting evil on a mountain” part of the story. We were clearly more interested in exploring the characters' everyday lives and relationships. The comic is full of magicless everyday side plots, regarding everything from shopping to romance, school concerts to hobbies, parties to family drama. Sure, it's enough that the characters go to the mountain when they feel like ”it's the right time”. It isn't very often, it seems.

Eventually, they do manage to clear the village from the illness. Their next mission is brought on by one of them, Keller, who has turned out to be an angel born on earth, among six other angels she knew in the alternate universe where the angels of this story live. So, Four Colours are up to find those other six, to save them from the fury of a really mysteeeerious guy named Deimos, who's a foster parent to Keller's childhood friend Ater who happens to have a neat amulet which can help find the remaining angels (yes). It sounds really bad like this, but later it is revealed that Deimos is actually one of the seven angels and the explanation why he thinks the other angels have betrayed him and why Ater has this convenient amulet sounds pretty convincing for a 15-year-old me.

After Deimos is redeemed, no new mission is introduced, and the story focuses on the characters everyday lives, before it goes on hiatus.

That's it in a nutshell. I'm not really a fan of nutshell, and I think I'm pretty bad at writing it too, so what I want to do now, is to focus on more detailed aspects of the comic and put parts of it on display.


Four Colours: The Weird, Silly and Reoccuring Stuff

  • amazing anatomy

  • it's always raining for no reason

  • ripping off shoujo manga

  • the ”evil” takes many half-assed and unexplained forms

  • it's totally normal for an elementary school to host a singing contest with an actual recording contract as the prize

  • This pet hawk is never mentioned or seen again after its first appearance

  • they actually had a hot tub inside a bus

  • generic villains are generic

  • angels have elf ears

  • infodump

  • a mandatory Digimon haired boy

  • children are the most perceptive creatures

  • oh hello Sauron

  • confessions are always interrupted

  • characters just can't do without symbols

  • when you travel by magic... the landing always sucks

  • when the stakes are highest, everyone meets in a void

  • It's okay for the villain to explain their plan... if the characters point the cliché out first

  • no perspective whatsoever

  • the running gag of a character who takes everything literally

  • romantic moments get faded into a joke (my personal sin)

  • the conscience

Okay, now that I've mocked our precious child enough, let's have some

Moments I Honestly Like:

  • The girls don't lose faith when they think one of them is dead

  • Keller was assigned Viola's guardian angel before being born on earth (only a few months after Viola)

  • Viola meets the human Keller the first time as a kid and thinks her voice sounds familiar

  • Deimos can't ignore frozen roses, because they remind him of his beloved Radja

  • Radja is determined to save Deimos and his villain role cracks

  • The angels are reunited (and off to save Deimos and Radja)

  • Viola remembers Keller's voice (I know that's completely unrealistic since she was like max four months old but hey magic)

  • Keller and Viola are left by their band mates and they form a new one that includes all Four Colours

  • We drew some pages taking turns every panel and it worked surprisingly well

  • Ater, Deimos, Radja and her little sister Zenja move in together

  • Sini and Keller regain trust in a dream world

  • Josh can put it simply enough for Deimos to regain some sanity

  • Viola wakes up characteristically ungracefully after thinking she just vanished from existence

  • Keller and Ater bond on the balcony

  • Alex breaks up with Jasmin undramatically and realistically

  • Ater and Josh forget for a moment that they aren't on good terms

  • Viola confesses her love to Alex who shares her feelings

  • Ater and Alex bond

Um, why exactly is this my favourite project then?

I admit that some of it has to do with nostalgia. But even more has to do with the characters. I think the characters are great, and that's why they take up a significant portion of space in my head. I wasn't a great writer when I drew this comic, so the story sucks in many ways, but my idea of it doesn't suck. How it should actually go inspires me. How the characters actually are, everything that isn't in the comic already but is a significant part of who I think the characters are, inspires me. How everything will unfold, if I give them a different starting point somewhere else, inspires me. There are themes and concepts in their life that intrigue me. Some of it is (implied) in the story in someways, but not nearly as deep as there would be to tell about it.

I want to see where those themes will take these characters. They are so close to me, they're like thought patterns. And if I let my thoughts on their path, it just doesn't end. They're endless. I could write anything about them and never lose interest. They've been with me constantly longer than any other of my characters. It doesn't matter what kind of story it is, if it's theirs, I'm at home. I guess that's why I would choose them.

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