Times are tough, hard to post. Relatively normal blog content incoming.
It’s a bit of a rough week for me. Standard Content will come shortly, but in the meantime, we’ve got some more of this content to fill the gap.
At this point, I’m still working on getting used to using the markers, and I think it shows. The acquisition of some lining markers helps, as it gives us actual outlines for what we’re doing here. Still struggling with using the color to illustrate depth, however.
That Princess of Time thing is a bit of a relic that I’d be cutting out were I going back and editing this thing now. Originally, everyone was supposed to have a class and an element. The element relates to their powers and a main plot point we’ll be seeing later. The class didn’t really have much in-story purpose, but on a meta level it was supposed to relate to their character arcs. Lorelei, here, as the Princess character, was originally going to be struggling with the fact that she was thrust into a leadership role but nobody really expected much leadership out of her due to the strong personalities she was surrounded by, which would lead to her being largely used by other characters, particularly the Prince character, either as a motivator or as a tool towards their own ends until she learned to break out of it and stand on her own. I’ve since dropped a lot of that arc, as well as the idea of using the classes, as a whole. I feel that in the kind of story I’m trying to put together here, adding in features that aren’t justified in-story is just going to be causing problems. Lorelei’s now just the Goddess of Time, rather than Princess of Time.
Ah, there we go. Princess of Time?
Well… won’t argue with that.
This game! So empowering! I may just stick with these newbie mooks all night!
Another one for which I never finished up the shading. We’ll get to some more visually appealing ones soon.
I’m fast. Faster than real life.
Other guy. Watch out.
Now… how would I make magic work?
Someday, I’m going to need to invest in a scanner. This camera work isn’t doing anybody any favors.
Anyways, as I attempt to get my life back on some sort of track, figured it’d be time to throw another one of these up there. This one took a little longer to get ready, because I actually had to go back and re-draw this. The original one, I had put together some time ago, had some really bad dialogue that I just couldn’t stand making public, and I got bored with it after finishing up with the sketching pencil, so you couldn’t even see the lines in the picture. I’m a bit happier with this one.
Random mook: You!
LadyHate: I thought you guys weren’t going to play!
Lorelei: Next target. Wonder how far this game will let me go. Let’s see what mechanics we have here.
Random mook: It’s been too long! You’re going down!
LadyHate: I guess you haven’t figured out the dchat yet.
Lorelei: Ranged attack. I can throw. What about magic?
LadyHate: Hold on.
LadyHate: I think I’ve got this teleportation thing.
Lorelei: One way to find out.
Would you look at that? It’s like a magical fairy came to my world and brought me the mystical voodoo that is 1950’s Technicolor! And wouldn’t you know it? That’s pretty much exactly what happened! That magical fairy has a name, one we know well here at Lost to the Aether. And that name is Mishka Jenkins, Author Extraordinaire. The whole thing. Appellation and all. Pretty sure she legally changed her name to that, as some point. Anyways, Mishka got me a set of really nice markers, and this was my first try taking them out for a spin. I had no idea how to use them properly, and I think it shows in this picture, but I’ve busted the markers out a few times in the creation of this graphic novel, and I think I’ve been getting better each time. In particular, the pencil lines really aren’t meshing with the ink here, and I think the color visuals vastly improved once I picked up better inking equipment
One thing I don’t think anyone but me will really notice, but Lorelei’s hair color completely changed, with the advent of color into our work. Even in pencils, it was a much darker shade the last two pages, because I imagined it as being a dark brown but it stays this light blue from now on. Models keep evolving, if you let them
There’s a lot I could complain about this, and a lot I want to, really, but instead, I’d like to take a moment to point out that Lorelei’s hands in this image? Almost flawless. Given that I was really wanting to work on hands in this learning-to-art adventure, I was really happy with those.
This week is shaping up to be a rough one for me, so until I find the time to give you something more substantial, what say we take advantage of work I’ve already done for content? And our first real look at the game at the center of our story, New Life! So exciting!
Panel 1: This is interesting.
Panel 2: With a typical MMORPG, I’d start with character creation.
Panel 3: This one shouldn’t be any different, right?
Panel 4: No? Do they give you a premade at first?
Panel 5: Hmm?
Panel 6: I’m not alone.
Life is not fair, least so when it’s coming to an end. So much of human thought and culture focuses around death, it’s no wonder people get so emotionally invested in it, even in simulated form on the page. Character death can be one of the most powerful emotional experiences in a narrative, but because of the emotions involved, it’s also one that has to be handled well and placed appropriately, else you’ll have your readers/viewers rightfully crying foul.
I’ve mentioned this before on the blog; I’m currently working on a graphic novel/comic/whatever as my main creative project. I’ve got a lot of plans for it. One of my plans is to build our main group of heroes up to seventeen people, then have that group whittled around to about seven or eight as the work moves towards its denouement. So yeah, there’s going to be plenty of fallen heroes, and no Plot-Important Character Immunity.
However, as I’ve been planning this out, I’ve been thinking back to some of the other works I’ve gone through, with the characters in similar situations. Specifically, works like A Song of Ice and Fire and The Walking Dead. Works with an excessive amount of character death. Works where not only can anyone die, but most characters will die. And they’re both very strong works in their own right. However, all that death pushes the tone quite a bit darker than I’m wanting to go, and the sheer quantity of it makes most individual cases of characters dying lose a lot of the impact.
There’s a line there. With the story I’m wanting to tell, characters are going to die by necessity, but kill too many, or too darkly, and the work’s going to get dour, the death itself won’t be as strong at driving engagement, and any hypothetical readers are going to be a lot more hesitant to let themselves connect with my characters. I’m going to have to toe the line. Of course, I don’t have any firm idea of where it is.
I decided to put together guidelines for myself. As a mental exercise, and to make my work stronger as I progress, I’d set goals for how I’m going to be treating death in this work. Things that define the how, when, and where death is going to be applied in my narrative. Of course, as with everything in writing, these are flexible, but having them thought out in advance should make my story a lot better than it would be otherwise.
And, of course, if I’m putting in all the work anyways, I might as well make a post out of it, right? Here goes:
Only kill characters when it truly advances the story
If I just want to get a character or group of characters out of the way, there are a lot of ways to do so. Make them get pissed off and leave. Have them be too scared to get involved. Have them taking care of their own business in Timbuktu. Have them retire. Hell, if I need bad things to happen to them, it’s a simple matter to have them be grievously injured, kidnapped, or something of the like.
Death is the narrative equivalent of a big freakin’ sledgehammer. It’s there to shatter, to break down, and to drive spikes into aspects of your narrative. There’s definitely times when a sledgehammer is called for. However, you wouldn’t use a sledgehammer whenever you needed to drive in nails. Likewise, you don’t want to kill off characters every time the opportunity arises.
Knowing myself, I’m sure there’s going to be tempted to kill off characters as a means of managing my large primary cast. After all, the focus can only be on so many things without drawing the pace of the story to a crawl. This is a bad idea for a variety of reasons. For one, these side characters could still be useful. Killing them off removes all utility I could be getting from them in the future. Killing characters indiscriminately is also needlessly manipulating of any readers who may be honestly interested in them. If anyone’s grown attached to them, it’s downright disrespectful to kill those characters off in favor of new, unproven ones. It also wastes any emotional torque such death could bring, in properly designed death scenes.
And really, there’s going to be a lot of situations where it’s just not necessary. I’ve got a story to write about death, my work will be better off just removing them from the situation in a way that leaves them alive. For audiences to take death seriously, it has to be handled respectfully, and throwing it at the wall the first chance I get without properly exploring it is not a sign of respect. Most of the time, it’s going to be both far more appropriate and easier to adequately write to have characters be injured, but survive, to be off on their own quests, or something similar, than to kill them outright.
Death is a conclusion, and should be treated as such
A lot of works do shocking, completely out of nowhere character deaths. A lot of works do them very well. That’s not something I’m really wanting to explore in this piece. I’m going for something strongly character-driven here, and every major death is the end to one of my character’s stories. That means it should be written like an ending. It will need a proper foundation, solid build up, and significant resolution. Essentially, a death scene needs its own individual arc to be handled properly in this piece, one that plays out over much more time than just the scene itself.
This holds the risks of making deaths more predictable. If done write, with death used sparingly, and only when appropriate, I may be able to avoid that, but in any case, and predictable but well-written death is still worlds better than the opposite.
Plot-important deaths are about more than just the character dying
War sucks. People die. Their friend move on, because really, they have to. Everyone’s impacted by death, though. Some more than others. But everyone carries it with them.
I don’t want members of the main cast to just die and never be mentioned again. Deaths will impact the characters close to them for long after the initial event. Some will handle it better than others, some will show it more than others, but everyone is affected. Character death is a massive thing in a narrative, and one of the most commonly-seen mistakes in modern fiction is to kill a major character just for a quick emotional peak and not use it for anything else afterwards. This wastes a lot of the deaths potential, and is disrespectful both to the characters and any reader that’s connected with them. Death always needs to drive further action.
Nobody comes back
This is an idea I’m not entirely attached to yet, because I’ve got a setting where I could easily justify resurrection in certain circumstances, but I’m definitely leaning this way. If you ever want to ruin all emotional impact character death will have, forever, the quickest way is to bring a character back from the dead.
This is a problem that’s really endemic with superhero comics. We’ve had quite a few well-publicized character deaths already, this decade. Captain America, the Human Torch, Batman, just off the top of my head. All of them died. All of their deaths received major publication in mainstream media. All of their followers were totally nonplussed at their deaths. All of them are back now. Those last two things are related. After all, why should your readers take death as final when it’s obvious the writer doesn’t.
So yeah, I’m going to say that unless a death puts my story seriously off track, nobody’s coming back from the grave. I do reserve the right to have characters appear dead, but show up alive and well later, so long as nobody confirms their death and that’s foreshadowed at or around the time of killing.
No deaths purely for meta reasons
Sometimes, you can just feel the writer moving things around in the story. Nowhere is this more commonly apparent than in character death calculated to have an impact on the reader. This is the brand new villain killing the badass character just so the reader believes their super strong. This is the character dying with little build at the start of a new arc so the reader knows it’s a tragic story. This is the undeveloped girlfriend getting killed and shoved into the fridge so the audience audience is totally shocked and decides the hero has to go all grimdark now.
That’s not to say that everything that’s similar to the above is automatically bad. Just that most of the time, when the above situations are written, they’re written solely for their impact on the audience, with their storytelling utility held secondary. It’s outward facing rather than forward facing. Events can and should shock, sadden, instill joy, and otherwise emotionally effect the audience. However, you do need to give your audience some credit; they are absolutely ready and willing to connect with your characters and immerse themselves in your story. The best way to instill an emotional response is to direct events towards your characters, rather than the reader. It’s a subtle difference, but one your reader can easily pick up on. Deaths need to drive your story, not your audience; they’ll easily follow you where you’re going, if it’s well-written enough. But trying to manipulate a response out of them just makes them resist.
So it’s perfectly reasonable to expect readers to respond to my character’s death. But killing characters off just to make the reader respond is both ineffective, as the reader will know and fight against it, and short-sided, as it rarely is well-written enough to drive the story.
Denver Comic Con should have been a slice of fandom heaven in the center of Colorado. Only in their second year, they’ve already amassed a strong array of star power and quality panels. With their lack of experience, one might wonder how they were able to pull it off. Well, this past weekend, I found the answer. In order to arrange this con, the organizers have turned to the darkness, dealing in powers beyond their control. It involves contracts. But not the kind of contracts we mortals are experienced in, no. These contracts are of the sort entered into with outerworldly demons and signed in blood. These contracts are of the sort that can only be paid with human lives. These contracts are of the sort that unleash true horrors upon this world.
In order to hold this convention, the Denver Comic Con organizers summoned from the depths the Great Beast known only as The Line. And The Line hungers.
I have stared down the gullet of this beast. And I have emerged unbroken, but not entirely unscathed. Others were not so lucky. The Line feasts not on mortal flesh but on one’s very soul. I watched as grown men were reduced to quivering messes. I watched as strong human beings fell beneath the weight of The Line. I survived, but it was only through luck and the gains of those fallen long before me. I can take no pride in it, for I was able to do nothing to stop The Line from devouring others’ souls as it attempted to mine.
We write about a number of things here at Lost to the Aether. Mostly video games and writing. That’s two things. Two’s a number. It seems to me that both my writing posts and my video games posts have their own audiences, and when I write about one it tends to alienate the other.
Well that’s not good enough for me! It’s inherently unfair! So with this post, in a move for equality, we’re going to alienate both groups equally and talk about movies! Besides, it’s so rare I get to talk about something topical. We’re going to review Iron Man 3, out in theatres for a couple of days now.
The original Iron Man movie was good, momentously so. It was one of the films that performed solidly enough to bring life to the superhero movie genre, and is one of the few superhero films to make an origin story entertaining. Iron Man 2 took all that momentum, and let it fly away. Let’s not talk about Iron Man 2. Following that, Tony Stark and Iron Man stole the show with the Avengers, leading the pack in one of the highest grossing films of all time. There’s some good legacy built up behind the franchise, is what I’m saying. So how does Iron Man 3 hold up? Is it a worthy successor to the films that have come before it? Is this the life changing movie of the summer?