Monday, 17 February 2014

A World Slightly off its Axis

I'd like to take this entry to get a bit into my influences and ideas behind the world of October 20. It is a world that's very much like our own, but with a few, very key differences. And that's before you factor in the horrible monster our heros have to contend with.

In alot of ways, it is an idealized world, seen through the eyes of yours truly. And by that, I don't mean utopia in any shape of the concept. It is still a dirty, brutal world, full of just as much pain, regret and bad decisions as the real one, but it is also a world where implausible things become feasible, not in the way that it's intended to break the reader's immersion, but to suggest a reality that is almost, but not quite mundane. Where impossible isn't neccesarily a definite.

Perhaps the most significant example, and the thing I'm the most conscious of, is the role and position of women in the Oct20-verse. Now, I am not a feminist, but I frequently find myself disturbed with the way society treats women. The amount of uneccesary  hurdles they have to contend with, and the stories you hear genuinely unsettles me. I realized that if I was to write a completely realistic universe, the emphasis of my story would be different than the one I want it to be. It would be alot more about the struggles Catherine had to cope with as a result of her gender, rather than as a result of the curse laid upon her and Rai. So, to combat this, I found inspiration in an unlikely source:

Paul Verhooven's Starship Troopers.

And by that I don't mean the militaristic, and all-encompassing fascist societal norms running through it. I mean the pleasant, almost naive equality between men and women in that movie. I wanted my universe to take its cues from that. There are still feminine and masculine values, there are still natural differences between the sexes. But I removed alot of the hurdles I mentioned earlier. It is, boiled down to its essentials, a world that is slightly kinder to women.

Something that is also very important in the world buidling, and something I fear I've not been totally clear on so far, is that to the ones not affected by Cat and Rai's curse, there is no such things as monsters. If they were ever to talk to someone uninitiated about it, they would get exactly the same look you'd get if you did the same. The notion is preposterous. Which, again is vital. It creates the sense of isolation that weighs on them. They can exist in human society, but for the last ten years, they have not really been a part of it. Every aquaintance is a fleeting one, every relationship superficial, out of fear of hurting others. It tears at the human  psyche, and as the story progresses, may drive them to do something horrific, from which there is no return.

Or, you know, everything could be fine.

Today's fanart is by Ethan Kocak, the very talented writer and artist of The Black Mudpuppy.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Character Spotlight: Raimundo Andres Goicochea

Character Spotlight:
 Raimundo Andres Goicochea

In the second of the character spotlights, I take a look at the second half of our dynamic duo, the Argentine freerunner Rai.   

In the very beginning, Rai was a very different character. A surly, stoic Brazilian, who I quickly realised was an unsympathetic bore, who brought nothing really interesting to the story. I've mentioned before that this was initially supposed to be Catherine's story, (in alot of ways, it still is) and the other characters were either fairly incidental, dead, or like Rai, charisma vacuums.  I started over, and didn't keep much more than the name. I moved his country of origin across the border to Argentina, I made his character model leaner, gave him a kinder face, and more tired eyes, in an effort to maybe tell parts of his story through just his appearance. I took inspiration from an Italian football player, Claudio Marchisio when giving him his look. He has a strange combination of fatigue and intensity in his eyes, which I really felt would be a good base line for Rai's look. 

The backstory his face fails to tell, was initially told in flashback. If you look at the first few pages, you'll see it plainly laid out where he's from, what he used to do, and where it all went wrong. This method worked, to a point, but as more of his past came up, I really wanted to now hint at it, rather than come out and say it. When his past was revisited by Ansgar and his revelation about Rai's crime, I tried this technique. You learn that Rai has a foster brother, whose family took him in the periods when, as Rai said, "my mother couldn't take care of me." The reason for this, I left to the reader. I found it a much more impactful way of giving the character his past. 

As for his present, there are a few things to note about Rai. He's more emotional than Catherine, for instance. She's, to a certain extent, emotinally cauterized, in that while she does allow herself to feel, and feels as strongly as Rai, she is more in control. Rai will often let himself be ruled by emotion. Without actually giving him a diagnosis, he experiences higher highs, and lower lows, and is less equipped to effectively deal with them. 

In that respect, given the situation they find themselves in, you can justify calling him the weaker of the two. His saving grace is his physicality. I wanted him to be the physically superior of the two, and ended up giving him a skill that Catherine lacks, namely his freerunning. When looking at the story way back, I found that Catherine was by far the central character, and I do concider her the main protagonist. But I wanted Rai to have his moments in the limelight as well, and the second chapter, as it now develops, is largely about him. The reason for this, I won't get into, since that would be spoiling it, but he may find himself severely isolated  
Today's fan art is by the creator of The Black Mudpuppy, Ethan Kocak. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Finding Inspiration

Today I thought I'd talk a little about something abstract. Something intangible. But also something you cannot do without if you want to make something creative. Inspiration. And more specifically, where I find it. Like anyone who's ever tried to write or draw something, I go through dry spells, where no matter what you do, it is quite impossible to get anything done, because you're just not feeling it.

I have a few techniques for combating this. The first one is quite simple. Walk. I do all my creative thinking while walking. I get all my ideas, everything creative thought and angle while I walk. When I write or draw, I am merely trying to remember what I thought of while I was out walking. There is a problem inherent in this. I've forgotten alot of good ideas because I don't have a note pad on me, and I feel too silly dictating on my phone. A good example of this: I've been trying to write a book for years. I know how it's going to end, but I haven't really been able to get the path to the end sorted out. One day I was out walking, and it came to me. The perfect solution. Everything clicked into place. Every plot hole was filled. It was amazing. By the time I'd made it back home, it was all gone, and I've not been able to recover it since.

So take a lesson from me. Walk alot. But carry a pen and paper.

Another thing I do when trying to capture that elusive creative spark, is go to the cinema. I always come back with a million new ideas. You probably think that this sounds awfully similar to plagiarism, but let me explain. It is not the scenes themselves that triggers me. I am a very emotional person. I feel things strongly. Watching a movie in a cinema is usually a very strong emotional experience for me. And I get a desire to replicate the emotions I feel in my own writing.

I'd mention music as well, but I'll save that for a seperate post. Suffice to say, when I'm out walking, writing new stuff in my head, I am always listening to music. It is a must.

The last thing I'll mention is other things I know. Other interests. I believe that is a treasure trove of inspiration, and I borrow heavily from that in my writing. An example. During my military service, I was an army medic. After my discharge, I joined the Red Cross Search and Rescue, and spent 4 years as a volunteer. The story is littered with things I learned or experienced during that time. I am also a huge football fan. ("Sawker" to you yanks out there.)

I've said earlier that the look of Rai was partly inspired by a football player called Claudio Marchisio. What may surprise you to read is that the look of Baltimore's 10-year old daugher Mbali is also inspired by a football player, called Alessio Cerci. See if you can spot the influence.

By the way, I will with each new blog post I put up here include one piece of all the wonderful fan art I've received the last year, starting with the very first one I got, from artist unknown. (this was a secret santa thing last year) If you recognise your own work, I'd love to get a hold of you to thank you properly. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Early Sketches

October 20 has been a few years in the making, although I only started getting serious around May of last year. I've did alot of sketches of the characters before that, and I've managed to find a few of them again, and I thought it might be fun to go through a few of them. I'd like to think I've gotten better at drawing since I did them, so  a few will be quite primitive.

This is the very first image I had of Rai. Originally, he was supposed to be from Brazil, and a very different character. He was pretty much a miserable grouch, and was actually supposed to be one of the deceased, along with Yun, Kibwe and Kunajak, back when the story was just the very first chapter, and Catherine was the last survivor.

He soon became much more like the character that's in the comic now though, once I decided that he was one of my two main protagonists. This is the almost finished version. The shape of his face is the same, but his hair is more wavy, his eyes just slightly slanted, and his cheek bones more pronounced.

 Cat was also different early on. She was supposed to have shorter hair, her scars had a different shape, and she made no effort to hide them.

 I'd pretty much decided to go with this model of Catherine, until I got the cover back from Arthur, and I made her look like that in the actual comic. I kind of preferred it when she had shorter hair, though. She may get a haircut once the comic moves along.

As for poor Ansgar, I can't really find any sketches of him. This is a sketch I did a long time ago, which as one point was going to be the basis for him. Not the blandness, and complete lack of recognisable features. Aren't you glad I made him older and more distinctive in the end? I am.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Character Spotlight: Catherine Marie Hoxley

To inaugurate the October 20 Journal, I thought we'd take a bit of deeper look at the thoughts that went into creating the characters. 

First out is the herione of the tale, ms. Catherine Hoxley. I'll be honest. Her character design is not at all my doing. When I started the process of plannig the comic, I hired the artist Arthur Wang to do the cover pages for the three chapters. For Rai, the male lead, I had specific requests, but for Catherine, I gave him complete freedom to go where he wanted.

The story first came about in a writer's workshop I particiapted in a few years ago, and the first chapter is more or less exactly derived from a short story I wrote there. In a first draft, Catherine was there alone, the last survivor, and it was more of a introspective tale of regret and courage in the face of an even more ambiguous threat that had consumed her life in the wake of an unknown tragic incident 10 years ago. So if you think I am conservative with my info now, you should have read the first attempt at the story. Subsequent drafts eventually saw both Rai and then Ansgar added.

In the beginning, Catherine was for me a flailing attempt at capturing the elusive "Strong Female Character" that everyone keeps talking about. I've later come to the realisation that it is more important to just write well fleshed out characters, no matter their gender. It is important to me to let the characters have their weaknesses and flaws, than creating overly powerful characters that can be role models. That's not what I proiritise. Catherine has her flaws. She is quick to anger, she has an addictive personality and like the others, she has done something terrible to land her in the predicament she is in. She carries great guilt, and is often not strong enough not to let it impede in her life.

What I want to do with her is to explore how a person manages to carry her past, and the knowledge of the horrific things she has done, while still having to be strong enough to weather the isolation and struggle that comes with her plight. How does she deal with the last few people she has any relation to dying around her. What will she do if she finds herself the last survivor. (Not saying that she will be! But she might...)

When it comes down to it, Oct20 is a post-apocalyptic story of three people stuck in a post-human wasteland. It just so happens that society keeps going around them. They are simply shut out from it.

And Catherine is one of the lenses I want to show this through.