I am asked often about where my stories come from. I’m sure each and every writer out there is quizzed on this—and frequently. It can be a difficult question to answer, employing self examination and introspection, or an easy one with a flippant—yet true—“I’ve no idea.”
Sometimes, depending on the audience, I like to lie about it. Or, if you will, make up a story about how I make up stories. One of my favorite is “the second drawer down” answer. I talk about a piece of furniture purchased at a garage sale that when I got it home, unstuck the drawers, I found the second drawer down was filled with ideas. I take them all out and the next day it is again filled with ideas. Boy, I wish that was real.
As an illustrator as well as writer, my ‘where do my stories come from” also have a twist to them. Something along the lines of “do you write the story first?” or “do you draw the pictures first?”
The answer to that is almost always, the story was inspired by a picture or sketch I’ve done.
I’ve talked about Bunnies!!! before and how it began with a wild sketch.
And became this:
Likewise with I Love You More than the Smell of Swamp Gas. From this sketch…
…came this story and book.
I’ve got several manuscripts I’m working on now that come from simple character sketches I’ve made. No real idea who or what I was drawing when I drew them, but they all seemed like there was more going on than what just what I drew.
Sometimes my sketches are inspired or influenced by things in my world. And then a story might come from those sketches
Like this one. A friend was telling me about the mythology(?) of cardinals and I found it kind of fascinating. This sketch came along within a few days of that conversation. And then another…
I love the characters and they were begging me for a story. So I tried writing it. Like most first drafts it kind of sucked. I made some more sketches,
and wrote some more. I introduced another character and rewrote it again.
And revised it and revised it, adding further sketches between revisions. I think, at revision 10, I am 93% there.
This is not an unusual process for me. Draw, write, draw, write. It doesn’t always work but it is a great way for me to get started.
I don’t know if this story becomes viable, but again, I love the characters and I’m going to try and make it work.
Some of you may be familiar with another exercise I do. To challenge both my drawing skills and my story skills I add things (mostly monsters) to old photographs. If I can make the photos evocative or fun or both, I’ve succeeded.
Here’s some recent examples…Inspire any stories?
So, I guess the answer to the question, “Do you write the story first or draw the pictures first,” the answer is always, “Yes.”