Years ago, when I decided that writing was my passion, I was filled to the brim with delusions of grandeur and the romantic idea, that there I would be, typing away at a bestseller, glass of wine in hand and cat purring at my feet.
Obviously I was wrong and reality was far removed from my idealistic viewpoint.
Writing is hard work. No matter how great your story idea is, the actual work starts when you have to put pen to paper, to give life to the story that appeared so succinct in your imagination. The first hurdle you face is the dreaded “writer’s block”. Ideas and thoughts are fickle and fleeting, and you have to grab at them as soon as they gallop across your mind’s eye.
Writing requires an immense amount of research, no matter what the genre is, in order to give your characters and setting plausibility and authenticity. To take your reader along on your journey and make them believe. If you don’t do research, your story will be filled with one-dimensional paper people, living in implausible environments, and will ultimately fall flat.
Traditionally I have focussed on fiction and poetry, my collaboration with Daniel on Chronicles of 2nd Dark Age is my first attempt at script writing for a graphic novel.
Challenging to say the least. In the first place, you are working on the “baby” someone has worked on, mulled over, nurtured, imagined and pictured for years. And so inevitably, as you read his work, you interpret it in your way (usually totally different from his), arguments ensue.
Believe it or not, these arguments are invaluable, helping us to explore new character developments, genealogies, histories, languages and civilisations, as they occur. If for example, you were writing about a post apocalyptic society, your characters would have to evolve in this society, speak the language, eat the food and survive.
No matter how interesting the character is, if you haven’t properly researched all the different aspects, they may not fit into your new environment and sadly you are left with the choice of either modifying them, or killing your “darlings.
All the research has to take place before a single line of cohesive writing can actually take place. Even while you are involved in the writing process itself, you will find the research process continuous as you come across the inevitable challenges.
At university, we were taught that a writer, can only write about that which he knows. Not true. Nowadays, apart from the millions of books and manuscripts available, not to mention the advent of the internet, there are whole new worlds open to you. You can travel anywhere you want to, become acquainted with people and strange new cultures, explore things you have never expected to explore.
To use a silly example, I have never tasted Dragon Fruit, I resorted to the internet and voila! I could see what it looked like, beautiful and exotic and I now knew that it was a member of the cactus family. For some people Dragon Fruit tastes like a mixture of kiwi and a pear while to others it tastes like raspberries. Now I could write about it, without having set foot from my office,
Collaborating on a graphic novel the size of Chronicles of 2nd Dark Age requires an immense amount of research, forethought, discussion and patience. As you work, the graphic novel continuously evolves, as characters and locations change and different attributes are assigned to them. It makes no difference whether you are writing about worlds far different to yours, such as sci-fi or fantasy, these worlds must have their own rules to govern society and there are universal themes that flow through your work no matter what you write about.
It’s exciting to say the least, as both the author, artist and writer are drawn into a world of their own creation and yet deeply rooted in real possibility. After all, if you don’t do this, and your environment becomes too alien, too improbable, your reader or audience will be unable to relate and therefore become detached and bored and you’ve lost them.
I am happy and challenged and completely in love with this new world we are creating. And that essentially is what writing is about. Enjoy!
I hope you will accompany me on this journey.
Author: Nanieve Groenewald