Off the project happily for two weeks while teaching in Hawaii. I barely thought about this, except for during the plane flight in, where I made these sketches. Mostly looking for other crazy characters to introduce into the gallery of youngsters hanging around the campground where Banks winds up. I want them surreal, funny, possibly avatar-like, something someone might design for a lousy video game.
Next I sketched a few thumbnails for the next pages. Thinking what needs to happen is the introduction of MITCH, the box with dials and a handle that assigns something, or predicts something, or changes something, I don't know. These thumbnails so tiny, I got excited thinking I was working like Brian Eno here, the way he would throw out syllables and rework them until they made words. These half-sketched stick figures were just potential movement, potential compositions.
Plus- more ideas and images. A discarded, broken train car on the beach. For Banks it's a refuge? A stage? Also, a hippo in the water. It's a god, or in my writings, I'm treating it as one. In improv comedy, there's a game of speaking to your God directly, naming it, describing it. I'm doing this here to try to understand this damn hippo...
Next, I get down to drawing again.
I've been busy on that new project and wanted to tell you where I'm at. I've found a structure I think, and am at the point where I want to force it to become and remain interesting for myself, and hopefully for readers too. I hate writing/drawing a basic story. I want to play with tone, rhythm, POV, etc., in a way I haven't really since New Hat or The Sands.
My main idea is: lots of small chapters, every other chapter being odd or unique somehow, formally unlike the traditional storytelling in between.
I've posted a long blog posting about where I'm at now, here. It seems the most compelling options right now to me for this next section are:
-Silent (I've done a lot of considering of silent comics in my teaching)
-No main character (Barney Banks out of it, recuperating, and anyway, abandoning your main character is a way to force yourself to see your story differently (Brian Eno: abandon the most important thing (I think!)))
-2nd person narration, any narrative POV shift
-Word heavy, narration separate from pictures, on two different tracks
-Jump drastically back in time or forward in time
-Fast fast fast or slllooowwww
-Chords and harmonies (duel tracks)
-Recaps, summaries, simplifications. Fairy tale.
If you've got any suggestions for particularly fun or useful or compelling short forms for a section, please let me know.
Pretty sure this next section will be silent and feature character after character acting strangely after interacting with a little meter-machine. Almost a list format in that it will introduce a number of new characters, one after another.
I'd love to hear what you think so far, and feel free to offer some suggestions. I don't think I'm going to do any drastically Oubapian strategies like palindromes or cyclical passages, but why not? I'll put those two on the list.
The interesting thing about this is that AS YOU GO, ideas arrive, but more importantly, half-ideas develop further. You absolutely have to start.
At this point, a mere 10 pages in (it reads so fast!) I am now in a new place. I don't have a plan for my next step. But this starting was essential, and I can begin to sort through the huge number of notes I've been assembling for years (though to emphasize, I think the bulk of the important ones have been one year or less) and now can start to see if there is a structure where I think there is one.
Three things to me are essential: 1- that Banks has seizures, and these mark at least two important structural points in the book. These things start or end sections. 2- That Banks feeling accepted ruins him. 3- I'd like it to be made up of small sections, and if so, then every other section must be a unique or slightly untraditional storytelling form. In between, the bulk, will be the main Barney Banks story, told in traditional omniscient form.
Why the structural changes? Because I WANT to. Because part of what I want to explore, in addition to Barney's character, and the epilepsy that has me haunted, and Barney's thematic inclinations (imagination vs action, girls, asocial behavior, girls, etc.) are the formal possibilities of tone of voice, point of view, differing rhythms, etc.
And now, I'm at the end of the first traditional section, and I know that the next should be something else, formally.
I go by hunches based on prior work and details: I know there is a thing in the world that is a sort of electric meter looking thing. Dials for eyes and a mouth that spouts paper. I know there are a bunch of kids around. I know we're in a campground. I want there to be a big hippo in a pond or stream, but haven't been convinced of that yet. I know Banks will get to know his rescuer, Lodi, well. I know she is slightly to the side of the other kids in that she works here. I think this is all I know. I have notes for wordplay- conversations, possible plot points. And importantly: images that are enchanting me. The meter-creature mentioned above, spouting out pieces of... wisdom? Advice? The hippo in the lake. Lodi surrounded by fans. Barney standing up, asserting himself, shouting, etc. Barney lying in a ditch, Barney floating around as a ghost.
So this being where I'm at, I pulled out all of my cards to see if there's a structure. It feels like a seizure should mark 6:00- the lowest point, or if not a seizure, then something more desperate. Another image is in there, and has been for a while: Barney listening to Lodi and another character copulating in a tent. Disgusting. Perfect for Barney's lowest moment. Does he barge in? Make himself known? Fall apart? Something. Let's mark this as the lowest point, and pull the seizure (his first or his second?) out of this scene.
I know "entering the new world" means starting to figure things out, starting to learn. And I know for Banks to go from who he is at the beginning (somewhat arrogant, somewhat hopeless old guy) to arrogant loud and suspicious, he needs to shed some of his hopelessness, he needs to have some minor successes to get his courage up. So there's the beginning of an arc: the character starts to become friendly with Lodi, or accepted by others, and this propels him into being more brave, more arrogant, more suspicious. What ever culminating event that comes from this arc needs to project him further or elsewhere: into redemption or into something worse than before. For it to feel like a story, that's what needs to happen.
A lot of this is internal for me, and I know innately that Banks never wins, so we need to pick the "something worse." Now the image of the ditch pops up. Lying in a ditch is pretty good. I mean pretty bad, and maybe useful in these later sections. Banks can go farther into desperation, as he tries (though there's not a chance of it now, since he has humiliated himself) to ingratiate himself further into the worlds of the kids. Things are getting worse, things are getting hopeless. He's could die here and who would care?
So this starts to feel like a plot-less, detail-less structure. And with that in hand, I thumb through my cards. I divide the sections into "Acts" 1, 2 and 3. (This is traditional, but I don't always do it. Here it feels right.)
The picture above shows the organization process.
Below is the final stack full of ideas for each section, each act. Will all of these work? Will this remain exact? Is this an exact plan? No, no and no. But these are possible, probably points to reach. A plan in case no better plan emerges. In a project like this, we like a better plan to emerge. The structure may remain, but the details may arise as we go, feeding off the details we've already noted, or coming simply from the process of working.
Next: That darn next section.
More Ideas and Images.
Here's the last sketch so far. covering maybe something for page 10- doodling an image of him at the picnic table.
Note the "OPTIONS" regarding that on the right:
-tell big stories;
-is told about this campground;
-"yeah man, relax, you're among friends."
Banks has never been around friends, not friends he can relax around. And this will probably prove to be untrue anyway...
Other options crawling down the margin:
-sees dude in bear costume (this will be a young guy who takes to wearing bear costumes and is basically Banks' antagonist in this story I think.)
-he's getting ready for Burning Man (or something like it.)
then below that there's a bit of dialogue I'm hearing.
More importantly, at the bottom: DON'T FORGET NEW METHODS (P.O.V.) WHEN? ASAP!
The thing that worries me about my own actions here is I'll SETTLE for not exploring formal options, which was most of my impetus to start this thing. SO I MUST I WILL! CUE ARIA! I WILL DO WHAT MY HEART TELLS ME TO!