week 6

12/10 - It's strange, i don't think today's a brilliant strip, not really funny, I think Madge's final line is awfully written, i can't see this strip making the syndicate package. But at the same time, I think it really shows Shep's charm. I really think i caught that magical quality about him. I really like that facet of today's strip. The small successes. :)
12/11 - You know, on my desktop (meaning my MacOS 8.1, not what I toss my bills on), the folder containing Madge's Diary is actually called "Shep's Sis" because I had started putting it together before i had named it. Funny tidbit of trivia for you.

But today's strip... yick. I didn't even bother drawing in the "county fair" tents in the background i was so uninspired. I mean, for a crap strip, it rates okay, but that's for a crap strip. I feel I'm off track. But how to get back on? I have some ideas, we'll see what i can come up with for tomorrow.

Oh, and if any of you can't make head of tails of it, in that last panel, that is a sack tied around Madge's leg with shep inside of it. the three-legged race. Yeah, you get it now. hilarious.

12/12 - Well, a few people did not like me being so harsh on myself about yesterday's strip. And so I wished to talk about that today. But first, allow me to mention, there is no strip today. I was frustrated that for the second week in a row I was producing strips for "Madge's Diary" that did not fit in the Syndicate package. there were ups and down to all the strips, but mainly, they were off track. I spent hours today trying to figure it all out, get it back in the groove. But a mix of frustration, anxiety, and lack of sleep (stayed up too late posting the "way past your bedtime story") and so it all came to nothing. Not even a half-decently written strip, it all became bottled up.

I did do a doodle, which is below, so there's at least something to look at. The fact that there's no strip today certainly has nothing to do with not enough time or any of the usual reasons, it simply wouldn't come into being.

So Anyhow, on to me being hard to myself. I've been doing bruno for almost eight years. If I wasn't hard on myself, that wouldn't happen. Yes, being too hard on oneself is bad and such and such and yadda yadda. but it also has good points. Creating art is one of the only challenges I've ever had in my life. It seems that the only way I'm ever pushed is if I push myself. And I push myself hard. I cannot describe the depression i feel working a 9-5 job. i hate it. hate it hate it. And only by whipping myself, torturing myself, can I produce; and produce such quality work. You daily read a very desperate man. I wish to escape this horrible world of mail-rooms and junk junk jobs. I NEED to. Right now more than anything else in my life. Seriously. In a way I am hard on myself because it creates my only source of hope.

Of course it's also to create such good work. My standards are always raising, hopefully that has been visible in bruno. I still adore the early strips, but it has come far. And that has only come around from not letting myself get away with what i consider "crap". I have very little tolerance for it in my own work at all.

Of course, like i mentioned, I'm overtired today, which means that all my emotions are enhanced. So don't take this all too heavily. but at the same time at the core, it's true.

So yes, yesterday's strip was amusing, even possibly funny. But it didn't really fit into her world how it came into being. I'm not sure quite how to explain. Part of it was the whole setup. The fair looked more like a carnival. It had no flavor. I think the fair has lots of possiblities, as did the fantasy world, but the way they (fair and fantasy) came into being in the last two weeks, didn't work.

It'd be one thing if I was simply playing around and creating a strip for myself and my readers, just playing around, having fun. But the point of this is to get syndicated. So when i say it's "crapola" I mean that it is not brilliant and that it doesn't fit and fill her world perfectly. Anything short of brilliant will not get me syndicated.

In short, I know I'm not crap. I don't have some big ego, I don't care how I compare, I'm not out to be a huge success. but I know my goals, and I meet them, i conquer them. I've been working like hell for years at art and writing, and I'm damned good. I have infinitely more to learn, but I'm certainly not crap. And "Madge's Diary" so far as a whole is in no way crap. But in terms of this world, every strip has to tie in, it all has to be perfectly shaped and felt, has to be sincere and beautiful. Anything short of that, is crap.

So, maybe tomorrow....

What? You want more? Sure, let's discuss a strip. Been mulling over the theory that each character is a reflection of the protagonist. So let's start with "judging absolutes", and assign madge and another character opposing sides to take, such as:

Intelligence: Madge is intelligent, Jim isn't. Conflict occurs, in which humor can be drawn.

Now, creating the strip is more than this formula, I mean the life of a strip comes from the author's ability to create a soul; but there needs to be some consistency of character (especially in a cartoon world where little-to-no character growth happens) and there also needs to be a basis for the conflict in which draws the humor. So you use the formula as the jumping block, the switch to the unrelated conversation. So, anyways, more examples:

wisdom: madge=wise / shep=naive
how to relate to dating: madge=run away / carmel=embrace
debate: madge=get emotionally involved / carmel=keep coolheaded
sports: madge=strategic leader / carmel=have limited interest
loving one's siblings: madge=tolerates it / shep=accepts it
studying: madge=very devoted / carmel=smart, so does little

Feel free to suggest more, please...

So that leads us to: what other issues exist that i haven't touched on in the strip yet? And here is where I've been drawing a blank most of the day. I almost feel i should scrap Jim and bring in a replacement boy. But who? A poet? A math geek? Maybe an artist, a fleshed out jim. Not too bright academically, but soulfull. And it's as good to have some relating things as well as unrelating. Like an artistic character can be soulful, as is madge, but they could have the conflict of judged/academic intelligence or other things. Like Madge and Carmel both like soccer, but approach it differently. Anyhow, so let me try and think of more "judging absolutes". Both for the current characters, and/or possibly from which to build another character:

appearance: madge=unfashionable / carmel=fashionable
intuition: madge=more studied / ???=intuitive
eating: madge=likes sweets / ???=eats healthy
lying: madge=terrible / ???=lies with ease

And again, all suggestion are good fodder.

And last, just coming up with young girl (maybe freshman in high school) situations. Not as important, most strips shouldn't have a specific story, it's about relationships after all, situations are just there to aid the relationships or to push the gag. But also, it is good for authenticity. So what else:

The mall (shopping)
The library
grocery shopping
etc etc, again, espeically for you girls, any ideas are helpful.

Anyhow, now that' you've read my novel of the day, hope it was at least interesting. :)
12/13 - Well, I'll try for a bit more brevity today. Basically through the bulleton board and emails today, plus taking the day off and just blabbing, getting all my thoughts out, I put it all together (for now). So this morning I wrote today's, tomorrow's, and all next week's. I am likely going to eliminate Jim and replace him with an artsy fellow (yet un-named). The chemistry in the writing this new guy worked well, we'll see where I can take it.

anyhow, today's was inspired by a note from "Ms Eco" who wrote me "As for Carmel. Maybe a more clarified interest in boys, fashion and fun would help? The way she has been seen now is more as a parallell to Madge and a little more dynamics could be brought out by things like... Well, for instance Madge explaining a math problem to Carmel who just keeps staring and saying nothing until the last panel, when she blurts out something like "Oooh look! He's taking his shirt off!" while Madge has been completely oblivious to anything but the mathproblem the whole time." So yeah, basically, I had a flash of inspiration from this and so I took Ms. Eco's idea, the formula prescribed in her scenario, and twisted it a bit to my own weird mind.

Also of note, I actually flipped the first and last panels. Beneath today's strip you'll see the original how i drew it, until i realized the last panel and first panel worked better reversed. Weird, huh?

And last but not least, the feedback i recieved from all of you, again, was brilliant. Sometimes all one needs is a good brainstorm to get the ball rolling again. Thank you. (and if you're inspired, keep 'em coming)
12/14 - It's Friday, I made it. Whew. Funny how I just wrote a bunch of strips from thoughts in my head germinated from emails I recieved, and then went back later after writing them to see where the ideas came from. Well.... it seems Ms. Eco was my muse yet again, she wrote, "As for Shep, I really love him as a character and being Madges little brother he can make a nice break-off from the teen-life and bring her into the day-to-day way of things. (Which can make her even more believable and easy to relate to. Syndicates love that.) Tricking him into taking out the trash for her," and she listed a few other things too. Not a complex or deep idea, but it just clicked something in my noggin.

It's a strange thing to figure out what inspires ideas. "kim in Love" was interesting to do because it was SOO formulaic. I was talking with my friend Kip, joking about how predictable and ridiculous the strip was, and then asked him for an example, to come up with a ridiculous way to kill someone. He replied "drop a safe on them" and within 10 minutes I wrote the strip where she drops a safe on his girlfriend. A good strip too (if you liked "Kim in Love").

I think part of the problem is sitting down and asking yourself "what can happen in today's strip?" Answer: anything. What is going to make you think "take out the trash"? But if you have a simple idea like that, writing a strip seems more the easy part.

Shep threatens madge "take out the trash for me this time or I'll post your diary on the web." Then the last shot is of the trash bag on the street corner with a voice coming from it "I think my method has some kinks to be worked out".

Or how about this, Madge and Shep eating chocolate pudding (put a gun in act 1 and it will go off in act 3). Madge holds up a ten dollar bill and tells Shep that if he brings out the trash for her, she'll give him all the money in her hand. He takes it out and comes back and she is sitting there with the bill on the table and her hands held up empty, laughing. last frame with her with a bowl of pudding on her head and her saying something dry and witty.

hm, i think both of those might actually be funnier than today's. Ah well.

I also use this device a lot in bruno, i always have the story rolling foreward, so there's never much trouble knowing what is "happening", it almost always revolves around character and plot, and I just take that and write a bunch of dialogue until someone "says" something "funny" or something "funny" simply pops into my head, and then I boil it down (often, not enough, ha!) and that's it. A different project, and obviously the humor is different, more dry and subdued, but the same working principle.

Oh, and two issues brough up in emails to me. One person suggested having it all take place in school so I could deal more with character than worry about having the background be interesting, plus most of our teen lives centered on high-school. A few things in response. I do not want this to be "Luanne" first of all, and I also think it's simply far too easy to fall into predictable traps going that route. I think every artistic piece ever written about teens takes place in school, which means that anything you create either falls into a pre-created stereotype or is the opposite of one (which is usually the same thing in my book). In madge's world, I want school to exist, but in an implied background. I want this to be about their LIVES. But it was a really good point to bring up.

The other thing brought up was the desire not to get rid of Jim. Add a new character, but why delete Jim? Here is why: because I will NOT submit a strip with more than four characters. I think that would work against it. Syndicates don't like starting a strip with more than four. they've outright told me that. Plus I've seen it in almost every strip in the last 20 years. if next weeks new guy works better, Jim is history. Although.... wait a year or so after I'm syndicated (notice my total ignoring of the big "if" there), then I'll explore what i can/want to add. Start simple, come to understand, see if it can/needs to be added on.

Have a great weekend.