What is writing?

I have no answers here. Don’t be looking for them.

Here’s what I think though. I think – as a comic artist – when I talk about writing, I really mean coming up with an idea and carrying that through to a script. Maybe the dialogue is finished, but certainly the story is just the opener for an artist to take and run with.

Now, some writers will write feature-complete scripts, laying everything out just-so. But even then, many writers will give an artist free reign to go and do their thing – as long as they hit the beats then they’re good.

I think I do a lot of writing without realising, every tweet (and man, there’s a lot of those) every joke, anecdote, bit of stupidity that blog about. But there’s even more stuff going on that isn’t called writing but has writerly features – anecdotes, jokes, relay conversations. Conversation. This is the sort of writing I can do in my sleep at this point.

Despite doing this Couch to 80k Challenge, I’m not really interested in prose. I’m interested in taking some of the ideas I have and writing a comic script that is complete – has an engaging beginning, a middle that’s not a muddle and an end that’s both climatic and satisfying. This is the sort of thing I struggle with.

Committing to a single idea and carrying it through to an end point is hard. It’s double hard when you realise this idea you’ve fallen in love with, and have expanded to be something that resembles a story, will now take you several months to draw.

Christ, maybe I should be thinking of prose.

In the time I’ve been doing the Couch to 80k, so far the ideas I’ve had that have reached a sort of “ooh wouldn’t that be fun” have included (but aren’t limited to)

A sci-fi detective yarn called “Curiosity Inc” about disillusioned rich-kid turned PI Curiosity Vanderbilt whose parents both set up her detective agency (just to keep her busy) and are probably the greatest crime family in the entire galaxy. She’s dogged by one of her staff who happens to be a great detective, but somewhat smitten with her – despite her being entirely disinterested – MacFergus Tracker (he would prefer if no-one used his first name).

Stories set in that world would be cool. There was also:

Galaxy FC. Aliens arrive demanding Earth send them champions to battle for the future of the World. Based on what the aliens know of Earth, they’ve decided Soccer is the way to go. Earth fields a team of best players in the world. Accompenied by their alien coach, they play the first game, barely scraping a win, only to discover that it was never about one match, they’d have to play several leagues. The aliens, of course, have been doing stuff like this forever, and much of their empire is made up of conquered worlds. Thanks to the plucky humans though, these fellow abductees rise up.

Which was something I kicked around (see what I did there?) with my youngest son, Thomas (9) while we were playing football (because I was bored playing football and needed something to entertain myself).

I’ve laid out a couple of storylines for that. Nothing big, about a page and a half of notes. But still.

Then there’s Q13 (working title). A British take on the X-Files, except despite many of the strange weird and bizarre apparitions the team will face, nothing is alien – except in the sense that it’s unknown to mankind. It’s all stone circles, ancient sentient plants, ghost husbands and uncanny spookiness. (dammit, it should be called spooks) – we follow our three field team specialists, Tom Wellard – ex-SAS, weapons, Beatrix Tolliver – ex MI6, intelligence specialist, and newest recruit, Xavier Jones, a botanist. We join them as they’re about to explore a clump of land that no-one has accessed for at least three centuries, maybe more. At its heart we discover that .. well.. I’m not telling you, I may still write one of these things.

And finally, a James Bond story called White Rabbit. I mean, there’s no way on earth I’d get an opportunity to write a James Bond story, (scratch that, there’s no way on earth, I CAN SEE NOW, where I’d get to write a James Bond story. Honestly, who knows, life has a way of surprising you) but that’s ok, I can still play in that world. We cold open on Bond, about to escape from a maximum security prison, unarmed, standing in manacles, hands aloft at the edge of a sheer cliff drop, and from there we kick off a Bond Adventure (really it’s me trying to figure a way to get James Bond to run through a large Orange Parade…)

So there’s four worlds, each you can play with an explore, and keep you(me) occupied for weeks writing, then years drawing. But there’s no way to do all of that – it’s just not possible. I think I need to have hard thing about this.

There was a fifth story, a murder mystery RPG I wrote for me and Thomas to play – and it, weirdly, represents a closing of the circle. I came up with an idea, made up a middle and found a way to end it, that we both enjoyed. So it counts. Right?

Anyway, I have no good answers. I think though, I think exploring the question is still interesting.

Author: PJ

Belfast based Comic Artist who won’t shut up on twitter.