Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shard Twenty-Three - Creative Convolutions

Been a while since I wrote a new entry. Funny how those "I'm going to write at least one entry every week" resolutions so very rarely work out.
But time is irrelevant for my purposes here, so let's move along, shall we? Today I'd like to...

...well, I'm not positive what I'd like to do today here, but the one theme stuck in my head is "creative process", so let's see where that one leads.


The creative process is an odd thing; while lots of people share similar methods of expressing that creativity, the very nature of the beast is that everyone goes about it in a fairly unique manner. Sure, lots of artists might play music while they work, and let it inspire their results. But what are the chances that they all share the same way of hearing that music, gathering the same inspirations, applying those inspirations?

I'll stop myself before I launch into a philosophical ramble. I'm here to talk about my own creative process, of course, so let's get down to business.

Now, I've already outlined my creative process in terms of my visual artwork, and mentioned my creative processes in general a bit here-and-there over some of my other entries, but I'd like to get into more detail today on my storybuilding process.

Like most of my artistic work, I'm self-taught in storybuilding; as a result, I really don't know much about how other writers and storytellers construct their stories. So I'll try to avoid calling my own process "odd"; it certainly feels like it's an odd way to do things, but what do I know? It's the only process I've seen in practice.
Anyway, that's enough explanation; I'm putting off actually writing about writing.


My Fragmented Infinity storyworld is, ironically, quite fragmented. With a plot that centers around a main character who can traverse worlds, it has to have a lot of worlds to traverse, of course. And these are worlds filled with yet more unique characters, odd traits, quirky customs... not to mention stories and plots all their own.

My process tends to start with an inspiration. Sometimes I think of a character first; this is the most common occurrence. Maybe I had a weirdly interesting dream, or I just heard another story, and suddenly my mind's whirling with ideas. Sometimes I even just stumble upon a character design while I'm working on something else; at least one character of mine has been inspired by an artwork I made. (it was a contest entry, and the focal character was just a generic, unnamed young man; I ended up getting attached to the idea, and decided to expand on it.)
So now I've got a character, but he (or she) has no place in the storyline, doesn't live anywhere, probably doesn't even have a personality yet. Sometimes these little fragments just end up getting discarded, or filed away; there's no point in shoving them into a story they don't belong in. But sometimes they just slot right into pre-existing holes in the story, or even make their own holes.

I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself here, so let me pause for a moment and explain something a bit.
My storyline, as a whole, doesn't start at the beginning. I tend to dream up plot points from the middle, the end, the start, all in random order; true, it had a starting point all along, but the plot itself wasn't always connected to the story. (if that makes any sense whatsoever.)

This is how these odd characters slot in, sometimes. Until fairly recently, I had a bunch of storyline worlds, each with their own characters, and I had Jio and Anji (my two main traveling characters) connecting it all together. But they weren't connected particularly well. The plot started with Jio arriving on Vynaiocc, meeting Anji, and after a certain point, taking off to a new world. But which one they went to first was entirely up in the air. I didn't even have a purpose for the story; there was no goal. (this is the part where I consider my creative process to be odd.)

But you may notice, I did say "until fairly recently".
Fairly recently marks the entry point of another character, but one I'm keeping fairly secret for the time being. No, that's not quite right; it marks the entry point of a big chunk of the plot, and the new character sort of came attached with it.
I won't go into much detail here, partly because it's still a working process (even some of my major characters have gone through changes over time), and partly because it's such a big part of the storyline.

The main point here is how it all fits together. In a timeline, my storyline's creation is all over the board; plot points come in, characters appear, but wait, these characters are from even earlier in the story; they affect the plot, which leads to new plot points, which leads to new characters, which suddenly connects two parts of the plot that were previously floating about aimlessly.
It's like a jigsaw puzzle, but oddly, one with multiple configurations and more pieces than it needs.


And what is my ultimate point? The moral to this entry? I'm not entirely certain. I mostly just wanted to get some thoughts out my head. But I suppose there is some advice I can leave you with.

As a creator - be you an artist or storyteller, or even a self-titled "normal person" - never discredit yourself for using a seemingly odd process. The only important thing is that it works for you.

And in case you were wondering, when all is said and done, yes. I do believe my odd process works for me.



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shard Twenty-Two - Evolve/Advance

Let's talk art. (or specifically, talk about it in more detail than I normally do.)

Lately I've been noticing a lot of things about my own art. I don't know what exactly to attribute this to; perhaps it's the deviantART chatroom I've been hanging out in lately, perhaps it's connected to the changes I've been making in my style, or maybe it's just the weird mood I've been in. (which itself may be attributed to the long nights I've been having over the past few days.)

But whatever the reason, I've been having an easier time sitting back and looking at my art; not my artwork, but my art in general. my style.
One thing I've always been striving for is speed, as a matter of fact. My goal has always been to get comfortable enough with my artistic talents to be able to just sit down with an idea in my head, and within the day, have a finished piece of artwork. A result that I was actually happy with.

But looking back, I noticed a trend. Yes, my artistic talents keep getting better and better. More details, less mistakes, better quality in general. (nowhere near perfect, but progressing nicely.)

But I've also been getting slower and slower as a result.


It's brought me to re-think my goals a bit. Why am I getting slower, even though I'm getting better? It's my nature.

I'm learning new techniques time after time, and with every new tip I gather, I turn them into tricks to apply to my work.
And I've built up a pretty good pile of tricks.
Now, sure, I could probably emulate some of my older works even faster than ever. But it's not in my nature to "waste" my skills. So when I work, I apply all my tricks.
Now don't misunderstand me here; I'm quite happy with my style, no matter the speed. A few years back, I wouldn't have guessed I'd be working at this level. I still have even loftier expectations, but it is human nature to constantly want to be just a bit better than you are.
But the end result is, I have more skills. And I use more skills. And I take more time.


So here comes the re-thinking.

It's just not in my nature to learn skills and not put them to use. And for me to realistically just get faster, I'd need to not learn new skills, but simply master the ones I have.
Which is a great option, but not for me.

It isn't my style.

I'm constantly learning new techniques. Evolving my style, morphing it. My latest art project is an image of Myrkr-sefa; I've been working on it off/on for about two months now, and my art style has already changed halfway through the project. (I'll probably end up going back and re-doing some of the earlier sections as a result.)
And I wouldn't trade that advancement for anything. It's why I enjoy art. The feeling of learning something new - that sense of accomplishment when you stumble upon a new technique - it's pretty great. So what if it means your three-layer Photoshop project now has five layers in it, and takes an extra three hours to finish. (on that note, my Myrkr image currently has upwards of five layers, per finger, per hand, and a total of probably fifty-plus so far.)
The results are worth it. When you can put the final touches on a bit of artwork, sit back, and say, "this makes my last project look like crap in comparison."
And sometimes you can't top your last project that easily. But that just makes the next best artwork feel that much more rewarding.

So what are my goals now?

I'm not sure.
It's certainly not speed anymore. Sure, I want to be more comfortable with my style; but in the meantime, I'm perfectly happy with spending a few extra hours - or weeks - on a project to make it that much better.
I guess the one goal I had before, and still keep, is to just keep getting better.

And really, do I need more?



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shard Twenty-one - Getting The Fires Started

The whole storyline process for Fragmented Infinity is starting to feel more like a buildup than a rolling start, but hey, even an illusion of progress is better than nothing at all, right.

More and more details are getting fleshed out, but as before, the story itself is still in the starting gates. Something's bound to burst soon, either the metaphorical gate, or my head. I'm hoping for the former.


As I add more and more to the story, I've been finding the naming process to be especially intricate; while it's easy enough to just start naming everything, if you do it without regard for the setting, you lose so much of the understory.
Especially in Fragmented Infinity, keeping a common theme for each seperate Shard (world) is proving difficult, but surprisingly rewarding. One particular one is quite recent; the world itself is still unnamed (until recently, it's mostly been centered around one of the characters, with the world more of an afterthought). With a new character finding his way into this world, I found a lot of pieces falling into place; suddenly the art direction seemed a little more solid, and the "feel" of the world got a bit more flavor to it.

My naming conventions have always been centered around foreign languages, and generally involve some butchering - the more the better - ranging from my first names, created using "engrish" (Jioruji Derako, Anjiru Deruku), to my Vynaiocc world (this one was based on Greek, "translating" Greek letters to similar-shaped romanizations). As I've added more and more worlds to Fragmented Infinity, I've found myself needing to get more and more creative; for example, the world of Thera is party based on the latin "Terra", and also happens to be an anagram of "Earth" (fitting, for a world that is essentially a parallel version of our Earth).

I suppose I should give this rambling a point; some advice for the aspiring gods and goddesses of their own fantasy worlds.
Don't discount a name for being "too strange"; you'll often find these to be the best of the bunch. Even if you don't use a name like this, it can lay the foundation for a more fitting name.
One thing I've read (a bit of advice for writers) is, don't underestimate your readers. The world today is a smarter and smarter place; give your readers some credit, they probably can wrap their heads around even the most unwieldy names.
Certainly, if it's something nobody can feasibly pronounce, it'll be less memorable; if I could go back and change one part of my storyline, I'd probably work harder on my character names (Jioruji Derako is already a little too well-defined for me to change now, though). But if the name fits, wear it. I mean, keep it.