Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

June 11, 2007

The Ultraist Writing Process

Filed under: Mail,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 1:27 pm

Long time Spy Guy fan Thai Nguyen writes:

Hey Mike. Ive re-read Spud and Harry. Its excellent. The drawings are awesome…

Ive been starting to doodle more. I wanted to find out what your process of writing a story is? Do you outline the whole thing in thumbnail? do you know where you’re going with a story or just flow?

My writing process:

It all starts with an idea. It could be anything. In the case of Spud & Harry, it was thinking “what is the best way to introduce these characters?” and since they are career criminals, I figured the most iconic thing to do would be to rob a bank. Next is figuring out what I’m trying to say with the story. A lot of the time, I get this figured out when I’m already half way done the story. But with Spud & Harry it was easy. I’m taking a shot at banks. I’ve got years of pent up angst over the way banks do their business, and I’ve always had a hunch that something was wrong with financial institutions. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. The idea for the story was “two guys rob the same bank, get in each other’s way, and get caught” and I knew the conclusion had to be their first encounter in prison. The origin story.

I carry a mini-sketchbook around with me everywhere I go. Whenever I get an idea, I jot it down. Just like Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Chuck Palahniuk with Fight Club. That’s where all the seeds for the story get planted. I can also mine these mini-sketchbooks later whenever I need an additional idea to add to a story.

Once things get going for the comic stuff, I do two things simultaneously. I fold and staple together some 8.5×11 paper and make a comic where I draw out the story in thumbnails, to see how much story I can cram in there, and to get the pacing right. I also start working on the script, which I print out, re-write in pencil corrections, type it back in, and repeat…

For SPY GUY: First Strike (#1) I am spending even more time trying to figure out the dialog than I have in previous comics, making sure each character has a unique voice, and spending more time editing the beats between the panels.

As for knowing where I’m going. So far, I have always had an ending in mind. Minis and the Webcomic don’t count, because they are a stream of consciousness comic. I had no idea where I was going with those. However even when I know the ending, there have been surprises. Like in Bootleg, Hunter was supposed to screw up Spy Guy’s case. He was supposed to arrive on the scene, and blow Spy Guy’s cover. But it didn’t happen that way. Hunter is too good a cop. Instead, Hunter showed up and saved Spy Guy’s life, and helped battle the ninjas. I wasn’t expecting that.

Also, once I recognize the theme, or what I’m trying to say, I then try to layer on different sorts of meaning and symbolism. In Bootleg, it was the intro to Spy Guy. Things not being what they seem. For Spud & Harry, it was the idea of rebelling against the system, like striking a hornets nest with a stick. For SPY GUY: First Strike, the themes are conflicting ideologies, and beginnings. That’s what I am trying to deconstruct and recreate with the story.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for the insight. cant wait to read youre next comic!

    Comment by TIE — June 12, 2007 @ 11:37 am

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