Design Essays (That I Forgot to Link to Here ‘Til Now)

The good folks over at the FlamesRising blog, which is a sister blog to the excellent DriveThruComics site that distributes our digital comic and my novels, asked me to write two”design essays” for them recently. I have a great time doing them, one for my Contagious Magic series of books, and one for the finale of In Maps & Legends.

I just realized today that I didn’t link to them here, and thought I’d remedy that ASAP.

The first one is called “A Brief History of Magic,” and it gives a nice overview of A Sudden Outbreak of Magic and the sequel I’m working on, A Wild Epidemic of Magic.  Here’s a snippet:

I fiddled with the story over the years, revising and rewriting it, adding and removing characters, making minor characters into main characters, and vice versa. At one point I’d taken it from about a dozen point-of-view characters down to just one. That version almost worked.


But I was missing something, so just this year, about 18 years after scribbling out that original description of Joe the homeless guy for my teenage students, I went back in. The finished version is the novel-length book A Sudden Outbreak of Magic, featuring the dual (and sometimes dueling) protagonists, Kelley and Jeroan Strickland.

(Oh, and I’ve back-burnered my idea for a comic based on those books, at least for right now. Not enough time in the day!)

And speaking of comics, the essay from last week is called “Exploring In Maps & Legends,” and in it I described the top five things I’ve learned in my year of writing the script for the graphic novel artist Niki Smith and I created. Here’s a snippet:

4. Describe your setting. In my prose writing, I’d often forget the “establishing shot.” Comics need one, movies need one. This is one panel, usually the first in a new scene, to give readers or viewers a sense of where this scene is taking place. Sometimes I’d gloss over that, diving right into the dialog or the action. Or both. While working on the Maps script, artist Niki Smith would often remind me of that until it stuck. Now, in my current projects, I make sure I get the setting in there early, along with the dialog and action. And also, whenever I read novels or comics, or watch movies, I want to know more about the setting – and I get annoyed when nobody tells me anything about it!

So there you go — a little more reading material for you this lovely fall day (it’s overcast and about 75 degrees here in the Raleigh-Durham area, and I love it!). Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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