The Shape of the Story by Nevada McPherson
I wrote last time about the evolving process of creating my first two graphic novels, and how I plan to break this next one down even more into manageable bites that don’t feel so overwhelming. Now I’m considering breaking the story into three parts: a triptych as it were. This seems appropriate because it’s about a love triangle and all the inconvenient attachments, secrets and lies each major character carries around.
When you’re developing your stories and characters, do you know right from the beginning what form your story will take? Is it a short story that morphs into a novel? A novella that becomes a screenplay? As I learn more about comics I’m beginning to appreciate that format more and more, where each installment moves the overall story and its principal players further along while incorporating new characters and settings, making the reader want to see what’s next!
One thing that led me toward screenwriting before I started creating graphic novels was the shape my fiction was beginning to take. I love writing dialogue and felt that was one of my strengths as a writer. I’d been working on my first novel for quite a while, then decided to change it around and make it so that each character was telling his or her side of the story in his or her own words. I put the character name in bold, then wrote in that voice. I completed the novel that way. In screenwriting a reader is supposed to be able to differentiate characters even if there’s no name above the dialogue—this is an exercise for the writer to make sure every character’s voice is unique. Writing my novel the way that I did was great preparation and practice for my future endeavors in screenwriting and I’m glad I tried it! Experimenting with different ways of telling a story helps to broaden one’s horizons as a writer—at least I know it did for me!
In the past I’d always only thought of my graphic novels as being full-length, complete, in-and-of-themselves pieces of work, but like I said, now I’m thinking in terms of shorter installments. It’s quite liberating for the time being. I don’t expect this to be the case with all my future ones, but for this one, Queensgate, I think it’s a great fit. Also, since this is a sequel there are supporting but nevertheless very important characters from the first one, Uptowners, that I really want to incorporate and this will give me the room to do that, to broaden the world of this story a bit more, see what those characters are up to and how they’re influencing the characters and events of the new story.
I don’t always think of my stories, whether screenplays, graphic novels, short scripts or short stories, as having sequels. Some stop where they do and I that’s as far as I can see. For this one however, I’m beginning to see a series of adventures for these characters. When the part I’m working on now is over, something may happen that will pull one of my sequel’s characters in a new direction, and he’ll need help as he takes that journey. In other words, the trajectory of this story is open-ended for the time being. I’m looking toward a sequel for my second graphic novel Piano Lessons one of these days. I know pretty much what will happen there, and one sequel will complete that story.
Just how sometimes you don’t know exactly how a scene will go until you start writing it, sometimes you don’t know exactly what shape a story will take until you start telling it! Tell your story; experiment—I’ll be right there with you, discovering all kinds of new things along the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Georgia, Nevada McPherson lived in uptown New Orleans for several years and now lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi near Asheville, North Carolina. Nevada received a BA in English/ Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. She’s written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, one short screenplay, some short stories and two graphic novels. Nevada taught English at Nunez Community College for eighteen years, attaining the rank of associate professor, and founded the Pelican d’Or Short Film Festival, serving as its director for ten years. She also taught film studies and screenwriting at Tulane School of Continuing Studies. She is currently busy with her creative arts business and Etsy shop, Noisy Muse, and her new graphic novel, Queensgate. For more information about Nevada and her projects visit www.nevada-mcpherson.com