Jenn Manley Lee


Posts tagged writing process
What was old is new again

I broke my week long Dicebox fast yesterday by doing some exploratory sketches of what Griffen will be wearing at the beginning of the next book. And her wardrobe through out Book 2 in general, which will be a cut above the bargain bin ensembles of Book 1. More extreme for me will be the actual styled haircut she'll be sporting.

(click this and all images for a larger view in new window)

I haven't come up with what I want just yet, but the colored sketch above is getting there. However the real reason I'm sharing it is that, before I had even finished this sketch, I realized that I had sketched Griffen wearing a similar get-up a few years back.

Once upon a time, I had planned to do a short story featuring a younger Griffen in a stream of conscious tale called "Journal" which was structured around Griffen, well, writing in her journal right after she had gotten back from visiting her father's grave. This sketch below, freakishly like the one I had just done down to the cigarette, also served as a color test for the limited palette I was planning to use.

Though I hadn't actually written or drawn said comic, I had done a good deal of prep work which included, beyond designing a look and outfit for 30 year-old Griffen, creating a decorative map of her home world as well as her old home office. There was also back story generated along with some contemplation of the culture and structure of her home country, most of which will be used to inform certain parts of Book 2.

I'm actually glad that I was suddenly inspired to sift through this old abandoned work, rediscovering certain things, some remembered, some not quite. Disappointingly, the fully colored and refined Photoshop art files for the map and Griffen's office had become corrupt, but I rescanned the pencils, quickly spot colored the office drawing, as both will be useful reference for Book 2.

And whereas I have no real desire or need now to do the short comic "Journal," I do regret not being able to use the nifty title graphic I came up for it.

This gal's best friend

Yep, it's been awhile, more than a little dusty here at the ol' process journal. But, as I am finally embarking on my revisions and edits of Book 1 of Dicebox as well as doing exploration and ramping up for Book 2, don't be surprised to see more entries here. Today I alloted a goodly portion of the day to fine tuning and rewriting Part 9: "Out of a Molehill," which necessitated me to begin my serious review of what has gone before. So I created the Scrivener database for Book 1, a snapshot of which is below:

(Click here or image above for a full-size view)

I've known of Scrivener for a few years now and have dabbled with it now and again. But in the past year I have embraced this program in all its flexibility, workflow capabilities and wonders of organization. I won't detail them here, you can go to the Literature & Latte site for that. A nice thorough run down of features and workflow possibilities can be found on the video tutorial page, "An Introduction to Scrivener " to start.

What's particularly useful for me in this part of the process is the easy ability to include image and text files in the same project, work with a split screen, not to mention reference links for any section or individual file. And the ability to make, organize and color code parts as lists.

Lists are my mantra, my rosary and guide for projects as small as household chores for a week to something as big and complex as this. They are my anchor and comfort, preventing me from getting lost in a overwhelming sea of to-dos. And being able to change the status of an item or cross it off is one of my thrills in my day-to-day life. (Yes, I'm quite aware what this says about me.)

That's about all I have to say on the matter today, though I might very well share more Scrivener screen shot and process here in the future.

Dicebox's Phantom Alphabet

I know some folks have noticed that the lettering on various background elements tends not to be the Latin alphabet, but a made up alphabet which I call ALS:

As you see, it's an alphabet created in direct correlation to the English/Latin alphabet--a phantom alphabet. The reason I call it ALS is because it is in large part the phantom alphabet created by Amy L. Sacks for a comic she abandoned over a decade ago. Alas. I liked it, the way you could see the essence of the origin letter in the alphabet, and since I needed a phantom alphabet for Dicebox I happily adopted and adapted hers. With permission, of course.

Here's Amy's final version of the alphabet from her sketch book:

I altered some of the letters: the F, J, M, N, W and to a lesser degree the L, R, T, V and Y. The alterations I made were mostly in order to simplify the character in question, though sometimes it was to add consistency or difference. This I did after reading Adrian Frutiger's theory of reduced hand movements as being a main cause of the evolution of the Latin Alphabet, both in how the capitals changed and the creation of a lowercase. And it was either in Frutiger's Sign and Symbols: their design and meaning or Writing Systems of the World by Akira Nakanishi that I read the additional theory that the most successful alphabets, those truly known and used by the common populace have characters that require no more than three or four lifts of the pen. Amy had a gorgeous, almost calligraphic number system that broke that rule big time and was less intuitive to me, so I created my own number system.

Why did I need a phantom alphabet? Well, I didn't want it to be assumed that the dominant language is english in Dicebox, In fact I don't imagine that the common language everyone is speaking is strictly English. I think of it more it as a creole with an English/Spanish base, with healthy additions of Dutch, Japanese and Ukraine among others.

But I suck at language beyond English and so didn't feel comfortable to fool around with other languages or alphabets. Besides, I wanted to do something that could technically be interpreted by the average reader of English. I have included English words in the background and do plan to tap the linguists among from my friends and family for Japanese, Chinese, Russian, etc. But the main thrust will still be ALS spelling out English words.

Here's the first clear use of ALS seen in the background of Chapter 1:

It reads "Transient Skin." There are uses before this, but they are obscured or half nonsense.

In order to try to give it a living use feel, I have created different fonts of ALS absed on early 20th century typefaces, like Bastion:

Here's a side by side look at some type I used in a background flyer set in English and then ALS in the Bastion Style:

Here you start to see the another aspect that really appealed to me about Amy's alphabet, the dipthong rule:

Vowels are indicated by two dots, and when combined into a dipthong they share these two dots. Adds variety without extra clutter.

I will Include ALS in the Explication page soon, after I settle on what ALS stands for in the Dicebox universe, as well as articulate how I figure it came into use--basically utilizing the long travel of the main colonization fleet as a time of restructuring and new culture conceptualizing. (Yes, this where "peh" comes from.)