Taking Breaks in the Narrative

I tend to write my stories in a way I’d describe as… let’s use the word “utilitarian.” Every page, every panel, every line of dialogue needs to push the story along. There’s no distractions, there’s no extra fluff, it’s clean and to the point.

As a result of this, while the story is concise and my message is clear, things might end up maybe going just a little too fast. If I’m not careful, the pacing tends to move a bit too quickly and can be almost exhausting to keep up with. To help with this, you need to take a break. Every good story has it’s ups and downs. High action scenes, bursting with conflict and the highest of stakes, are always punctuated by cool-down periods. Scenes where maybe we’re walking the plot forward, rather than full-out sprinting.

Here’s an example of one of the very, very few “filler” pages from LOOK.

taking-breaks

I call it a filler page because it does little to nothing to actually advance the story. But if you notice where it’s placed in the narrative, you’ll see that it’s sandwiched by a tense escape scene on one side and the sudden resurfacing of the antagonist on the other. It’s a bit of light-hearted fun intended to give everyone — the readers and characters themselves — a bit of a breather. I also really like that we get to see a bit of back and forth between these two, a little glimpse into how their friendship works.

Moments like these, where the action and drama of the narrative ease back a bit are essential to the overall rhythm of any story. It’s like a roller coaster. You can’t have that dramatic fall without the slow climb, or a joke about a self-conscious vulture.

Even if you’re a robot.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

What is LOOK about? Like, REALLY about?

look-cover

LOOK is about a few things. It’s about a robot, sure, but it’s also about friendship, loneliness, and wanting to feel that sense of belonging. More than any thing else, though it is primarily about a single question. A question our protagonist, Artie, asks himself before the story even starts: “Do I really want to be doing this forever?”

Here’s someone who’s only ever had one job and has been doing that job for countless years. Someone desperate to know if there is more to life than this. Someone who is unhappy with his lot in life and finally builds up the courage to do something about it.

It’s practically a story about a robot having a mid-life crisis.

But instead of buying a sports car and doing whatever else it is that people having a mid-life crisis do, Artie asks questions. He leaves behind the only life he’s ever known in search of truth, and when that truth offers no comfort, he moves on in search of something more.

And that’s what LOOK is really about. Finding the courage to change your life for the better, even if that scares you more than anything. Because, after all, you deserve to be happy.

Even if you’re a robot.

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.

An Interview with the Author of LOOK

look

Jon Nielsen is a writer, illustrator, and cartoonist and has been drawing silly pictures and putting them on the internet for about a decade now. His first graphic novel, LOOK, is being released by NBM Publishing on April 1st, 2017. We managed to tear him away from his busy schedule for a bit for a short interview.

Jon Nielsen: Hello, Jon, good to see you. It’s been a while.
Jon Nielsen: It has, Jon! How’re the kids?
JN: Oh, you know. They’re good. Still alive. But let’s get started! Tell me about–
JN: What are we doing again? What is this?
JN: NBM asked us to do an interview, remember? About our book?
JN: Who?
JN: NBM. They’re publishing our first graphic novel.
JN: Oh dang, that’s right! They’re awesome! I seriously love them, and not just because I’m contractually obligated to say so.
JN: …right. So tell me a bit about yourself. How long have you been drawing? Did you always want to draw comics?
JN: I have, yeah! I’ve always loved comics, though strangely enough I didn’t read very many growing up. Newspaper comics, mostly. Garfield and Foxtrot.
JN: Calvin and Hobbes?
JN: No, actually! Our paper didn’t carry it, so I didn’t discover it until much, much later.
JN: Wow. That should be a crime. Someone should be in jail for that.
JN: I know, right? Anyway, I drew comics all the time as a little kid, but I didn’t start drawing seriously until about 2007, when I got into webcomics.
JN: Is that when you started Massive Pwnage?
JN: Right. Massive Pwnage was my nerd-culture comic strip about video games, Doctor Who, Dungeons and Dragons, anything I thought was interesting at the time. It ran from 2007 to early 2016 and, really, it was just a way to get myself to draw. I wanted to be an artist and having to keep a website updated with comics was a great motivator.
JN: And then you went one step further and wrote a book.
JN: That’s right! It just felt like the next logical thing to do.
JN: So tell me about LOOK.
JN: Well, it’s a book.
JN: Right. Covered that. Got it.
JN: Let me finish. It’s a book. And I wrote it. And drew it, too.
JN: All right, smartpants. Can you at least tell us what the book is about?
JN: Nah.
JN: Nah?
JN: You’re asking me all these questions that you already know the answer to, and it’s starting to get weird.
JN: Yeah. That’s what an INTERVIEW is. Come on, there’s only a few more questions. This is for the publisher.
JN: Nah.
JN: Seriously?
JN: I’m feeling some hostility from you and I think I’m done answering your questions.
JN: Fine, switch me. Here, sit here. Ask me the next question.
JN: All right, all right… let’s see. Is that when you started–
JN: No no, we did that one. There. Right there.
JN: What is LOOK about?
JN: That’s a great question, Jon, and I’m glad you asked it.
JN: Ugh.
JN: Is LOOK a story about a small robot, unhappy with his lot in life? Yes, yes it is. Is it about trying to find that one thing, that thing that everyone wants, that thing that gives life purpose? Yes, yes it is also that. It’s also about adventure, friendship, and some little bunnies living in the woods. It’s really a fantastic book, if I do say so myself.
JN: Not that you’re biased, or anything.
JN: No.
JN: Right. Can we switch back? I can’t listen to you anymore.
JN: No, this is fun! Ask me another.
JN: Fine. Where did the idea for LOOK come from?
JN: That’s a great question, Jon, and I’m glad you asked it.
JN: Nope, I’m done.
JN: But–
JN: I’m done! I’m plowing through the rest of these on my own and then I never want to see you again.
JN: But I–
JN: Midlife crisis, pizza, Doctor Who, 28, a child’s first laugh, and no, I haven’t.
JN: You can’t just– you need to read the questions too!
JN: Nope! I’m done! Goodbye forever.
JN: Can… can he do that? Um… thanks for joining us everybody! This has been a talk with Jon Nielsen, author of LOOK, coming to stores April 1st. Tune back in this Friday when Jon will tell us a bit more about LOOK and how it was created. If we can find him, that is.

 

You can find Jon on Twitter where he posts his silly drawings and sometimes brags about his kids, and you can find out more about LOOK here.