Thought Bubble 2018: Little Details Sparkle At The Creating Worlds Panel

by Olly MacNamee

I really enjoyed last year’s Sunday morning Creating Worlds panel, so I wasn’t going to miss it time round either. With a different set of guest this time round (From l to r above: Ram V, Ollie Masters, Leila del Duca, Kate Ashwin and Greg Rucka, with Steve Morris as host) I was interested in their take on forming, building and populating creative world from nothing.
For Ram V, first up under the spotlight, and others around the table, it was characters first then the world. Rucka was quick to agree, expelling through a heavy cold, that characters affect the story, of course, but also the world in which they find themselves. “I have to answer certain questions about the character,” before thinking of the world.
Artist, Leila de Luca (Sleepless) explained how she held create the world of Sleepless too. It can be a collaborative experience no matter how much detail you’re given by any writer. She helped develop the designs of Sleepless, a world of Renaissance fashion and Moroccan aesthetics too. Often an artist can bring something to the table, the writer hasn’t even considered and it enriches the story, and the world, as a result.

There was also the mention of worlds you create having to have some basic ground rules for them to be believable, recognisable and for the characters to break those rules as part of the ongoing narrative too.
When dealing with real world settings, that too can be a conscious decision. Ollie Masters set his series, The Kitchen (soon to be turned into a film!), very deliberately in 1977 New York, because that was the era of not only huge social upheaval in America, but it was a city drowning in crime. A perfect setting for a crime comic. This is a story, Masters confessed, “wouldn’t work in any other decade.”
Rucka interjected with a pearl of wisdom he shared with the audience, mentioning that as a writer you have to know what to share with the reader and what to hold back on. Citing his own  comic, Black Magic #1, the first few could be set anywhere in the ancient, superstitious past, but only when someone’s cell phone goes off, do we realise it’s a contemporary story and not one set a few hundred years ago. Now, that’s storytelling and playing with the readership’s preconceived notions at its best.

Returning to the theme of stories set in the real world, Ram V mentioned that in researching for a book, “you’re looking for those little details that sparkle,” and add to the story. Mentioning the macabre fact that in the 1980’s in Mumbai the vulture population dropped significantly, meaning these scavengers would often pick up large chunks of decomposing bodies left out as part of a traditional ritual upon death, leaving toes, fingers and other fleshy matter all over Mumbai. Ewww!
As the only artist on the panel, de Luca, was keen to point out that you can often, “show instead of tell,” using the bags under Cyrenic, the palace guard, to imply he’s gone without sleep for a good while. Not everything needs to be set out as clunky, unnecessary exposition.
A quick run round the table asking each guest what they are currently working on and the hour was soon up.

The Creating Worlds Panel is always a great place to pick up tips for any aspiring writer or artist, and I wasn’t disappointed. A great way to start my Sunday at Thought Bubble too.

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