Let me start by telling you something I will revisit countlessly in my “How to Make a Comic Book” series, or in my “B+” motivational posts… you have to practice self-love.
Let me tell you something about me. If you were to say that to me, “practice self-love” there’s a chance I’d think it was the dumbest thing I ever heard. I mean, if you were to say that to me now, say back what I just said to you, I might think you were out of touch. So if you’re thinking that, it’s okay. Self-love, and from that, self-acceptance, are vital tools in creativity and can only really be summoned by you, anyway.
For example, my last post (which you can read here) was supposed to be quickly followed by this one. Let me swear to you, there have been many times when, if I could not meet my own deadline, I’d get so down on myself, I’d give up. You can’t do that. I have to accept that I’ve been legitimately busy. My Kickstarter (which I also highly recommend you check out if you love comics, pins and, well… women) not only got funded Monday but has moved past it’s first stretch goal. I’ve had numerous orders surge in the last week AND, unlike the last two years, I did my taxes. So… I forgive myself for not doing this when I wanted, and I’m free to move on despite my failings.
(Now YOU practice forgiving yourself for falling short of your goals.)
However, self-love and self-acceptance is important when creating a first draft. In this stage, your story may suck. Even a story that glows beautifully and beyond compare in your head may have glaring potholes by the time you write it out. But that’s good. Don’t allow that to make you think it’s a bad idea, or that you’re not an amazing writer. Making something crappy is often the first step in making something awesome. And let me tell you something I always have to remind myself while painting, “it’s supposed to look bad! If it didn’t look bad, you’d be finished!” So, in this stage, accept it. Just go with it and get it done.
Below is my first draft of The Paranoia Projects. It’s awesome. So far I’ve gotten some great feedback from my beta readers, It’s also come with very fair, and very accurate criticism. To show you, however, what a first draft may look like, have a read of this. I’m sharing this with everyone because I want you to see what the process looks like, I want you to feel involved in this project with me, and when the final product is ready, you’ll know how far it’s come.
So, without much explanation, this is very similar to a sketch. There’s no narrative instruction, not even any names before the lines to indicate who’s speaking. Numbers will occasionally indicate what page I expect it would take place on. Follow it for as far as long as you can and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
THE PARANOIA PROJECTS
“You’re gonna’ fucking die, Eric.”
Eric stares back at Olive for one, two panels, blank-faced, unimpressed by her prediction.
“You ready for this?” he says, cold.
“Yes.” She says with a smile.
We see a beat-up sneaker step onto the pedal of his bike and a view from the side as he begins his bike down the stairs.
“When I was a boy, my dad looked after my mom. My mom looked after me. And until he disappeared, I looked after Strummer.
Eric hits the wall, the wheel hits but the back-tire lifts and slams him into it. His face hits it. Then in a moment, there’s huge smile on his face and uproarious laughter.
We see the projects they live in from outside, surrounded by snows, filling with snow, more falling around it, and the cool blue tones of winter are warmed by the red and blue of police lights. We see two sets of laughter.
Eric and Olive stand beside a corner, Eric is holding his bike. “Olive, please just make sure he’s not waiting for me.”
“Aren’t you even a little embarrassed?”
“Yes. Now, just look.”
“Won’t you be even more embarrassed if Ju-Gee sees you using a seven year-old as a look out.”
“He won’t see your tiny pinhead. Just look!”
“This never happened when we had Strummer.” Eric’s face sinks. “It’s true.” She turns her head around the corner, “Why are they talking to your mom…” Eric sticks his head around the corner. We see a crowd of police officers.
Mr. Andrews stands with his back to us, closest to us from the crowd. An officer asks, “Do you have family that can get you?”
“My brother. In Jamestown.”
“I don’t think he’ll be able to come get you today. Maybe not tomorrow, either. This storm is supposed to get pretty serious.”
“We should probably secure this and get back to the station before we’re stuck here.”
“Mr. Andrews can stay with me. Until his brother arrives,”
“Thank you, ma’am.” “We’re going to need your keys, sir.”
“My keys? Why?”
“We need to be able to lock the door.”
“But what about- They’re- I don’t seem to have them.”
“They’re in the kitchen.”
“He started forgetting them when he’d go for walks. He started leaving the door unlocked.”
“Who else knew that, ma’am?”
Mrs. Medina gives the officer a course look. “Kids, get inside.”
Eric is a bit confused, “Where’s Dad?”
Mr. Andrews, “You’re locking me out of my house?”
“It’s a crime scene, sir.”
“Eric, what are you doing home?”
“It’s a snow day, Mom.”
His mother stands over the sink, filled with dishes. “These are from dinner last night. Did he even give you breakfast?”
“He said you’d want to make breakfast with us when you got home. He said you’d be excited we’d all get to be together today.”
“I’ve been at work since 10pm. Why would I want to make breakfast when I got home?” She pauses. “Let alone clean up after dinner?”
“I’ll clean it up, Mom.”
“And I’ll make breakfast, Mrs. Medina. My momma taught me to scramble eggs. Do you have salt? My mom makes them with salt.”
“Olive, honey… I love you but I think you need to go back to your momma. In fact, take Eric with you and ask she can watch you both. I don’t think I can-“
“Momma’s not home. She’s at work. She leaves early.”
“Well, there needs to be somewhere else you can go. Someone else who can take care of you…”
“I could call my grandma. I have the number memorized.”
“Someone in the building, Olive. Someone… someone near by.”
Olive is quiet. Mr. Andrews speaks up, “I’ll look after ‘em. You go make some calls Do whatever you need to do.”
“Thank you,” Mrs. Medina’s reception to Andrew’s kind offer is skeptical.
Mr. Andrews is washing dishes in the sink. Olive is standing on a chair drying. Eric is waiting outside the oven, waiting. “When that timer goes off, Eric, you be sure and let me help.”
“I said I don’t want help.”
“Your mother won’t be too happy if I let you burn yourself.”
The timer goes off. “Let me, let me!” Eric’s reaching in with a wadded up towel.
“Can I do the icing?” Olive says.
“You can ice yours. I want to do my mom’s.”
“Son, how come I don’t see your dog around here?”
Eric seems uncomfortable. “Strummer?”
“His daddy chased him off.”
“Olive, be quiet!”
“Didn’t they want you to have it?”
“They wanted him to have him. Eric stole ‘im away from Zeke, the man who fights dogs in the basement. Eric saw ‘im as a puppy and fell in love with him so he snuck in and stole ‘im away. His mom said it was the only brave thing they’d seen Eric did-“
“So they let him keep ‘im.”
“So what happened to him?”
“I don’t know. One day he kept trying to jump on top of me and I couldn’t make ‘im stop. Mr. Medina didn’t like it. When he tried to stop, Strummer got all growly. We didn’t see him after that.”
“He didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” Eric says taking a plate with cinnamon rolls and a glass of milk.
“I could have made eggs,” Olive says over her shoulder.
“You done enough,” Eric says exiting the kitchenette.
“Mr. Andrews, what’s a homeless slide?” Olive asks as Eric walks away.
“A homeless slide?” Andrews repeats back.
“I heard the policeman said there was a homeless slide in your apartment.” We the last statement in the background as Eric walks down into the dark hallways, carrying his mother’s breakfast, glass pinned under one arm, holding the plate with both hands. It’s a foreboding precursor.
Eric knocks on the door, “Mom? I made you breakfast.”
We hear the door unlock, she opens it. She’s on the phone, “You have to do this for me. I’m begging you.” Eric places the plate on top of a bunch of tissues, wadded and stained with eye make-up. “You know what will happen if I miss another shift. Are you kidding me? It’s not like I can afford to. But if you don’t- Fuck!” She sits down on the bed.
“I made you breakfast, Mom,” Eric says.
She’s covering her face. “Thank you, honey.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’ve just got a lot on my plate right now.”
Eric waits a moment, “Usually you say, ‘I’ve got a lot on my plate. Nothing for you to worry about.’”
“Yeah,” she says, lifting her face. Her eyes are bloodshot, her face is puffy, “usually I do. I’m sorry, baby.”
“I’m just sorry… life’s not easy. And it never… it just doesn’t seem to get easy. And I wish it could be.”
“It’s not so bad, Mom. Things will be better. I’ll take care of the house. You can take a nap.”
“I’ve been sleeping a lot lately, haven’t I?”
“I know. But dad says you’ll feel better.” He’s trying to calm her. “Mom-“
“I’ll tell you about it when I’m ready. Eric. I’ll tell you… when I know the words.”
“Lock the door.”
Olive is standing in the darkness waiting for him in the dark hallway. “Please don’t leave alone with Mr. Andrews again.”
“What? Olive, it was a bad dream.”
“It was just one. I have those dreams every night.”
“It’s not Mr. Andrew’s fault.”
“He knows about them.”
“I don’t know. But he told me things from them.”
“Olive… grow up. Please.” Eric walks into the living room. There are Christmas lights draped about the shelves. “Mom says I can have the lights on 15 minutes. Christmas they can be on all day. But until then only fifteen minutes.”
“You’re a good kid, Eric.”
“Weh I was your age and I didn’t mind my parents hald as well.”
“Dad takes care of mom. Mom takes care of me. Until Dad gets back… and until mom feels better…”
“Is mom sick?”
“She missed a lot of work. She spent whole days crying and didn’t know why. I thought when Daddy stopped working so much it’d get better but… it didn’t seem to.”
“Put the lights on, son. I’ll pay your mom for the electricity.” Eric is uncertain. “Go ahead.”
“How long you had that bike?”
“He just got big enough to ride it last Christmas.”
“How far you go on it?”
“Mom says to stop when I see the tracks. But sometimes I go further.”
“You ever travel?”
“Mom and Dad, we took the car to Boston for my birthday.”
“No… No, that’s goin’ places. I mean ‘travel’.”
“I guesss… I guess I’ve never traveled.”
“I have. I travel very far… Quite far, actually.”
“Mr. Andrews… where’s my Dad?”
“Your mother should be the one to tell you.”
“She’s not feeling well. She told me you would tell me.” Andrews held is slinking back. “Is my dad okay? Is he… is he alive?”
Andrews is falling asleep. Olive steps forward, “Are you okay?”
“I get very tired… when I’m not home,” he says softly. “I need to get back to my…”
Eric is in a hushed tone, he doesn’t want his mother to know he’s asking when she didn’t give him an answer. He smacks Mr. Andrews on the knee, “Is my Dad alive?!”
Andrew’s eye open slightly. “…alive.”
“Then where is he?” Eric is climbing up onto the couch to get Andrew’s attention but it doesn’t work. He’s fast asleep.
Olive says behind him, “I think maybe he’s with the police.”
“I don’t understand. Now you don’t think Ju-Gee is going to beat your ass.”
“What if he did come looking for me, Olive? What if he was here when the cops got here? Maybe he can actually tell me what happened to my Dad.”
“Why do I have to stay?”
“Because Ju-Gee is dangerous!”
“Not to me! You’re the only one he’s got a problem with! Please don’t make me stay alone with Mr. Andrews.”
“Grow up, Olive! They’re just dreams.”
“They’re not just dreams, Eric. Dreams are… like drawings. You can put your hand on them, and know they’re just flat. These I can feel. I can feel them after I wake up.”
“Please don’t start to cry. If I can’t make mom believe that dad’s coming back, she’s going to go right back to the way she used to be. She’s going to get fired. We won’t be able to stay. We won’t see each other and then we won’t be friends.”
Olive wraps her arms around him, “Please don’t say that.” Eric’s resolve weakens. “Please just take me with you.”
We hear a sound, or otherwise know Andrews has gone into the bathroom across the hall. “Okay, Mr. Andrews has gone into the bathroom. Let’s go fast. Maybe we can get back before he’s out.”
“What about your mom?”
“What about her?”
“She’s alone with Mr. Andrews.”
“But she’s not afraid of dreams. Besides, her door is locked. C’mon. We might only have a few minutes.”
Ju-Gee opens the door part way, “’Ey, how you doin’, little bro? C’mon in.”
“No thank you. I just wanted to ask if came by earlier.”
“Yeah, I was by. Until the cops showed. Come in and I’ll tell you.”
The door is wide open now. There’s a much larger boy standing there. “This him?”
Jared has lifted Eric up and pinned him against the wall. Olive is grabbing Ju-Gee, “Please don’t hurt ‘im! Please don’t hurt ‘im!”
“You see, the beating I gave you earlier was a down payment. After all, it was my brother’s PS3 you broke.” Jared punches Eric in the gut, “I’m not actually mad.”
Jared hits him again, “You bring me the money to buy a new one and it stops.”
“Please stop!” “I don’t have any money!”
“Please! Mr. Andrews is upstairs in his house. He’s coming down to check on us any minute!”
“What?” Jared becomes very nervous. Ju-Gee asks, “What’s wrong?” “Are you fucking kidding?”
Eric is uncertain but tearful and ready to have all this stop, “No…”
Jared, “You need to leave.”
“I can’t leave, I need to know if Ju-Gee saw anything.”
“If Andrews is coming you need to get out,” Jared says, getting worked up.
“You’ve had the dreams,” Olive says.
Everything is still for a moment.
Jared says, “In the dreams… it’s like being in a movie theater. Except you’re watching the movie while someone at the end of the row is watching you. And they ain’t even facing the screen. They’re just watching you. And now… you’re just pretending to watch the movie, but what you’re really doing is acting like you don’t see them.”
“If Ju-Gee tells me what happened, we’ll leave.”
“No,” Jared says. “If you’re going back up there with him, she’s staying here.”
“Eric, keep me with you.”
“I’m not leaving Olive. And I’m not leaving until Ju-Gee tells me what happened.”
“I went by your house, looking for you. Your dad said you weren’t there. So I waited. I saw that skank Theresa, the one with the tattoo on the back of her leg… I saw her come around the corner. And I watched her. I watched every curve she’s got shake as she came down the hall. And I watched her as she walked right up to me. But she never saw me. She just opened the door to Andrew’s house and went in. Wasn’t locked or anything. And she didn’t knock. Like she knew it was open. So I kept waiting, and soon I heard these sounds, you know…” He looks uncomfortably at Olive and then back at Eric, “Like when a woman… you know?” Eric shakes his head.
“Keep going, man.” Jared says.
“So I kept listening, and she sounds like she’s about to start screaming when she stopped. And I felt my spine moving like a snake, like I shouldn’t be there. But feet wouldn’t let me be anywhere else. Until I heard your door knob turn and I ran. I ran to the end of the hall. I looked back. Your dad walked out and right into Andrew’s place, like he knew it was unlocked, too. And I thought he’d go in there, see her and run out. But he didn’t. Nothing happened. I walked back up to there, thinking any second he was going to come out. And the closer, the more I heard her… groaning, you know? I stood out there listening to it as she got louder. Your dad, he’d slammed Andrew’s door behind him, but it didn’t latch. It just stood open. I wanted to see them. Cause I’ve never… seen it for reals, you know? And the closer I got, the louder she got. It was so loud, I figured no one would hear me if I pushed the door open just a little more. By then she almost screaming again, accept now it didn’t sound ‘like’ screaming… now she was actually screaming. And I stuck my face in just far enough to see your dad… strip-naked, bending over her… and blood shooting out in one direction.”
“And I ran. And I told Jared. And he called the cops.”
“No… no, we’re leaving.”
“Leave the girl,” Jared said. “You should stay, too.”
“Eric, please don’t go. And if you do go… take me with you.”
“Mr. Andrews… he gave my mom and spare key to his house. When he started locking himself out, he gave her a key. I don’t think anyone remembers that. I’m going to get that key. I’m going to get that key. I’m going to go in Mr. Andrews house. And I’m going to prove what he’s saying is not true. Maybe… maybe there’s something in there that will bring my daddy home. And you should… you shouldn’t be there.”
“Eric, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
We see in a caption box. “But I have to try.” Eric has opened a drawer, sifting through it, “Where is it?”
Eric notices the bathroom light is still on. “Mr. Andrews?” He gives it a moment, “Hey, Mr. Andrews! I just wanted to… make sure…”
Eric has gotten no response, so he sneaks out across the hallway. He cautiously places his hand on Andrew’s door knob and turns it. The door opens slightly behind the caution tape.
Eric begins to hyperventilate. His hands are on his head, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
Eric is knocking on various doors, “Excuse me? I need help?”
He’s knocking on another, “Do you have a few minutes?”
He’s knocking on another, “Please don’t make me do this alone.”
He steps back into his house, his mother’s door is locked. “Mom?”
We see her asleep in the darkness of her room, the door behind her. “Mom?”
He looks at the bathroom door, the light still emanating from beneath, “Mr. Andrews? Are you still okay in there?”
We see inside the bathroom. We see that the light is on, but it’s empty.
Eric steels himself in the wall way, lifts the caution tape and crawls in.
Let’s stop there for now! It’s a lot of reading and if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Be sure and follow this blog for the rest. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as I go.