We’re closing in on the publication of Savage Angels, our new YA adventure novel. Part of the process is deciding on appropriate cover art.
There’s a couple of three or four ways to go.
Solid color, with big text…
Generic landscape photo…
…better, but still not good.
Classic pulp adventure…
I’m looking for something a little less visceral. Savage Angels is going to be a fast paced adventure story, but I want a cover with a little more artistic sensitivity, something like…this:
Fortunately, I know an artist who can work in that style: Holly Knevelbaard
I sent Holly an early draft of the novel
after I edited the dinosaurs out.*
She started churning out ideas immediately.
Here’s one of her first roughs, based on the scene where the girls’ airplane is shot down.
I passed on this one.
Mostly technical reasons — the interior is far too modern looking & does not match what a real DC-3 cabin looks like — but a crucial point is that the story takes place mostly on a desert island, not inside an airliner.
So she took another swing at it…
…which we’ll go into in a future post.
Holly will be at San Diego Comic Con this year.
Be sure to swing by the Christian Comic Arts Society table
and ask her about painting Harry Potter’s shorts.
* That’s a JOKE, people…
…it’s just that sometimes we feel like this guy.
The ideas also dictated the size of the cast. I started out with close to a dozen girls, bumping them off with drownings, sharks, suicide, infection, etc.
Hmmm, maybe too many deaths.
I want the story to have a semblance to reality,
but I want it to be upbeat as well.
More Googling, more research. Combine incidents, offer less lethal outcomes. The infection now becomes an acne-related cyst. Draining that cyst now becomes a gross-but-funny scene.
And how do they sterilize it?
Well, turns out one of the
ties in with that, just how
I won’t reveal here.
This is one way of creating a story, following each idea through to its logical conclusion, then seeing how it connects.
Without the need to kill off as many characters,
my cast was soon whittled down to a core seven:
The novitiate and six students.
Already knew who Sister Agnes — “Aggie the Naggy” — was.
What about her charges?
Well, as stated, troublemakers, problems, losers.
One of them is the outcast Filipino girl.
She needs an antagonist, a petty little bigot, a bully. Southerners of that era, I am sorry to say, were pretty open and upfront with their prejudices. So we have one spoiled Southern belle in the crew.
All bullies have toadies, so give her an easily manipulated younger girl who views her with hero-worshipping eyes.
There’s the big fat girl nobody ever talks to, the one who does nothing but sit in the library and read and study and get straight A’s on her tests.
We need a comic relief. We’re going to get some laughs and smiles from all the others, but we need one who can always be relied on to say or do something to break then tension.
There’s an old British sit-com called Keeping Up Appearances about a social climbing middle class woman named Hyacinth Buckett (“Pronounced ‘Bouquet’!”) who drives everyone around her nuts with indefatigable attitude. Okay, the social climbing is off-putting, but the indefatigable attitude that gets on everyone’s nerves is charming. So we’ll add a Brit to the mix.
Finally, a character who at first seemed to be superfluous but whom I kept around simply because I needed one more player for the other characters to bounce off of.
When Savage Angels was being planned as a graphic novel, I really couldn’t find much use for her, but when it became a prose novel, suddenly she stepped forward as the narrator — and in retrospect, only she could be the narrator.
(I tend to do that a lot,
include characters and
incidents that seemingly
have little if any bearing
on the story only to later
realize they’re the lynch pin.)
Now that I had their types, I needed their personalities, their histories.
 Acne is a severe problem for many Caucasians living in tropical climes.
 And is her stock ever going to rise once the others realize she has knowledge that can keep them alive.
(to be continued)
“Downcast” (cropped) by Holly Rose Briar
Have you got any Serenity fan art?
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Now to give them names and faces, histories and descriptions.
Creating characters is part art, part science, part inspiration.
When I was growing up, I read a lot of stories in Boy’s Life, the Boy Scout magazine. Many of them were about plucky Boy Scouts finding themselves in challenging situations where as luck would have it, their merit badge skills and knowledge came through to save the day.
I must’ve read dozens of these stories, and I can’t remember a one:
They all blend together in a blur of resolute young lads who
never had an ignoble thought or went to the bathroom.
If my characters were going to be memorable,
the first thing I needed to do was to kill off all the good girls.
Nobody likes a goody-two-shoes (me, especially) and by making my girls
the problem cases
I ratchet up the stakes.
Logically there would be a supervising adult with them, one of the nuns, but my story couldn’t use a real authority figure, so I came up with Sister Agnes, a young novitiate who was an upperclassman when the other girls were freshmen.
She, too, had been a problem case and the other girls remember this and have a hard time taking her seriously.
A hard, hard time.
There’s no one way of creating a story, you don’t always start at one point and build out from there. Once I had my basic idea and knew what type of characters I would be using, the next step was plotting the story out.
This story was going to be more picaresque than something with a more linear plot. There were any number of things that could happen to the girls, so I drew up a list of all eventualities.
Soon they began organizing themselves:
These things could only happen while drifting at sea,
these would be items of immediate concern once they found land,
these were natural perils,
these were man-made.
And each idea had the potential for spinoff ideas:
The sister demands decorum from the girls, but it’s a desert island, how do you balance propriety with practicality?
 Wow! What are the odds of that!
 Though they could, of course, dig a perfect field latrine and rig a rustic shower out of two saplings and an old bucket.
 A mystery, for example, where each clue leads to the next.
(to be continued)