#18: It’s all about getting *specific*

Where my opening quote is reflected in everything this week.


Some things, when you get specific, apply to so many of us.


This was Neil’s realization after he started getting more honest & personal in his writing – personally specific & honest. People started coming up to him and telling him how they related to this character or that character, to this scene or that scene.

They understood.

They knew.

For a storyteller, the goal is not simply to entertain people (that’s how we get Michael Bay). We’re all flawed people and the storytellers are the ones working through their shit in story form (whether a storyteller admits this or not is another issue entirely).

Stringing a bunch of incidents together and calling it a story isn’t that hard (just follow the story structure steps and you too can make a blockbuster).

Making it mean something is what elevates the story beyond simple entertainment.

It’s more than just trying to make characters ‘relatable’, though that helps.

It’s putting yourself into the story.

It can be specific things that you may have experienced – perhaps cloaked or changed to protect the innocent (or to protect yourself from a lawsuit). Or specific feelings you may have had.

Say Anything: “ I gave her my heart - and she gave me a pen.”

(At this point I’m wondering if the I gave her my heart – and she gave me a pen line from Say Anything is based on a writer’s real experience or not. It’s by far the most memorable line from the movie.)

As Neil put it, you have to be a little more honest than you’re comfortable with.

I didn’t do this until I made this comic. It was specific both in the particular situation and specific in how I felt. It may have broken the ice for me as it made the next comic where I shared some of my feelings a little easier.

After killing my darlings (made a lot easier by holding the ego in check), making scenes more specific is the next thing I’m working on – how to make each scene a little more personal.

What I’m doing

I guess I started a podcast?

image 6
We’re silly.

I finally kicked off a project with my brother Bryan Voliton called 2poc4life which is about two POC creatives talking about being POC and creative. Basically, it’s the discussions we usually have when we’re together, except broadcast.

We’ve been wanting to do something together, but something more enjoyable than ‘work.’ And after months of delay/pussyfooting/attempted weekly meetings to ‘figure shit out,’ we just said FUCK IT and we’ll just talk with a loose topic in mind.

You can listen to/watch our first conversation here, and follow our official IG here. We really don’t have a plan or anything – we’re just going to talk about shit we care about and see where it takes us.

(And yes, we’re dorks who think the name is funny.)

Refocusing on my graphic memoir

I’m trying to organize the beast, with the goal of pitching it to publishers.

I used Scrivener’s Outliner to get all of my memories, vignettes, and ideas down – that was the easy part. Turning them into a narrative is the big issue. What can be done chronologically? What can be done thematically? What just fits together intuitively?

It’s a royal PITA.

I got myself a cork board because Scrivener wasn’t working for my brain, which needed more flexibility. The cork board kinda worked but I missed the flexibility of a mind map.

So now I’m trying the web app Milanote (ref link), which is like a digital cork board on steroids. Stuff can be organized into boards, boards can have free-floating cards, lists of cards, comments, images, and arrows connecting things (kinda like a mind map).

(And please use my referral link to make a free account so I can use more cards and possibly avoid paying them monthly.)

Not only am I using Milanote for organizing my memoir, but I’m also using it for

Mythological Fight Club

Specifically, I’m using it to save all of my research for worldbuilding, inspired by this pre-fab template they offered:

Milanote worldbuilding template
Milanote has quite a few useful templates for writers.

In my case, I have a map of the world and I’m placing ideas for mythological figures and stories in different locations, with arrows & notes & stuff.

A crux of my story is the local nature of mythological figures. Instead of the implication in Greek mythology that a god was well-known throughout the land but perhaps with a special temple somewhere, I’m choosing to keep gods well known in local areas and less popular/known outside of that. So Athena is local to Athens, Apollo to Delphi, Marduk to Babylon, etc.

I do a little research reading every morning, which leads to

What I’m reading

Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman: I came across this book during my research and immediately ordered it from the library. It’s about the portrayal of women as monsters in stories mostly passed down by men and reconsidering that mythology. I already mentioned last week that I was looking at myths as being similar to religion in being passed down by men – and it turns out someone else wrote a book with that in mind. Bonus: she grew up as a D’Aulaire’s junkie too.

Black Metal Vol 1 by Rick Spears & Cuck BB

Black Metal by Rick Spears & Chuck BB: This is why comics rule. Not boring-ass dead horse superhero stories but weird, unique stories that can only come from certain minds. When Neil said to get specific, you can’t get more specific than a couple of orphans who love black metal and gain powers to fight terrible evil all while being heavily influenced by Scott Pilgrim. As a kid who has tried playing records backwards looking for secret demonic messages, this one hit home – so much so that I *immediately* added it to my Recommended Reading.

Flamer by Mike Curato: This is a powerful story of a teenage boy from a conservative Christian family dealing with his sexuality. It considers race, body image, gender, sexuality – all in a clear and honest way. This book will save lives, and I hope it’s widely read. Also, props for being really specific and personal, as it was made by gay & Asian creator (who has said that this is the book he wished he had as a kid). It’s in the process of being added to my recommended books but I’m taking more time to do the write-up as most of my recs tend to be me gushing about liking something and this is a bit deeper than that.

Lightfall by Tim Probert: I heard about this in my critique book, then in Twitter, and then I saw an animation test for a proposed series that I liked so much that I just bought the damn book – and immediately added it to my Recommended Reading. you can read more about it when the post publishes on Monday.


That’s all folks!

I love how the quote I chose this week was reflected in just about everything I wrote about. Clearly Neil knows what he’s talking about.

Have you related to something in a book or movie that felt like it was made just for you?

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