Writing Process: How A One-Page Throwaway Gag Became A 12-Page Supporting Character.

Hey, weird for me to do a process post on writing, but this is a case where reader feedback helped me see some opportunities for my characters, so I thought it’d be fun to share. First of all, here’s some panels from page 30 of Untold Tales of Bigfoot.
UTOB page 30When this posted, I introduced this nameless, one-off squirrel character who startles Scout. His appearance lasted only four panels. A quick gag and he’s out. That’s all I needed him for.
UTOB page 30But I got a flood of comments and emails from readers telling me how much they enjoyed the squirrel and they wanted him back. Well, you’re outta’ luck, I thought, because he ain’t comin’ back! I had the whole story outlined in my head and, frankly, the squirrel was done.

UTOB SquirrelBut it stuck in the back of my brain for months. And every once in a while someone would ask “is the squirrel coming back soon?” It got me thinking. Maybe I should take another look at the story and see if there were any spots that might benefit from bringing the squirrel back. I found one.
UTOB page 60Now I had a running gag. Scout flips out every time the squirrel sneaks up on him. But now that the squirrel’s back, what do I do with him? Turns out, at this point in the story, Scout needs a sounding board for some of his character development. He’s growing as a character and his interactions with the squirrel are a great way to show that.UTOB page 62Bringing the squirrel back also provides some opportunities for comedic and dramatic moments that I hadn’t considered previously.
UTOB page 65The whole experience reminded me that, no matter how set you are on your story, there’s nothing wrong with taking another look at it with fresh eyes every now and then. And sometimes other people can see things that you’re too wrapped up to notice. Now that I’m readying the comic for print, I’ve been adding a page or two, here and there, to help flesh out the story. I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss in a few more panels of a certain, very popular rodent.

UTOB Scout and SquirrelThat’s it. Next time I’ll be back to breaking down some art process. -v

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22 Responses

  1. oh this is excellent, thanks for sharing.

  2. You were done with that character, but clearly that character was not done with you. I despise squirrels, by the way. I have had to deal with squirrels scratching the walls of my bedroom closet walling, trying to enter my room (not a joke!), but you have me rethinking my anti-squirrel hatred, and for that I am grateful.

  3. Nice! I’m glad you brought the squirrel in again. He’s funny and you’re right, it works. The way Scout interacts with Squirrel reminds me of the way older siblings scold younger siblings after a parent scolds the older sibling. 🙂

    • Yeah, and it’s exactly that sort of dynamic that made it work. Scout’s not at all prepared to deal with his time in the wild…but he found a handy outlet for his frustration and it makes him feel like he’s a little more in control.

  4. It added interest to involve an animal on a smaller scale, fun for us to spot the little guy and hear his squeeeaaa….

  5. amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. so adorable! i love animals and cartoons so putting them both together, GREAT!!

  7. Thank you for sharing. Great to here your commentary and sharing your thoughts with us. As always, I love your illustrations.

    • Well thanks for stopping by and reading this stuff. I’m glad some people are getting something positive out of it.

      • I wouldn’t call it ‘stuff’. You’re brilliant in my book. And the fact that you are willing to give aspiring illustrators like me a valuable insight into your workings is very gracious of you…….and greatly appreciated. 🙂

  8. The squirrel looked fantastic
    Your work’s good.Thanks for sharing

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