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Trade Loeffler p2

Trade Loeffler talks about how he constructs his stories in comics, and describes how he engineered The Sky Kayak.

READERSVOICE.COM: When you were writing The Sky Kayak, at what point did you come up with the solution of how Zip and his sister L’il Bit got back down to the ground?

TRADE LOEFFLER: It’s interesting that you would ask about the scene where Zip and Li’l Bit solve their dilemma and get back down to the ground. The solution to that problem was really the genesis for the entire Sky Kayak story. That one scene was enough for me to feel like I could construct a decent story around it.
When I’m writing it’s not so important for me to be able to envision a clear outline of the whole story and see how all the elements fit together. In fact I prefer not to have an overall outline of it and be able to surprise myself (and hopefully the reader) as things pop up during the story. Before I can feel comfortable about a story though, I do need to find an interesting situation or problem, and a hopefully clever solution to resolve it, even if it’s just a quick scene I’ve got in my head as was the case with The Sky Kayak.
An interesting side note is that Mr. Shadow was not a character in the story when I’d originally conceived of that scene, so his disappearance resulting from that scene was one of those happy accidents which pop up and surprise me when writing and make it so much fun.

RV: Does your approach to story writing vary much, and do you pay attention to things like three-act structures?

TL: I think my approach to writing does vary from story to story, and I think that is kind of dictated by the stories themselves. When I’m working through a story, new ideas will come along. They may be suggested by the characters or scenes or even a mood I happen to be in. But if the new idea doesn’t fit a preconceived idea I may have had about how a story should be constructed, it may present an opportunity for me to create a better story, so I’ll just have to follow it and see what happens.

The scene from The Sky Kayak I just mentioned is a good example. That scene is really the climax of the story and my inclination was to place that moment as close to the end of the story as possible, build the story up to that point, present this grand climactic scene, tie up all the loose ends, and have a clean, tight, little ending. The situation with Mr Shadow presented itself however, so instead of having a story with a nice, tidy ending, I had a story with its main climax taking place about ten pages before the end which then slowly wound itself down. I think it worked much better that way.

RV: There are some good lessons on your site about drawing, inking, and using Photoshop to color your panels. I had one question left: When you draw your final neat pencil picture before inking, by tracing the initial pencil picture, do you use a lightbox or something like that to help you trace it?

TL: I do have a lightbox that I use for tracing. I couldn’t get by without it. In addition to being essential for tracing, it’s also a very good tool for inspecting artwork. When I’m drawing, especially when I’m trying to get something to look right in perspective, a really quick way to spot where I’ve got lines wrong is to flip the paper over and look at it from the back on the lightbox. A friend of mine, Matt Bernier, does a blog called Comic Tools where he talked about using a mirror to find inaccuracies in your work. It’s a great trick, and a flipping the page over and looking at it on the lightbox gives you the same info as using a mirror.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.