This is a blog following the production of "Merry Melony", an interactive graphic novel about a girl in a surreal dream-like world.
I'm Eric Drobile, Lead Animator at Reel FX Studios and cocreator of the worlds most fattening webcomic, Hatefarm. Hope you found this blog helpful and/or entertaining! If you have any comments, questions or crits, don't hesitate to use the "Ask Me Anything" link below.
I want to keep this post somewhat short, mainly because I want to supply this link as supplemental reading.
What is your story’s genre? Reading further into the excellent book “Save the Cat” I found 10 genres the author has cooked up that can describe pretty much every story ever. This may be oversimplification, but regardless, it is incredibly helpful oversimplification because this allows you to:
A. explore other movies/stories in your genre
B. see the patterns in the beats, themes and characters that make these stories work
C. Reel yourself back from trying to do too many genres at once (something that I am sure I was doing prior to reading).
In the above link, the information is simplified and not all the genres are listed, I think, because they probably still want you to read the book. But it’s still good info for those that are interested.
So I have come to the conclusion that Merry Melony is most definitely a Rites of Passage tale. There are elements of other genres in there, as all stories will undoubtedly have, but in these early stages of writing, simplification is key. I feel like after much stagnation I am finally starting to figure out the character of Melony, thanks to finding my genre. The Rites of Passage story is a tale of pain and torment from the viewpoint of life. It is a story about a flawed character who is avoiding her real problem by chasing something else. In this genre, everybody but her is in on the joke, and it must end with our heroine surrendering to the facts of life, growing, and then finally being able to smile again, with all of her previously negative coping mechanisms fully disarmed.
This is just the core of it. If we’re talking face-value genre, Merry Melony is considered a surreal, sci-fi, apocalyptic thriller adventure. Like I talked about, I have so many cool bells and whistles, twists and turns, symbolism and metaphors planned. But they need to take a backseat and shut the fuck up for now.
As part of my homework, in addition to having 10+ books on storywriting and comic making to read, I now have to watch a shit-ton of Rites of Passage movies. Here is my list, I may or may not watch them all:
Days of Wine and Roses
Stand By Me
When A Man Loves A Woman
So I thought I’d write a bit about story. I’ve been reading “Save The Cat” and obsessing over the first chapter.
In it, he stresses the importance of loglines, which are one sentence descriptions of your story. It’s the “what is it?” and it should be the most damned interesting sentence ever. It should be seductive, hint at the tone of your story and have a sense of irony. This is something that most people who talk about good loglines don’t harp on, and I think he is really on to something with this. For instance, the logline for Die Hard:
“A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists.”
There are more examples of ironic loglines in the book. When you look at other resources on writing good loglines, you’ll see a lack of irony in some of them. It’s not that they are bad loglines, but irony really does make it all that better. And they must be connected to a GOOD title. The author really loves the title “Legally Blonde” because it gives you an idea of the story, but at the same time it is pretty witty and imaginative.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. Why are loglines so important? When coming up with a story, (for me at least) the tendency is to have your characters in mind… your ending in mind. All the cool visuals, environments and action scenes that take place… Maybe you even have your emotional arcs already plotted out. Side characters, metaphors, symbolisms… twists and shockers, oh my! Great! So many cool little pieces to the puzzle that is your story. But without a stellar, concise concept, you are wasting your time fleshing out any of those added bells and whistles.
Okay, so can you describe your story in a sentence that will make any stranger perk up with interest? Instill them with a vague sense of emotional attachment? Give em a good sense of “what is it?” and all of the potential that your full story could be? Yikes.
I know for me, I surely didn’t have it. I’m still lacking. I had been telling people, “Merry Melony is a story about a girl lost in a surreal dream world.” In fact I think it even says that over on the side bar of this blog.
But unfortunately, that is not very interesting. Dream stories are cliche. How does anything have any consequence in a dream? How do you get LOST in a dream? If she is lost, why is she merry? It raises more questions than it answers, and the bad kind of questions. And to be honest, “dream” doesn’t entirely describe what is happening to this Melony, so that should be thrown out.
Also, what is the central conflict and where the fuck is the irony?
Okay, so at the time of this writing, I have rewritten my logline over a dozen times, and I expect to keep doing it over, and over, and over. I have been feeling very hesitant to publish any of my story notes on this blog. But that’s the point of this blog isn’t it? To explore my process in public. And I think I can still do so while keeping many of the juicy story tidbits a secret — because yes, Merry Melony in its current form is pretty layered stuff.
So here goes, my current logline. It has _some_ sense of irony, but I don’t know if I am totally sold yet. The irony is mostly in how it relates to the title:
“In a surreal, desolate world, a troubled young woman must rescue her little sister from nightmarish creatures that feed on human despair.”
Phew. That was hard. Cat is out of the bag. Until I change the cat again. I want to continue to do things that are hard for me on this blog. Really push myself. But I’m side-tracking again.
What I DO like about this current logline is that it explains the central conflict, and sheds some light on why the story is called Merry Melony. There is a sense of irony in that this disturbed young girl must be “merry” to overpower or trick these creatures.
What I don’t like? I wish it described Melony better. But for that I have to know Melony better. So is Melony troubled… disturbed? Does that explain enough about her personality? I’m working on that. What is likable about a troubled character? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. Pessimistic characters are incredibly unlikable, so Melony isn’t really that. She still has to be a fighter. She still has to have a sense of humor. She has to be someone we want to fight for. But Melony has been through some serious shit. She has been denied huge birthrights. Her existence is unfair, and now her beloved little sister is gone. But she isn’t giving up and she is going to be likable the whole way through. ……I hope!
By the way, I haven’t even mentioned that there are 3 completely opposing endings to Merry Melony. It is an interactive choose your own adventure type of thing, with multiple branching paths. Each ending will provide more pieces to the overall puzzle of this world. Really, the project is being designed so that you want to explore each story path, and can do so fairly easily.
“Save the Cat” was written about screenplay writing. But no matter what you’re doing, no matter what kind of new storytelling ground you plan on breaking, the concept, the “What is it?” should always be the same. Simple and seductive. You should be able to pitch in a sentence and intrigue strangers.
I know I can make my logline better. If you have any input, I’d love to hear it, you can do so by using the “Ask me anything” link to the right. If not, I’ll just keep doing my thing. It’s probably hard to comment without knowing more pieces to the story, which unfortunately I don’t want to give right now. >_<
If you’re at all serious about writing your own story, I highly recommend picking up the book for yourself. It was THE most recommended book when I asked my creative peers for good books on story. I’m going to post tid bits as I find them for those who are only somewhat curious…that is, if I can ever get past this first stage.
Now to do some more things I’m uncomfortable with. I think I’ll sketch Melony doing the biggest, most terrifying, ON MODEL scream I can imagine. That is really not easy with a young, attractive cartoon girl and I have been avoiding it. Face your fears, people!
Welcome to the Merry Melony production blog. I will be using this blog to document the entire journey of rebooting Merry Melony into an “Interactive Graphic Novel” (as I am currently calling it) for PC and maybe Ipad.
To see the original Merry Melony short film I did as a freshman in college, click here. I have learned a lot about storytelling, art, animation, and comics along the way and hope to reboot the story into something truly unique.
Enjoy the show and spread the word! I’m hoping to create the first part on my own time, and then get kickstarter funding for the rest. This blog might become an exclusive to backers at that time. But it’s all just ideas at this point…there is a long journey ahead…