Thursday, 26 August 2010

Kestros Development Diary 1: How We Reached The Sixties

I've been meaning to do this for some time.

In fact I've attempted to write this twice before now and ended up deleting all the words in a fit of rage or something for one reason or another. An ongoing battle in any project I embark on is that my plans become too convoluted. I end up confusing myself to the point of creative exhaustion. By writing this and jotting down all my ideas along with the history of it - I hope to make some sort of steady reference material for my own brain. Something I can return to when the quiet 'Where did it all go wrong?' questions set in.

I've lost you already, haven't I?

Well I'm not writing this for your benefit anyway so stop complaining.

Fine. Here's some music. It sets the atmosphere I'm looking for, if nothing else.

Retracing history seems like the place to start. In late 2008 I wrote a poem. It was not very good, remaining unsatisfying as a complete piece of work, but the core image of it still interested me. Any project I work on begins with an idea in the form of an image - usually something climatic, surreal or disturbing. The project is the over-elaborate attempt to justify why the image is there. By 2009 this mental picture was still in my brain so I decided I would try to turn it into a complete work of fiction. It assumed an Ancient Roman setting and some themes and items were drawn from this: slavery, gods, magic, insanity, war.

The project was titled QUEEN KESTROS. It would detail the rise and fall of the fifteen-year-old eponymous queen as she descends into a world of madness and depravity following the violent assassination of her parents and her sudden coronation as the monarch of a massive, powerful society.

The introduction of new laws in the United Kingdom affecting art and images, however, would have placed the story in dubious legal status.

Back to the drawing board to make things a little less Caligula.

So it was quickly pushed a couple of thousand of years into the future, to a land mirroring Georgian-Edwardian-Victorian England. The image was now taken up with corsets, absinthe, opium, fairies, class divides, art nouveau, Rococo, towering hair and giant dresses.

What seemed ideal at first quickly became a problem. These three periods of fashion reside in an alien universe unfamiliar to 90% of any potential readers. The clothes worn by the elite within the story were intended to be over-adorned, flamboyant and ridiculously impractical items - how do you convey this in a time where even the plainer outfits for women consisted of giant hats and waists corset-tugged to the size of a wrist? Variety in design quickly became impossible.

Ideally the next stop was going to be the 1980s. Power ballads, shoulder pads, lens blur on everything - you know. But then I realised there was no way to put power ballads into a graphic novel / webcomic format, and lens blur abuse would quickly make everything look pants.

The final future trip leaves the setting as a 'mirror' of the early 1960s. This is where the project has become something more comfortable and with room for design variety. The cast of characters has exploded - including primary, secondary, minor and mentioned there are now over 50 of them. All have unique lives, motives, and fates.

Furthermore this is a much more familiar and relatable time - aided by an apparent popular fondness for nostalgia... that will probably have long-evaporated by the time the story is completed. I see a lot of reflections in the current 'War on Terror' and the Cold War, a great deal of suspicion and paranoia pointed in virtually all directions: abroad and at home, the right wing and the left. This isn't the popular 60s. People often think The Beatles, paintings of soup, they think of LSD-carved landscapes of sunshine and hippies twirling at Woodstock, that weird Austin Powers tinted passage into the past. That's not it. No, that was the end of the decade. I'm aiming for the start. This is how the story reflects and adjusts:

This is a dark time. We emerge from the 50s wondering what is next. Years of war left the country in massive poverty mere decades before. With this overcome for for the middle and upper classes, new aspirations emerge: materialism to reflect status, pride in the home. Foreign countries are regarded with quiet hostility from an unfounded sense of superiority - and yet the politicians at home have begun to reveal themselves to be less trustworthy than people had believed. Rebellion and protests rise in popularity; people learn to express themselves in new ways, and everybody begins to question what the future holds in store. The poor begin to question the corner they have been pushed into while the elite grow frustrated at their own weakening grip on things. And both start to say 'our day will come'.

I mentioned goals as the core basis for these diaries. My goal is to tell a story about the following:

Sanity is subjective.

If you have something worth taking, nobody is to be trusted.

What happens when a country falls to pieces?

Power is everything.

I want to write something that doesn't fall flat too quickly on any level - with artwork, characters and action interesting enough to draw a casual reader in, but with a plot thought out and told well enough to keep people reading on. I've decided to publish this 'development diary' step by step as the story is written in an attempt to push myself into working harder and faster because the moment this is a public entry - though in reality all of 2 people will probably read it - it puts my ideas up to be stolen and I'll need to get in there making this thing properly before the phantom thieves strike.

Productivity is the most casual form of vigilance.

Next time: towers, madness, and how a cult can run a country.

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