This is the last of our celebratory guest posts – but not the least! We figured five is a very nice number & were super lucky to get five amazing people to write for us. Today’s post is by Lou. We’ve met on book twitter, which seems to bee the place to meet interesting & talented people, doesn’t it. She’s an aspiring author and believe me, y’all really want her to land a book deal! Meanwhile, you can read a webcomic she cowrites with an illustrator friend. Or follow her on twitter.
Finding the right person to create a comic with takes serious amounts of serendipity. I never thought it would happen to me— I’ve never been particularly ballsy about making friends in general, much less about putting my work out there and finding a partner to co-create fiction with. Even if I was, I think most writers would agree that our creations are kind of our babies. We have to be a bit ruthless with them, but we do conceive them, nurture them, love them, and shape them into something we hope the rest of the world will like.
So, I feel like I’m only exaggerating a little when I say that finding a creative collaborator is like finding a co-parent.
Cait and I, before we ever had thoughts of starting a webcomic, actually went to high school together, but we never hung out. It wasn’t until a few years later, trapped together at a baby shower where we only knew each other and the mutual friend who invited us, that we even learned that we had a mutual love of comic books and creating characters. At some point in the evening, we decided to go see the new X-Men movie together the next day.
That’s where it all began.
In the early days of our friendship, I learned that Cait loved to draw, was amazing at it, but struggled to flesh out stories and personalities for the original character designs she created. She learned of me that I love telling stories and creating worlds, backgrounds, and characters, but I couldn’t draw so much as a stick figure in those days.
The next move seemed natural; with our powers combined, we could write a sick comic. However… even with all the serendipity in the world, comics aren’t just born cool.
I’m proud of Basorexia, our webcomic, now. It’s silly, sweet, and romantic and it hits all the gay romance tropes I love. The journey there, though, was a long one— ten years deep, actually. When Cait and I became friends in 2009, we were super compatible friends with like interests, but our aesthetics were completely different and the things I wanted to write about weren’t necessarily the things Cait wanted to draw. Cait appreciated darker and edgier themes than I did while I enjoyed writing whimsical, lighthearted things. As a result, Basorexia went through what feels like a hundred different iterations. Noah and the rest of our characters lived through stories where they were superheroes, where half of them died, with government conspiracies— you name it, they’ve lived it.
But I think that was a crucial part of the process for us. The trials and errors and the late nights where we tore our hair out over why certain settings, plots, and characters weren’t working made us learn important things about each other. I learned more about what Caitlin loves and hates drawing and how to better help her map out a scene. She learned what I absolutely despise writing and how best to interpret my writing into panels that flow naturally. Now, it feels a little weird when I work on something without her.
Our process is probably nothing like what the professionals do, but it works well for us. The biggest and most important part is when we sit down, doodle, and think out loud about what kind of people our characters are. We’ve known our character Noah for literally 10 years, but it’s always helpful to just sit down and think out loud about him with her. Sometimes it gives Cait improved design ideas, but mostly it gives me new story ideas. Basorexia is an episodic romantic comic, so the more ideas percolating, the better, given that there’s no thick, heavy plot aside from the relationship arcs.
As for writing scripts, it’s a bit like a ping pong match for us. We’ll start with one of the ideas we’ve come up with. I’ll write a very bare bones “informal script” where I describe where the characters are, how they’re feeling as they move through the world, and a rough idea of what they’re saying. Occasionally, I’ll toss in a few lines that are meant to go in the final script, especially if it’s a big emotional moment. Cait takes the rough informal draft and thumbnails it. Each chapter tends to be about twenty pages long. I take her thumbnails, look through them and give any notes on things like emotionality or pacing and when we’re all good, I start writing dialogue into the thumbnails themselves, just to see more or less how it’ll look and whether it flows well. When that’s done, I type up a final script and toss it back over to Cait so she can figure out bubble placement (which, if you haven’t done comics before, is way more important than you think it is).
The rest takes artistry, so it pretty much sits in Caitlin’s lap until it’s done after that. Sometimes I help with the coloring.
If it sounds a little haphazard and informal, that’s because it is. But it works for us. It may not work for everyone to write scripts in that way, but I think a huge part of finding a creative partner is taking the time to figure out the process that works for you and them. When you find that groove, your work starts feeling more organic and less like pulling teeth— and there’s nothing nicer than having a project partner to lean on, especially when both of you feel proud and happy to be working on your creation.
Maybe it doesn’t always take ten years. But I think it always needs chemistry and a whole lot of luck.
Louangie Montes is a Puerto Rican writer who lives in Western Massachusetts with her two cats. When not writing or reading comics, she can typically be found advocating for reproductive justice, playing video games, and writing books.