Friday, June 09, 2017

Making of Pepper-Chronicles: Guest-post by writer Daniel Scribner

To celebrate the German publication of Pepper-Chronicles, I am planing on a series of making-of posts about this comic here on my blog in the upcoming weeks. Get more info about it here: - considering the English edition, we are still working on that. Today's blog post is a guest article by writer Daniel Scribner, who created the script for our comic. Here we go!

I first met Anna-Maria at a role-playing game about the most dysfunctional adventurers ever. Her wizard sprayed colorful magic from her crotch and performed Sailor Moon style costume changes. Someone else was a pirate who was afraid of the water. I think I played a very confused space marine.

You had to be there. 

But our senses of humor matched up somehow, and we got really good at turning a bunch of crazy random things into a single funny story. It even had a beginning, middle and end.
Turns out, Anna-Maria had just started on a new project, and she said she was struggling a bit with the story. (I never knew until now that it all started with a dream!) She asked me for a little advice, and we met in a cafĂ© to talk it out. 

Four hours later, we were still going. I had ten pages of notes, a list of story beats, three character maps, and a bunch of world-building, and I was trying to explain the merits of three versus five act plot structures. That was probably what broke her, and she asked me if I just wanted to write the damn thing for her so she could focus on the art.

The second meeting, Becky joined us and it turned into another four hour meeting. Anna-Maria had the basic idea of Mara Payne, a town guard who is too strict for her little village and comes to the big city to solve crime. She called it a reverse “Hot Fuzz.” 

(Below: Early concept art by Rebekie Bennington)

But we needed to know a lot more about what made her the way she was. Why doesn’t she fit in? What makes someone leave home and travel a hundred miles with nothing but hope that it will be better? That takes someone brave, and someone who thinks big.
Pretty soon, we knew that we had someone great on our hands. Becky was already doodling concept art as we talked out the character. 

We all knew we wanted a Strong Female Protagonist™. But that meant avoiding a lot of stereotypes – she isn’t looking for romance, she isn’t everyone’s mother, she doesn’t run around in high heels. And she’s not a perfect heroine. I just love her broken nose and the big stubborn jaw Becky gave her, so I went with that all the way to eleven. She doesn’t always understand other people and she doesn’t compromise. And she’s a little crazy, like her creator Anna-Maria. 

(Below: NYC Pepper-Chronicles Workparty - Dan writing, Anna-Maria doodeling, Becky inking)

When I sat down to write her first dialogue, I needed to know how she spoke. It needed to be intense, but also funny as hell. I was a huge fan of the Tick as a kid, and it was a perfect inspiration for Mara too . But I also put her in a scene with her father right away, so we could find out some of that back-story from the very start, and see a lot of her personality. What happens when she’s more relaxed?

But it’s not enough to come up with a backstory and some motivation. What makes Mara so interesting is how she changes. Over the next few meetings, we talked more about how we wanted to see Mara grow, and made a bunch of notes about the things that had to happen along the way to push her.

The biggest source of all that change is her new friend, Jacop the Wizard. More on him and how they drove the story next time!


Daniel Scribner has been writing and editing since he was conceived in 1979. Since then, he has produced six plays in NYC and the wilds of New Jersey, including Trivial Pursuits and The Spickner Spin. He has even won a few awards, and was a Spielberg Fellow for drama in 2000. His short stories are published in numerous literary journals and genre fiction magazines. The Pepper Chronicles is his first graphic novel, and it terrifies him. 

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