Literary Inception

by Jonny on 6/12/2012

[Some thoughts on storytelling]

I shut the back cover of ‘The Dragon’s Tooth’ and stared up at the ceiling. I had just spent 483 pages with these characters, and now it was time to say goodbye. Already I missed them. I was feeling something familiar – something I call “The Harry Potter feeling.”

I need to get the next book. Not because of a cliffhanger or unresolved plot – I just need to re-enter this world.

Turning that last page was like being locked out of Hogwarts. It was like having Aslan send me back to earth through a door in the air. Can I just stay in Narnia, please? It feels like home here.

Of course, Harry Potter had seven books to get me hooked – N. D. Wilson had captured my imagination in less than one. Why did I already miss Ashtown so much?

The answer finally came to me. My eyes narrowed and I growled out:

My friends and family know that every conversation I’m involved in will inexorably turn to either Star Wars, LOST, or Inception. If any statement or topic of conversation reminds me of the Christopher Nolan film, I lower my head, narrow my eyes, and say dramatically:

The dream worlds constructed in the movie are populated by stand-ins that are really projections of the dreamer’s subconscious. I’m pretty sure that’s what happens when I read a good book.

I’m pretty sure N. D. Wilson didn’t write “The Dragon’s Tooth.”

Wilson only wrote the words. I took his description of Ashtown and built it piece by piece with my imagination.

I took his description of events and interpreted the impact of those events.

And I took his description of Cyrus Smith and filled in the gaps. I played the role of Cyrus, and Antigone, and everyone else, including the villains. The book came alive for me because I was helping build the world that was written on those pages.

Transported to another world. Like John Carter, my body lies on earth, while my spirit travels to new worlds. It occurs to me that Ashtown isn’t the only land I’ve visited… in my day I’ve been quite the adventurer.

I’ve trekked Treasure Island and sailed to the Green Hollows and journeyed to the Lonely Mountain.

I’ve been to Baker Street and braved the ghost cicles and hunted the Snark.

I’ve been Navin Hayes and Wedge Antilles and… Cyrus Smith.

Storytelling is teamwork: you write the story, I’ll populate it. Together, we can build something true.

This is important to me, because in 2013 I’m going to draw a book. I have a story, a cast of characters, and a deadline. But after reading “The Dragon’s Tooth,” I’ve decided what I want more than anything else is…

I’m going to be paying attention to how I write and draw my comic – how the characters are portrayed, how the pieces of the story are revealed, how the panels lead your eye through the page. Because I’m just the storyteller, and I can only take you so far.

I want to make a book that you can live in.

There are 2 comments in this article:

  1. 13/12/2012Andrew Peterson says:

    Great post, Jonny. Can’t wait to see what you come up with! Oh, and I’ve been on a TenNapel binge since Hutchmoot. Love, love his work.

  2. 19/12/2012Jonny says:

    Thanks AP! TenNapel’s amazing. Incidentally, also amazing are Ben Hatke and Kazu Kibuishi.

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