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Trailing The Writer

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Gert-Jan van Oosten has always been an avid comic book reader. One fine day he took the step from comic book fan to comic book creator and, nowadays, he is the co-owner of Drop Comics - now the largest comics publisher in the Netherlands.
Every two weeks Gert-Jan, the Goost Writer, shares his personal experience of how he started his own comics publishing company.
Follow his trail. The trail of the Goost Writer.

With one story already written and in the process of being drawn, I just found a new artist for a new series so I could do the thing I like best about writing: outlining the story! Until now I have never written a script without knowing the last panel. To me, knowing the last panel makes it a lot easier to map out the story and try to find the conflicts and character moments. But one of the great things about writing is, you can basically do whatever you want. And there was something I kind of wanted to try.

I don’t know if I am the only one, but sometimes I meet someone who, as a person, could be the star of a story due to their character traits. There is this friend I have who is called Jan (again I am Dutch and Jan is the Dutch version of John).  Jan is the kind of person who can build a racecar out of a lawnmower. Give him a guitar and within a month he plays it almost perfectly (without a teacher) and he has this brain of his with a ridiculous memory; he still knows the T-shirts I used to wear in Junior High (Nerd-shirts). And not that he is perfect, but even his lesser attributes make him a fun guy to be around with.

I had send DMTR some pictures of Jan and he based the character Eric (Jan’s second name) on him. Although Jan doesn’t have a dragon tattoo in his neck and is not as ‘muscular’ as Eric, I can recognize Jan in Eric.

The best thing is that Ralf van der Hoeven made a drawing of Eric and didn’t know he was based on my friend Jan. And the funny thing is; I can still see Jan in Ralph’s drawing. If you want to see more of Ralf’s work, check out his website or the Dutch site www.geekstijl.nl . From the 19th of February until the day I am writing this, Ralf has done a daily sketch. On his twitter account @RalfvdHoeven he ask for suggestions to draw and you can find the drawings on his twitter or his website. Check it out and if you like to see Ralf draw a character drop him a tweet or line.   

When I was creating the new characters for the comic that would later become Sanguis, I knew the plot and the ending. And for the whole story to come together I needed a few characters. I thought it would be fun to try to base a few characters on people I knew. Jan would get a part. I asked Jan if he was okay with it, and he said, ‘yeah no problem’. I still don’t know if he ever expected me to really make a comic, but issue #2 is being drawn as we speak (check out page 4 with Eric).

Another character was based on a nephew of mine (but he only lasted one issue, issue #0). So slowly and surely the cast came together. I didn’t base every character on people I know, for some of the characters I had a good image who they were and how they would react. It was also a of fun to have discussions with DMTR about the characters. He came up with some ideas and what he would like to draw and I tried to do my best to make the characters ‘real’ in my head.

On a piece of paper I wrote the story the characters would go through. And I made subplots for each character. I believe the most interesting stories are the stories where people make a journey and are different at the end of a story. They would grow because they learned something or they learned to do things they couldn’t at the beginning of the story. The characters have to evolve and I think I also wanted to evolve as a writer.

And how do you evolve as a writer? Writing is kind of a lonely thing to do. When I write I am mostly alone or I ask to be left alone. So again how do you get better? You can ask people for advice, but at that time I was just someone with a passion and had only finished one script of a 7-issue miniseries. Although I had asked some people to look at it and some had given me various pointers,  I had the feeling I  needed more knowledge of the comic writing art. Thankfully there are a lot of books about ‘how to write comics’.

While I was writing the scripts of ACE I read a lot of books on ‘how to write comics’ and I tried to be a bit more systematic with this new script I was writing. Like I said, I have never written a script without knowing the ending and I always know the cliffhangers of the individual issues, this time I tried to be a little more systematic than I was with writing the scripts of ACE.


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Gert-Jan van Oosten, co-founder of Dutch comic book publisher, Drop Comics, talks about his efforts to find his place on the comics market from across the pond; the Netherlands.

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