Four years ago, I was scouring Dynasty Warriors fan sites and desperately wishing that I could draw. I was decent in high school, but severely out of practice at capturing any sort of likeness. The learning curve of my favorite characters seemed damned near vertical. I bought a Wacom tablet and a face anatomy book, and I struggled for months to make sense of poses and loosen up my stiff lines. After some more slow and painful progress, I put the hobby aside in favor of writing. Then came this year, a lightbulb of Getting It, and an avalanche of improvement. I don't like looking at my old work any more, and I've shoved my first cringeworthy finished piece into the deviantArt storage locker forever and ever, amen. But that's one small price to pay for being able to draw my choice of fan service in a timely and ever better manner. Case in point -
I even colored it, which is a total WUT for me. Check the deviantArt submission for more on the technique used. I also plan to make a tutorial out of the hair at some near future point. Which is epic for me, as I used to fear hair and phone it in like whoa. If I can help one other person understand how to build it up and feel its form, I'll be happy.
Last summer, I got way into inFamous over Fourth of July weekend. I was simultaneously engrossed by its grungy, kinetic atmosphere and frustrated to high hell over its clownish back story and binary sense of morality. The sci-fi plot device had that wondrous air of handwaved plausibility until we found out that the Big Bad was really me who had traveled time for the future of mankind. The moral decisions boiled down to saving a schoolbus of puppies vs. trollface.jpg. At least the gameplay was hella fun, and it all kicked off this nebulous itch to write Something Really Big and Energetic and Way the Fuck More Nuanced. That collided with my other longstanding itch to make some form of full-blown adaptation of Cao Cao and pals being badass. Arise, my novel, was born.
That blasted thing is a monster. It went from speculative alternate future to modern day real world. It mutated and writhed out of my grasp as I researched and poked at it. I rushed my planning to be able to bang out enough draft to finish NaNoWriMo 2011. And then kicked myself, repeatedly, as I acquired the references I had lacked the time to discover.
My fast tracked research had given me a cursory sense of life in Nanjing, Chinese garment factory operations, business conventions, and the mentalities of counterfeiters. A stronger sense of the above cannot be rushed, and it slowly filtered in as I continued to read a wide variety of reference books and articles, from the specifically relevant to more general societal discourse. Some of my concepts turned out to be inapplicable. Even the better ones had seemed to be floating without context in that dreaded plastic sitcom realm, the Uncanny Valley of veracity. Somewhat quoth the raven - nevermore, yo. My notes are more nuanced, my foundation far more solid. Some subplots continue to frustrate me, and I need to remind myself to look well beyond that. At this time last year, I had shiny starry eyes for the setting and little else to go on. Is this progress? Oh hell yes I win.
I still find myself holding back from writing a single line of prose. NaNo may have put up a good fight last year, but I came out standing - and I'm itching for another round.