Setting the Set

Been a long time, old friends! Here is something you may find interesting. Atleast I did, when I realized just how much preliminary work was required to produce a chapter that takes place inside. Interiors. Here’s the progression of creating interior multi-room settings for Chapter 2:

Let’s start with the story board, which is a collection of thumbnail size drawings to lay out the composition of each frame on each page. This is the story board for pages 22, 23, 24 and 25. I’m not too consistent in the detail of the thumbnails. Sometimes I just need some stick figures to show placement, while other times I want to remember expressions on the faces or furniture placements that I thought of.


Let’s deal with Page 24. There are three frames on the page. The first one is a view from the living room through the dining room, into the kitchen where Aunt Hattie is talking (i.e. the speech bubble coming from the doorway.) It occurred to me that I don’t know what the house looks like or how the rooms fit in the home’s floor plan! I had to come up with a house, a floor plan, and architectural details. I found antique house plans but the floor plan was all wrong for the flow of the story, so I had to recreate the room layout. (Yes, I became an Interior Designer!) Here is the house:


Is that the coolest front porch you’ve ever seen??

I pulled the image of the floor plan into photoshop and proceeded to redraw the room layout to make the rooms fit the action and flow of the chapter. (i.e. Aunt Hattie moves from the kitchen into the living room with coffee. Those rooms had to line up so that you could see her coming through the dining room from the kitchen.) Here is the final floor plan. I printed out 15 copies, two on a sheet because I use one per page layout, and write “director’s notes” on the plan to show where my characters are, and from what angle I want to view them. I also added rectangles that represent the furniture. This is more like writing a movie script than a book!


Now I was ready to start drawing the scenes within the frames on the page. Until I ran into another step I hadn’t thought of… consistency. I had to make sure that if someone was sitting in a certain chair in two different frames, there better be the same window behind him, and the chair better be the same as well. Consequently, I drew all the room interiors of each frame. All empty rooms… no people. So here is page 24 so far:


The first frame is a view from the living room, through the dining room, into the kitchen. The second frame is a close up of the kitchen doorway. And the third is the other side of the living room, with the big bay window and window seat. Hecock will be sitting in that chair.

Next the fun begins, adding characters, shading everything, then overlays of transparent color, and finally wallpaper patterns and fancy rugs. This isn’t exactly the typical method for graphic novels. Nor the fastest or most efficient. But it is the method I developed in Chapter 1 and I have to keep it consistent throughout the whole book. As I work, I’m always thinking of ways to improve, but those will have to wait for the next book.

4 thoughts on “Setting the Set

  1. Leda: I am amazed at your attention to detail in the story. The home reminds me of some of the Victorian Homes on River Road in Niagara Falls..

    • A bit anal, ain’t I? My writing critique group always knew when a manuscript was mine… even in children’s books I tend to want some fact thrown in. As for Hecock, I want it to be believable.

  2. As much as this was a huge challenge for me, Chapter 3 is going to involve TRAVEL! I’m taking a trip to Erie, PA to visit the Lake Shore Rail Museum! They have a passenger train that was exactly like the train Hecock would have taken to Buffalo. I will be taking reference photos inside and out of the train. I’m hoping they allow me to stage a model for a few shots as well. Then, of course, we will tour a few vineyards for some wine tasting.

  3. NO wonder I haven’t heard much from you. It’s like I always say when there’s a little job in the yard; “There are no 15 minute jobs.”
    You did not shy away from the hard work needed to put our family into its Cleveland house. I love the fact that you had to touch each and every step to get there. And I applaud the effort and stick-to-itiveness it took. Now we can watch magic take place and respect it so much more.
    Kudos to the author and creator and your willingness to take control of the story.

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