Writer in Residence

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

By NShannacappo

I don't know what other writers' process is so I've no idea if this will be unique or interesting, but this would be mine. It's evolved over the years because I like to imagine that I've grown as an individual and therefore my writing and process must have as well. Way back when I wrote without any idea of what I was writing about, I free-flowed the first version of the Krillian Key and that might explain why Salamander was a gang leader and drug dealer with a nymph girlfriend who was battling a serial killer from outer space who was also a drug dealer being chased by intergalactic police and bounty hunters. Yeah, space drugs were being sold on earth. Oh and Salamander and his best buddy The Wave were surfers with personalities like Bill and Ted. Yeah, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter spawned the behavior of Salamander and the Wave, well at least the way they originally talked. All that happened before I started smoking copious amounts of weed and went on acid benders. Basically, I'd sit down with my cheap blue Papermate pen and start writing, sometimes scratching out a sentence or paragraph and making other significant “editing” choices. I wasn't even twenty yet so I think I can be forgiven for having no plan except to write the most action awesome adventure ever, that spider-man would eat his heart out to be in.

Yeah, I said that, several times and probably put in my book, in several or more places. Eventually, my process evolved into what it would be today. Sitting before a laptop tak, tak, tak'ing away while listening to music, watching a movie on TV and a cigarette going in the tray (I've quit more times than I have years, but finally quit for good years ago, the day my daughter was born actually), and coffee grown cold next to the microwaved reheated thrice coffee all without a plan of where I wanted the story to go just great characters and an idea of how it starts. On rare occasions, I've dreamed whole sections of my books, and solved great character conundrums in those dreams, like realizing that my metal superhero “Axel the Krill” aka “Titanium Man” as he's known on earth sweats oil and his blood is also a form of oil. There's a whole dream story attached to that, but I'll leave it there, for now, suffice to say that dream was my planning stage for quite a bit of the Krillian Key and more than several poems in Through the Eyes of Asunder. High five and smile if you can guess which ones.

Today, I write when my daughter watches her TV show or jinga dress music videos, while music plays on Spotify and a coffee grows cold beside me, I'm in hot and spicy charcoal grey sweatpants (they're not really spicy that was sarcasm aka Nish dry humor) and a t-shirt with messy hair and super soft thermal socks cause my feet get cold and I've nerve damage from diabetes (thank you genetics I love you). I have a plan when I write, he shakes his head at himself when writing that because that's a bold-faced exaggeration of a wish, ok, ok, ok. I've an idea of a beginning and where it will end, and that's the evolution of my writing these days, I know how the story begins and I know how it ends, I just have no clue how to get from the beginning to the end until the characters live and breath the story that unfolds from beneath my fingertips. That's what happens with every single story, poem, or graphic novel that I write/create. There's a beginning and an end.

I've tried to make notes and in a very long sense, I've written five novels about the Krillian Key, three are prequels and tell the story of the mysterious alien called The Father who is referenced in the graphic novel. Two deal with Salamander and his life and how the story ends. I know right, it sounds like I have it all worked out, but I don't, I've only one possibility and not all of it fits with who Kyrill Nickolas Savek aka The Salamander has become. The graphic novel has drastically changed who he is and what his life was before that book, but the ending of the story remains the same. So I don't make overarching chapter plans, I don't sketch out panels before drawing the book, I don't have copious character sketches, or descriptions or personality notes, I have an idea of who my characters start out as and I know where they will end up in the story. The same is true for all of my poetry, I know the beginning of the poem and I know where it will end, or rather the idea it will end on. The how and all the interesting bits comes out as I write, as I draw and I'm ok with this. My characters and my poems will tell me who and what they are and I breathe in those discoveries.

It's a chaotic way to create, but for me, it works, and more often than not once that story begins in my head, I'll dream about it and think about it subconsciously for days, weeks, months and when it's ready I'll write and write, or draw and draw ignoring everything else until it's out of me and on the page. At least I used to, now I'm interrupted by a toddler to change her music video or to go outside and since she's The Boss, that's what we do. Overall that's my process, idea, dream, imagination, and waterfall tsunami of creation, and then finished, mixed in with loud music, movies, coffee, and a toddler, sometimes food.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

NShannacappo is a Nakawe graphic novelist and poet from Rolling River First Nation in Manitoba. He's Eagle clan and currently living, working and playing in Ottawa. You can find his stories in the Indigenous anthologies called Sovereign Traces - Not (Just) (An)other, Vol 1 and Sovereign Traces – Relational Constellation, Vol 2. The graphic novel Mashkawide'e (Has a strong heart) was published by Senator Kim Pate and copies can be found by contacting her office. Neal published his own creation, The Krillian Key in November 2020, and is working on If I Go Missing which is being published by James Lorimer & Company Ltd., and Niikaniganaw (All My Relations) commissioned by a group of healthcare researchers.