On the 23rd August 2013 I had the good fortune to meet Myrna Gawryn.
According to the blurb Griffith University produced, Myrna comes from a background in dance & choreography, and has taught and consulted in the area of character development/behaviour, storytelling and movement for animation at DreamWorks and Disney in Los Angeles, Gobelins and Annecy in France, LucasFilms and CG Protégé in Singapore, Griffith University in Australia and The One University in Kuala Lumpur.
A small number of students were given time to have one on one meetings with Myrna to discuss our projects.
On meeting Myrna, the first thing I said was “I’m not sure how you can help me, I’m making comics. There’s no character animation involved.” Which immediately put her on the back foot, no doubt. But we had an hour scheduled together, so we sat down and started to talk. And I’m glad we did. she gave me some real gems of advice on placing the characters in my comics into a more realistic space, getting me thinking about these characters as people, with feelings, history and motivations. I had forgotten about all that in pursuit of all the other elements that comprise a comic narrative. Some of the top tips I got are below:
“Date your characters.” The idea of being on a date with someone, where you want to know everything about them. Asking the characters questions about themselves and not looking to provide the answers; instead, getting out of the way and allowing the answers to come.
Move your characters back and forward in time to find out information. What were they doing last week? The day before? Just before this scene? The scene before that scene? Where are they going, what are they planning? Ask and ye shall receive.
“Load the character before releasing them.” Filling the characters with all the nitty-gritty real things that have occurred in their life. Arming them with knowledge acquired by asking them all the questions on your date. What’s going on inside them and how do they choose to deal with it?
Using gestural drawing to develop the story. Moving through a storyboard quickly, drawing loosely, making a first draft that’s organic and alive. Tightening of pencils and script will happen in further drafts.
Building strong relationships with others, communicating to people from all walks of life. This provides a kind of improved understanding of the human condition, and is good advice not only for living in general, but for my studio work.
Finding a “point of contact” with people. Okay, so we are not all alike, and many of us are quite different, but there are always common points of reference. We all eat, drink, sleep, engage with the world in different ways. How to bridge the gaps between our separate entities is the challenge.
A great thing Myrna mentioned was that you tell a specific story in order to connect with a broader audience. That if you tell your own story, with all the seemingly individual bits attached, there is a greater chance of resonating with more people. There is a a potential for these stories to carry a greater degree of authenticity, a greater sense of truth.
All very cool points, and well worth testing. Thanks Myrna!