The Evolution of EMMIE & FRIENDS

As a former comic strip creator, I was witness to fourteen years of my own creative evolution. This goes for both the art and writing. In the early days, my characters looked more like caricatures, with oversized heads and big, bulbous faces. Later, they began to look more like real people (well, as much as cartoon characters can). I guess that’s not surprising since I tend to gravitate toward more “natural” proportions.

As for the writing, the strips were much wordier at first – something my editors always chided me about. Still, it took quite a few years before it sunk in that, duh, newspaper comic strips only have so much room for run-on sentences.

There’s been kind of a parallel artistic evolution with the EMMIE & FRIENDS series. For example, on the left is Emmie from the first book (INVISIBLE EMMIE) and on the right is Emmie from the fifth book (TRULY TYLER).

Much like my comic strip, Early Emmie’s head is a little larger than her body and the proportions aren’t as realistic as Later Emmie (look at those stretchy, preteen legs!). As much as I’ve tried to keep the characters’ appearances consistent throughout the series, they have a tendency to morph on their own (nothin’ to do with me, of course). You can also see that the linework on the right isn’t as heavy-handed.

Something else I’ve noticed [not pictured]: as the books have progressed, I’ve started drawing more details overall. This includes clothing, backgrounds, and shading (graphic novel chapters only). Obviously, I’m not too bright because this creates more work for me. Then again, it also gives me more artistic satisfaction.

As for my writing evolution, much of this is subtle. I’ve definitely been writing longer chapters with each book (again, not too bright). But I also think my writing has become much more layered. I’ve been conscientious about adding more side stories, deeper — and sometimes subtler — feelings, and just generally more subtext. Hey, practice makes…well, more nuanced storytelling.

Other changes: I stopped relying on twist endings after Book 2 (IZZY). Yet — spoiler! — I’m definitely not done with ‘em. I learned I can write from a boy’s perspective. I also stopped telling stories that take place ONLY in one day. Some of this was intentional. And some of it I made up as I went along.

As I progress with the series, instead of getting tapped out (yet), I find myself continually challenged in such a great way. I keep growing and learning; I also try not to confine myself to any particular character (despite having my favorites) or formula.

So let the evolution continue! I, for one, look forward to seeing how far it can go.

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