Veins Writing Process + Script
I wrote a comic in 2014 while dealing with depression that was then made into a real comic with the work of the artist Conan Sinclair in 2015. You can read that comic and my personal essay about it’s role in my life around that time over at The Establishment.
I’m a major process junkie so I thought I’d share everything I wrote leading up to sending the script to Conan. I have some comments at the front and/or bottom of each section written in bold explaining their function.
First up, we have the brainstorming notes where I just wrote down every thing that occurred to me for a few days:
A world where people just stopped dying. Prisons are overflowing, procreation is heavily regulated, doctors are all out of a job. Bodies don’t heal! Hair and nails don’t grow. Beauty industry is bigger than ever. No aging.
Protagonist is a guy that tried to rip all the veins out of his forearm. (First he slit his wrists, when it wasn’t working he started digging in under the skin to pull out veins.). He hides them sometimes with long sleeves. His girlfriend/wife left him when she found out he tried to kill himself.
Everyone is super fucking depressed. Without death, life has no meaning. Embrace death, embrace life.
It’s a one-shot. Done in one. Can you tell a story in 8 pages?
Open up as he tries to kill himself only to find himself in a world where death has stopped.
Applications to be chemically induced into a coma. And then burned to nothing?
It’s him applying to be put under, being accepted, and then deciding against it
“It’s a three part process. The application was the first part and this interview is the second.”
“Why do you want to stop living?” “Because I finally finished the last book in the series I’ve been reading. Haha. Uh, no. I live with depression and I take SSRIs to manage it. But I’ve lived with it long enough.”
Some people stopped eating, other animals and insects are still dying
Frequent cutting to the scene of him trying to kill himself.
Support groups for people that tried killing themselves
Geoff and Alisha.
At first, there were reality shows about people that were in horrible accidents but are now unable to die (completely smashed up from falls, etc.). This was a miscalculation. People did not like them.
Signs saying “We Are All Zombies!”
The concept that I developed came as a result of having listened heavily to the Machine of Death podcast serial and wanting to branch off into something similar. For a couple weeks, I had conversations with people like my friends George Schmitz and Katy Rex about an anthology book set in the world. It would’ve been called After Death but those sharks Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire swiped the title! There were a couple attempts to set-up a tumblr, a Twitter, and a gmail account to solicit submissions for an anthology but I played the plug early when I realized I lacked the inclination to take on a project that size at the moment.
Before I begin any script, I like to break down my important beats that happen on each page. It lets you know the function of each page and build to page turns. I’ll also include little stray dialogue I thought up brainstorming, images I had in mind, etc. It’s good to have a clear outline to refer back to when writing. It speeds up the actual process of writing considerably.
- He goes in for his interview. Straightening his tie, bandaging his forearms, cutting to him making a list of the “Pros and Cons of Living” (the only pro is Alisha) and then drawing hot water for a bath.
- The tale end of the interview. Cutting to him getting into the bathtub.
- Dinner in an empty vegan restaurant with his former brother-in-law. Talking about things (“So I guess we’re the only two that were vegan because we liked it?”). Cutting to him getting ready to do it.
- He asks about his ex-wife. Cutting to him slitting his wrists, blood dripping out into the water.
- His bro-in-law takes him to the support group (“I went in for my final interview today. The guy asked me why I wanted to die and I told him it’s because I finally finished my book.” Laughs/chuckles). It’s going normal until someone shoots themselves in the other room.
- Ambulances take the guy away, he’s still howling. Bro-in-law comments on how he doesn’t understand why people are still trying to kill themselves like that.
- There’s a talk about how people can’t find meaning in a life where they’re no longer afraid of death. “They don’t want to die, they’re just afraid to keep living.” Cutting to him angry that he isn’t dying, digging into his forearm to rip out his veins.
- He starts making a list of the “pros and cons of dying” with a lot more in the cons column. He gets a call on his answering machine saying his application has been accepted, he deletes the message.
And here’s the script (sans the personal note I wrote to Conan describing what I saw as the important in the script, what to emphasize, what was really free to shake up) that I sent along…
Page One: 5 Panels
Panel 1: Tight shot of Geoff straightening his ties in the mirror. He is not wearing a wedding ring.
Panel 2: Tight shot of Geoff buttoning the cuffs of his right shirt sleeve. We can see thick ace bandages wrapped around his wrist and forearm.
Panel 3: Flashback. A moleskin notebook sits on a living room table in the foreground. The page is labeled “LIVING” and there is a “PROS” and “CONS” T-chart. The only pro is “ALISHA” and the cons are “JOB, STUDENT LOANS, STRESS, SADNESS, CLIMATE CHANGE, SSRIS, INSIGNIFICANCE, LUNGS” and they trail off implying that there is A LOT in the CONS column. In the background, Geoff is walking away from the table with back to the reader. Geoff is wearing a wedding ring in the flashbacks.
Panel 4: Close-up of Geoff, nervous, checking his breath by breathing into his cupped hand.
Panel 5: Flashback. Geoff is drawing a hot bath.
Page Two: 6 Panels
Panel 1: Geoff sits across from a middle-aged man in a sharp suit. Geoff is wringing his hands and the middle-aged man is writing on a clipboard. They’re in a very clinical, sterile office/meeting room. Readers should get the impression that people have been cycling in and out of where Geoff has been sitting.
1 Middle-aged man: Very well, Geoffrey. That concludes this interview.
Panel 2: Flashback. Geoff is stripping off his clothes in front of the bathtub. Steam is rising off the water.
Panel 3: Geoff and the middle-aged man are shaking hands. Geoff’s sleeve is pulled back enough to reveal his bandages again.
2 Geoff: Thank you for your time.
3 Middle-aged man: You should receive a response soon. By the end of the day if you’re lucky.
Panel 4: Flashback: Geoff winces as he dips his naked body into the hot bath water. If you want to avoid drawing genitals, it might look good to position the “camera” behind his back as he dips himself in.
4 Geoff: (hushed) Ooh, fuck!
Panel 5: Geoff is walking out a door and into the hall of what looks like a standard office. On the wall is a sign that reads “WILLFUL TERMINATION GROUP.”
Panel 6: Tight on Geoff as he walks down a city street, morning. There are a couple people walking around (some trying to get to work, some with bags from shopping) but most importantly there is a homeless man (he has open sores on his face) with a sandwich board reading “WE ARE ALL ZOMBIES.”
Page Three: 5 Panels
Panel 1: Geoff sits across from Clarence in a vegan restaurant. We’re close in on their table but we don’t see anyone else near them, either. They have plates in front of them (just scraps, they’re almost finished).
1 Geoff: He asked the sort of questions you’d expect.
2 Geoff (2): “Why do you want to end your life? Have you sought counseling?”
3 Clarence: Haha. Yep, they try to send you over to guys like me to shrink your brain.
Panel 2: A waitress is walking up to the table and handing Geoff and Clarence their check.
4 Clarence: It’s the only way the government would let them opera —
5 Waitress: Your check.
6 Geoff: Thanks.
Panel 3: Clarence is reaching for his wallet but Geoff has raised a hand to stop him.
7 Geoff: I got this.
8 Clarence: Yeah?
9 Geoff: It’s not like I’ll need the money.
Panel 4: Flashback. Geoff is sitting in the bath with his eyes closed and his head tilted back. His arms are hanging down outside of the tub.
Panel 5: Geoff and Clarence are walking out of the vegan restaurant into the afternoon sun to see that it is completely empty aside from the wait staff. They’re both laughing.
10 Clarence: I guess we’re the only two that ate vegan because we liked it?
Page Four: 6 Panels
Panel 1: Geoff and Clarence are both driving in a car. Clarence is behind the wheel. They’re both looking ahead.
1 Geoff: So…
Panel 2: Flashback. Tight on Geoff’s fingers fidgeting with a razor blade outside the tub.
Panel 3: Geoff is looking over just a little at Clarence.
2 Geoff: How’s your Alisha?
3 Clarence: She’s fine. I haven’t told her that you’ve applied with the WTG.
Panel 4: Flashback. Geoff is beginning to cut deep and down his forearm.
4 Geoff: Oh fuck.
Panel 5: Flashback. Little drops of blood are hitting the water, others have already started dispersing in the water.
5 Geoff: (to himself) Fuck fuck fuck…
Panel 6: Geoff is looking forward again.
6 Geoff: Thanks. I’ll tell her if I’m admitted.
7 Geoff (2): I think I owe her that.
Page Five: 5 Panels
Panel 1: We’re in a church basement, a meeting similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Everyone is sitting in a circle save for Geoff. Clarence is sitting next to him. The other people look tired. There’s a banner that says “SURVIVORS ANONYMOUS.” These are suicide survivors.
1 Geoff: I had my final WTG interview today. Why do you want to die?
2 Geoff (2): That was the first question the guy asked me.
Panel 2: Geoff is smirking in a sad sort of way.
3 Geoff: I told him, I finally finished that book I’d been working on.
4 Everyone: hahahaha
Panel 3: Flashback. Geoff is laying down with his head back in the tub as his sliced open forearms bleed out into the water. The redness is just forming around his arms in the water.
Panel 4: A man that looks like a heroin addict is walking down the basement stairs and into the meeting. He has a scar around his neck from an unsuccessful hanging. His hands are deep in the pockets of an unzipped hoodie. He’s holding a gun in one of his hidden hands. Everyone in the meeting has turned to look at him. Geoff is starting to sit down.
5 Heroin Addict: I tried to hang myself on the second day. That was before we’d all figured out that death just stopped working.
6 Heroin Addict (2): I tried again last year just to be safe. Still didn’t take.
7 Random Guy: Why don’t you have a seat, friend?
Panel 5: The heroin addict has pulled the gun out of his pocket. He’s shaking. He’s worried.
8 Heroin Addict: Third time’s the charm, right?
Page Six: 6 Panels
Panel 1: Geoff and Clarence are standing next to each other in a small crowd of people outside the meeting on the street. It is night. They’re all looking off-panel in the same direction:
1 Off-Panel: AHHH!
Panel 2: The heroin addict, with a notable bullethole in his head, is strapped down to a stretcher as two EMTs are wheeling him into the panel. The crowd looks uncomfortable.
2 Heroin Addict: JUST LET ME GO ALREADY! LIGHT ME ON FUCKING FIRE!
Panel 3: Flashback. Geoff has popped his head up. He looks confused. This is taking too long.
Panel 4: Flashback: Geoff, holding one of his arms out of the water is lightly investigating the self-inflicted wound with his other thumb.
3 Goeff: Hmmm…
Panel 5: The heroin addict is being wheeled off-panel in the other direct, the crowd’s eyes still following him.
4 Heroin Addict: JUST LIGHT ME ON FUCKING FIRE!
Panel 6: The heroin addict is completely off-panel, the others are still looking over at him but Geoff has his eyes pointed down. He’s holding the forearm he was investigating in this page’s flashback.
5 Clarence: It’s ghastly.
Page Seven: 5 Panels
Panel 1: Geoff and Clarence are sitting down on a curb, smoking. Geoff is inhaling.
1 Clarence: I saw something like that once on one of those ghoulish reality shows they tried out.
2 Geoff: Ugh.
3 Clarence: Yeah. Who wants to see people still alive with half their head missing?
Panel 2: Geoff is dumping his ash and Clarence is ignoring his cigarette.
4 Clarence: I just don’t understand trying it again these days. No offense.
5 Geoff: None taken.
6 Clarence: Do they want to die that bad?
Panel 3: Flashback. This is our big, most gruesome panel. Geoff in a major moment of wrath is digging into his opened forearm with his hand and pulling out veins. Blood is just pouring out and human tissues look to be bursting out of the wound. His face is one of pure anger and frustration, jaw clenched hard enough to break teeth, snarling.
Panel 4: Clarence is taking a drag. Geoff is looking up, pondering.
7 Geoff: Nah, Clarence.
Panel 5: Geoff is putting out his cigarette on the curb and Clarence is dumping his ash.
8 Geoff: They’re just afraid to keep living.
Page Eight: 5 Panels
Panel 1: Geoff is sitting on a couch in his home. He’s writing in a moleskin notebook but we can’t see what he’s writing. There is a small coffee table in front of him, the same one from the page one flashback.
Panel 2: The phone is ringing and Geoff is lifting his head up.
1 SFX: (phone ringing)
Panel 3: Geoff has stood up and is setting his notebook on the table.
2 SFX: (phone ringing)
Panel 4: Geoff is answering his phone in the kitchen.
3 Geoff: Hello?
4 Phone: Hello, Geoffrey. This is Tom with the Willful Termination Group calling to inform you that your application has been accepted.
5 Geoff: …
Panel 5: From the living room, we see Geoff silently holding his phone up to his ear in the background. In the foreground, we see the notebook on the table. This time it’s opened on a page labeled “DYING” with a pros and cons t-chart. The single pro is “EVERYTHING BAD STOPS” but the cons are “EVERYTHING GOOD STOPS, NO KIDS, NO ALISHA, NOT PUBLISHED YET, FACEBOOK MEMORIAL PAGE, WON’T SEE HOW ANYTHING ENDS” and it trails off.
5 Phone: Geoffrey…? Hello…?
… And that’s a look into what is my pretty standard creative process for a shorter work.