Marty’s “The Willow’s Way” is one of the selected readings for the Freezer Bunny Book Club at the EA Sims Forums for the week of August 24, 2015. You can read all of Marty’s great works at his Simblr, Sims on Paper.
CT: Marty! It’s so amazing to be in the same digital space as you! Thanks for stopping by Animal Hat!
Joel: Hi, Marty! Have some frozen yogurt!
Marty: Cathy! Hello! Hi, Joel! Thanks! I will! I am so so happy to be here! What a lovely place you have for making kids happy! I was looking forward to meeting you and seeing your pixels and I can’t believe that the time has finally come! You look even more cheerful in person!
CT: There’s so much that we can talk about. Let’s take our frozen yogurt outside where we can hear the crickets in between our sentences!
Marty: This fro-yo is delicious!
CT: Thanks! It’s organic banana! And the toppings are organic California walnuts with organic strawberries! Isn’t it great?
CT: I wanted to start by talking with you about how your Sims are actors for your stories. Do you remember last year when RobFam asked on the Storytellers’ thread about who used their Sims as actors? You stepped right up and said that was exactly how you viewed yours.
Marty: Oh, I don’t exactly recall this moment, because every time someone on the forums asks others in what way they write their stories, you always point at me for using Sims as actors.
CT: Oh, gosh! I’m sorry. I hope it doesn’t feel like I’m singling you out in a bad way, because that’s not how I mean it at all. I like to use your work as an example because it’s so well done. I think your directing is so effective that the work is always excellent. Plus, I’ve seen your actors off set, so I know they’re happy and fulfilled!
Marty: I do remember when we first started differentiating story Sims from Sims who act out the story for the writer. Oh, and what a great way to mention Robinson Family – that family was joyful and creative.
CT: I know! RobFam! I like to remember Marcus as often as I can. He’s working in theater right now, from what I hear, and last year, he gave so much to the Sims storytelling community. He was one of the first ones to do collabs with inviting Sims from other players into his story.
CT: So, Marty, can you tell us about how work? What’s the process of scripting or storyboarding your story, and then developing it as a comic strip? What stages do you go through?
Marty: The process is really long, and it is a combination of writing, creating, and technical skills. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it is actually lots of fun – from the first scintillation of the light bulb to the final moment when I post the issue for the public.
The process begins with the first initial idea that comes to my mind. I have a notebook where I write everything – from characters’ traits and personalities to background stories and future developments. I usually write everything that comes near my brain, even if it doesn’t sound good or has a low chance of actually being turned into a theme for the story. By this time my notebook already looks like a bomb has exploded in the sheets – scribbles and lines that I can almost read myself.
Marty: That’s where the next stage of the process comes in handy. I use an app on my phone that lets me create notes, well I use it for writing my stories. There I rewrite the issues, smooth and polish everything so it is easier for me to understand what I have written on that scribbled page. In this stage I usually come up with the titles of each issue, but sometimes I make them up when I post the issue in the end.
CT: How much does the story change from the note-taking stage to the writing in your phone app stage? Do you find that it’s pretty well complete or whole from first vision, or do you change it a lot when you transcribe and write it? And how do you manage to type on your little phone keypad?
Marty: The changes I do are not many. It contains most of unsettling lines and adding or changing what I’d like to or what I had missed. The storyline does not undergo many alterations, but what sometimes happens is that I might decide to remove an issue – yes, it happens. I can sometimes also combine two of them if they are not too lengthy and they allow to be paired.
I recently added a new stage to the process of creating a comic. I have another notebook where I script every blink, look, speech, line and movement.
CT: Wow. That sounds time-consuming.
Marty: This is the time when I know how many pictures there’re gonna be in the issue as I am distributing the lines among the images. It is a bit more technical rather than creative, but this stage makes the process a few times easier as it helps you not to struggle with the next part of creating.
CT: So, you know, with all the work that goes into production, I’m wondering why you choose to use Sims? What are the advantages of using Sims as opposed to just drawing out the comics yourself? I’ve seen your artwork–you could do amazing comics with your own free-hand drawing or digital drawing.
Marty: I feel like this comic combines my passion for both taking pictures from the game and editing them, and telling stories with my Sims. And it is a way to share this passion with the world.
I have thought about drawing a comic myself not once. I’ve had thoughts about how I would draw Beth and how the comics would feel without the Sims-feeling. Maybe someday when I get better at drawing…
CT: So, you go through scripting ever gesture, and then.. ?
Marty: And only then the pixels come to my help. It is time to take all the needed screenshots for the issues. It’s a very interesting process, after all, this is all the fun – making your Sims act out the story! I am so thankful for my Sims for contributing and cooperating with me, it makes things so much easier. Sometimes the pictures get taken by themselves when my Sims are willing to help me.
CT: Your Sims are incredible actors. They always look so happy whenever I’ve seen them off-screen. You know, I’ve got this theory–well, it’s really just an imaginative idea, but I like to believe in it, because make-believe is so magic–anyway, my idea is that, just like people, Sims want to be useful. They want to serve a purpose. And your Sims feel they are serving such valuable purposes in acting out this story. They’ve dedicated their digital lives to be your theater troupe! And that gives them purpose.
Marty: I do love my Sims, and maybe they love me too. I am waiting for the time when I will finally have the chance to play with these Sims, you know – like every other household. And I think this will be the time when our bond gets even stronger, knowing that we’ve been through so much in our storytelling days.
Marty: Then it comes the second creative process – the making of the comic strip. I use only one program for this and I use some helpful tools, called “Actions” which helps me save time when editing a lot of pictures.
CT: The Actions are repeated steps in Photoshop, right?
Marty: Yeah, they are pre-recorded steps that apply the same adjustments to your set of images.
I think that the final stage is the most rewarding one – when you see how your imagination has produced an image with speech and movement. I look at it and wonder, “Did it look the same in my head?”
CT: And did it?
Marty: Oh, yeah! I see it washed out in my imagination and when I actually see it realized and visualized as an image I just can’t believe that was just an idea few days ago.
CT: Can we talk specifically about “The Willow’s Way” for a little bit? I’d like to know more about what you’re trying to express in it. It’s so laden with emotion–and it feels to me like it has an urgency to it, that it’s a story that must be told. Will you talk about the inspiration for it, as well as what you’re driven to express in this?
Marty: “The Willow’s Way” is inspired by real life and the difficulties that one meets on the road. I’ve laid multiple themes in the comic that correspond to one main theme and what I want to express with the story – missing out on moments of life in times when we are sad and desperate. The story is set to show that we miss too many things in life while we are busy being sad or grumpy. We need to love and live right before it is too late.
CT: It’s funny–you and me, and a lot of our friends and friendly acquaintances in the Sim writing community take our work so seriously! I mean, I load my work up with goofballism, and I try to have as much fun with it as I can–which is a lot of fun–and at the same time, there are moments in both the game-play and the writing where I become driven. With Silduun’s story, for example, there were times when I was impelled to explore and express specific ideas. This became something more than just play and games. This became a way for me to examine, investigate, and communicate serious ideas that have been part of my life for a long time. And I feel that you put the same type of passion and drive into your work. Does it seem funny to you that we use our Simming for something as serious and significant as art?
Marty: I become driven too. The stories are a way for me to share my insights for the world and an outlet for my feelings. Because when I share it with someone else, pain becomes something else. It heals.
CT: I know what you mean. It’s interesting to hear you say that because that’s a theme I hear often from others in the SimLit community–their work heals.
Marty: To be honest, it seems funny to me sometimes. I wonder why we torture our creative minds with drama stories. But as I said, it is a way to let out all those things we feel through a favorite thing – Simming.
CT: I don’t set out to do drama, as you know. I just tell my Sims’ lives. But with the legacy, we go through appointments with Grim and other forms of heartache, so drama enters in. It’s helped me look at life.
I know that you have plans for your career as an artist. I wonder, years from now–decades from now, even–when you look back, how will you feel about your Sim work? What do you think you’ll feel, when you’re a successful and established artist and possibly art teacher, when you look back on the hours and the creativity and the imagination and the passion that you poured into “The Willow’s Way” and also into the TS3 story that you did last year? How will you feel about that, and what role do you feel that this work will have played in your creative life?
Marty: Oh, I feel like I will still be doing this decades later! Lol. I think I will be pretty critical to the work I am doing now, like, “Why did I do this that way and not the other?”
I’d think I had a pretty amazing darn time creating comics and reading your lovely and wise comments later. I will never forget it.
CT: “The Willow’s Way” will stay with me all my life, I’m sure. So many of these stories I’ve read will stay with me. I often tell the SimLit writers whose work I love that their writing is at the top of any reading experience–that I’ve never had reading experiences that beat it, even reading Dickens, or Austen, or Shakespeare or the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace, when I thought that my life was changing. Many of the reading experiences I’ve had with SimLit, including “The Willow’s Way,” are on a par for me with other peak reading experiences. It’s profound and amazing, and I’m grateful.
CT: What do you hope to give your readers in your work?
Marty: I’d like to give them a wise mind to think with. Do not spend your days in grieving, don’t be angry at people, don’t notice the universe’s faults. Live for the moment and dream big.