Sketching characters from "hail the pumpkin king"


When I was growing up, I had a lot of sketchbooks. I drew a lot as a kid. Not many people know this about me (my old art teacher aside, who once taught me how to paint ducks that won 2nd place in the Maryland Junior Duck Stamp Contest, which is an actual thing that the government runs).

And no, I'm not going to show you my ducks. If you want to see them, they are hanging in my grandparents' living room in Florida.

THE POINT IS, I used to draw a lot. I drew before I could write, and all through high school, I sketched the characters I was dreaming up in the first stories I wrote. Then, when I got to college, a few things happened: I became friends with a theatre designer and an animator. And I got all bashful and self-conscious and holed up in my wordy brain.

It's taken me a while to get out, but I'm sketching my characters again. And they don't exactly suck, but they don't... y'know, not-suck either. But that's okay.

It's helping that I'm working on a new novel that started as nothing more than a mood board. Weirdly, this story has always come in images rather than words. Seems only right that it should be drawn and written.


When I first started writing "hail the pumpkin king," it was just supposed to be a short story. But unfortunately, my brain hates me and likes long-form.

"Solyndria" (   reference   )

"Solyndria" (reference)


So when I started to run into plot snags—as always happens with me—I decided I would sit down in my living room, and break out a sketchbook I hadn't touched for at least four years.

"Winifred Cole" (   reference   )

"Winifred Cole" (reference)

living room couch

And whadaya know? I'm unsnagging my plot again, cross-legged on my couch, taking it portrait by portrait.

unanticipated things this novel is making me do:

  1. Learn to draw faces without making one side larger than the other, which, clearly, I have not yet figured out how to do. But it's okay, because I like my faces lumpy and disproportionate.

  2. Create a story bible for this fantasy world I'm making up. New things for me.

  3. Let go of my need to make everything make logical sense. Because of magic and stuff.

  4. Reread my favorite fairytales (the best problem ever).


What are your tricks for getting out of a writer's funk (we don't use the b-word around here)? Do you sketch? Play music? Share yours below?