Mikro is primarily a visual storyteller, and that comes with different methods in order to best present the story you wish to tell. See how Mikro goes about his process here.
Tell us a little bit about your most recent project (written or published). Was there a particular inspiration for it?
I’ve been writing and illustrating a gay comic called “Spotting Basil.” It’s about an overweight pig who falls in love with a gym instructor that doesn’t believe his species should lose weight. My background is in video games and television writing (which I do professionally,) and really felt like I wasn’t allowed to represent gay characters in the industry other than flaming “twink/twunk” stereotypes. If you’ve seen the trailers for Q-Force, you know what Hollywood wants from us. Working in comics has all the advantages of being a visual medium while also allowing for the independence and zero-dollar-budget to create something hyper specific. I’ve struggled with weight and self-hatred. In the gay community there’s an expectation to look a certain way. Heck, even in the bear side of things, there’s the reverse expectation. I find the way health intersects with body positivity to be extremely important to me; I see both as valuable. After reading Beastars, it inspired me to use furry as a way to explore nature vs nurture while examining the subject of body types and sexuality.
What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry fiction?
Furry instantly puts allegory into your head. You think “ah! This is like the real world, but not exactly,” and you start to consider what the story is saying more deeply. How are species paralleling real world people? In the case of my comic, does nature versus nurture play into things? Are the characters really like this because of nature, or nurture? Are both important, or is one more important? Zootopia really used furry to address race, Animal Farm totalitarianism, Beastars Japanese sexuality etc. To me, furry isn’t just an escape from our boring world as it exists – though I very much like it for that reason as well – it’s a lens to view our world through and highlight certain things about our lives.
What is your writing process like? Do you outline and plot, or are you a “pantser”?
First, I create a logline – a one sentence pitch for your idea. The sentence should present your character, setting, core conflict etc: “A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer.” That’s the logline for Silence of the Lambs. It presents the protagonist through their occupation (and thus implies the world,) and what the core conflict is. I create a logline for my own stories like this, then I try and expand it into Aristotelian four act structures. Aristotle speculated that all stories boil down to four “acts,” which can be classified as “Present a problem…escalate the problem…create a crisis for the problem…resolve the problem.” It’s not a rigid structure at all and it serves as a framework for the most basic principle of writing: conflict. I write four sentences that correspond to each of those four beats with my story. From there, I build out the backstory for the character/s and what makes them tick psychologically and try to come up with want versus need conflicts for all the characters in the story. If a character wants something very badly, usually what they need for true happiness is the opposite of the want – this is the arc they undergo. For instance, in a character driven film like Moonlight, the protagonist thinks that closeting himself as gay black man is how he’ll attain happiness, but in reality (the want/middle act goal), he should be doing the opposite – accept himself for who he is and find love. The point is that a character who is after something is after it for a flawed reason and has to realize that thing they were after is flawed – thus becoming a better, more learned person by the end. If the character doesn’t get their need (but does or does not get their want,) it’s usually a tragedy. So, after collecting the logline, the four act beats, backstories and the wants vs needs, I finally begin to write.
What do you find are the key differences between writing for written media, and writing for visual media such as games and for screen?
A screenplay or teleplay is structured in a way that’s different from writing a book. It de-emphasizes prose altogether, and while there are plenty of writers in film and TV that add it, it’s not usually considered good form. You’re making a design document for a director and should be as blunt and straightforward as you can with how you describe scenes. The page count matters in film and TV too. As long as you’re distributing dialogue and character action evenly, a single page in a screenplay is going to be approximately one minute of watch time, so you have to consider how long your work is to fit in a block of programming or how long you think your audience is going to be patient with you sitting in a theatre. In books, you also have a voice of a narrator to consider – but apart from stylistic films (such as noir) that use voice over, this isn’t important. All that gets dedicated to the way we consider a character moving through their environment, what the sets look like, what the character is saying. Even if a director changes your script, you imagine and write it out like it were a final product visually. Videogames are a different beast entirely. It’s a new medium and writing for a game is still the wild west. In a way, videogames first acts are incredibly short (this would be a tutorial,) and the vast, vast majority of the game is going to be the second act where the goal/want is super important. As such, the overall structure will be typical but you have to consider how the gameplay intersects with the narrative. Take a game like Dark Souls for instance, once you’re out of the Undead Asylum, your goal is to fulfill your destiny and kill Gwyn to take his place and you resolve that in the final act. But through the writing and lore, a concept like “hollowing,” which is where your character becomes a mindless zombie from despair, becomes integral to its themes and message. Dark Souls is a game about the human will to persevere. Your character never goes hollow because you’re still playing the game, and as long as you beat the game, from a meta level you’ve preserved. The difficulty, tone and characters all supply theme here. I think that’s the biggest difference between a movie/book and game – that your job as a writer is create a theme using the gameplay and support it in whatever way you can.
What do you consider your biggest strength as a writer?
My biggest strength is probably how I write endings! I always find my endings to be quite good because of all the planning that goes into my work. As such, I think it’s just the ability to follow through on arcs. You’ll have to see what I mean by that when my comic finishes! Inversely, I think my biggest weakness is to write prose. My prose skills are completely hamstrung by not having to write it very much.
What is your favourite kind of story to write? Does it align well with what you like to read?
Don’t make me pick a genre! Those are my babies! In all seriousness, I’ve been finding myself writing romance lately. I do love myself some romance, but I mostly like to consume horror of all things.
Which character of yours do you most identify with, and why?
From the work in the fandom I’ve written, definitely Abe from my comic, but I can’t tell you why because it’s a giant spoiler. In the meantime, all I’ll say is don’t judge me until I can justify why that is in the future!
Which authors or specific books have most influenced your work?
In terms of videogames, Toby Fox (Undertale), Hidetaka Miyazaki (Dark Souls / Sekiro) and Yoshiyaki Koizumi (Mario Galaxy / Majora’s Mask). In terms of movies, Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / Adaptation), Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo / Blood Simple), and I’m really starting to find myself pulling from Alexander Payne (Election / Sideways). In terms of books, William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Alice Walker (The Colour Purple) and Alexandre Dumas (The Man in the Iron Mask / Count of Monte Cristo).
What is the last book you read that you really love?
The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain. I thought it was a very eerie and unique take on a fantasy. It definitely blended coming of age and a kind of horror in a very unique way.
Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
You mean besides drawing? I do like to draw as a hobby. I also like to consume whatever media I can. However, it’s important to get out and live life to pull experiences from too. I like going to the beach and swimming as well as look into true crime (I’m weird).
Do you have any advice to give other writers?
Learn structure! Read as many books on it as you can. Read Pamala Douglas’ book on TV writing, Save the Cat, whatever you can google and scrounge up. Rules can be broken, but you should know what they are before trying to break any. I consider art and writing to be very similar. You will get better if you learn the fundamentals, and finding your own style comes after mastering the basics.
Is there anything you would like to see more of within furry fiction?
I read a lot of gay comics and I want to see two things from people who write gay furry literature. One, please write women characters better. If a woman gets added into a story, she’s either the gay guy’s best friend who gives him advice and has no arc or issues of her own. Worst case, I read a comic that fridges a woman after having no development for the sake of the gay lead. Secondly, I’d like to see other stories besides closet stories. It’s a universal LGBTQ experience, but at least for homosexuality it should be hung out to dry. Most gay stories I read in the fandom are just closet / coming out stories and there’s so much more to tell in the space of being gay.
Where can readers find your work?
Best bet is to look through the folders on my FurAffinity. https://www.furaffinity.net/user/mikrogoat/
Tomorrow we hear from another furry writer – The Best And Greatest, one might say. Check back in tomorrow to see what our penultimate writer of the month has to say.