Kejora - How stories begin

[This is an example of a Process post available to patrons at the Saga Sharers tier and above.] 

Kejora is an ongoing project which encompasses sketches, stories, and characters inspired by Southeast Asian cultures and realities. There are two paths through which I approach the creation of stories here: beginning with words, and beginning with images.


When the idea for Kejora first took shape, I brainstormed words or phrases that I identified as relevant to Southeast Asia, then tried to connect them.


Intergenerational interaction, tradition, migration, water: these are key themes that will keep appearing in many of the Kejora stories. 

Although I may be an illustrator, I often feel more comfortable putting down my thoughts in writing first - no doubt a result of a childhood spent devouring books, trying to create my own novels, making a short-lived Malay translation of J. R. R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit', writing fanfiction, loving the feel of words as they roll off a page.

So words often form the foundations of stories for me. Here, you see a story in progress. "Not a monster", I wrote down, thinking about the many cases where queer youth are bullied, harassed, vilified - or killed - in Malaysia. That led to several thumbnail explorations on the side, and you'll get to see this develop further next month.

On the same page I'd also scribbled down the beginnings of the LILIN story, "Like a candle burning bright...", which evolved into this:



At other times, the story springs forth from a drawing or random shapes and lines. Thanks to a SmArtSchool mentorship under Marc Scheff, this year I started the practice of regularly making thumbnails with no intention of taking all of them to final art - just to get into the habit of coming up with ideas quickly. Some of them are larger and more defined (bottom right) while others are tiny and loose (as seen above). Some are inspired by what I see when I'm out and about at the market, on the train, in the park.

Regardless of whether the story begins as a word or image, I'm looking for a few specific emotions or conflicts that comprise its heart, or the "story seed" as I call it in my sketchbooks. In the case of IDAH, top right, it's frustration with harassers on public transport, being subject to the male gaze, the relief of turning a literal gaze (the eye-shaped pending, which is a type of belt buckle) back on one's harassers. These story seeds are easy to come by: reading the news, recalling memories, or simply thinking about experiences friends and acquaintances have had.

Of course, the drawback is that I am the one generating these ideas, which filters and limits the range of stories that could be told. In the near future I'd like to experiment with ways of coming up with stories that involve input from others - including this community of patrons!