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Pen to Paper: Potamopoulou creates graphic novel

Samuel Keimweiss, Staff Writer

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As part of her Independent Study, Spyri Potamopoulou (12) has been writing a graphic novel that grapples with social issues, acceptance, and artificial intelligence.

Independent Study is a year-long seminar in which students design their own projects on a topic of their choice under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Potamopoulou is aided by her two advisors, Library teacher Rachael Ricker and Testing Center Coordinator Jesse Shaw. Ricker has provided the plot and style help while Shaw is a resource due to his “background as a fan and an artist,” Potamopoulou said.

One motivation for writing the graphic novel was the underrepresentation of identifiable and relatable LGBTQ+ characters in media, Potamopoulou, who identifies as LGBTQ+, said.

The novel follows the story of two LGBTQ+ siblings who are struggling with a homophobic brother, an absent father, and an unsympathetic mother. They meet two women who soon become mentor figures, and their relationship grows until one day the women disappear without any explanation.

At some point, it becomes clear that the women were scientists who had created an artificial intelligence being (AI) that behaved like a human. The women hid their creation from the company they worked for in order to protect the AI, but they were forced to desert it once they fled. The story then follows the two siblings as they care for the abandoned AI.

In addition, Potamopoulou chose to focus on creating a graphic novel because it represented an intersection of two things she loves: writing and drawing, she said. She wanted to share her opinions and felt that the graphic novel was the best way to do so, she said.

“I wanted to have the ability to impart emotion not just through writing but through facial expressions and plot points and characters,” she said.

“One of Spyri’s greatest strengths is her storytelling,” Ricker said.

Potamopoulou’s graphic novel focuses on acceptance and humanity. She examines “the different ways you can be human” and hopes to further refine the message she is sending, she said.

Although the decision to take the class was spur of the moment, the planning of the graphic novel was not, and she was motivated to write a graphic novel due to her love of storytelling, Potamopoulou said.

“It went from a small idea that I thought was captivating and that I thought would be a really good moment in the story to developing the characters, deciding what they looked like and then deciding what the main plot points would be,” she said.

Potamopoulou started the undertaking in freshman year, when she began noting down her ideas, she said. By the time she started writing, she had over 900 notes on her computer, she said.

During first trimester of her senior year, Potamopoulou focused on the differences between a graphic novel and a regular novel, she said. She plotted her story and figured out the details before diving into the actual writing in the second trimester.

In December, the middle of her writing process, Potamopoulou presented to her Independent Study class about “the process of plotting and writing a story, not just a graphic novel but any written work,” she said.

Since then, Potamopoulou has been working on her novel panel by panel, and wants to polish and finish the novel this trimester, she said.

However, due to time constraints, Potamopoulou was forced to cut her story in half and aims to complete only the first volume, she said.

“Spyri is one of the most motivated students I have ever worked with,” Ricker said.

Potamopoulou drew inspiration from many sources, mostly from books she has read and stories she has heard; a major inspiration was a story of a woman who discovered a living doll in her house, she said.

Moving forward, she plans to finish the story and then shift her attention to video games, which she feels are “one of the most interesting, one of the most innovative, and often one of the most versatile” mediums for sharing a story and a message, Potamopoulou said.

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Pen to Paper: Potamopoulou creates graphic novel