Writing Habemus Papam, Part 3

It was an intense weekend, creating the written portion of Habemus Papam.  As I sat at my desk, I roughed out the format on some notebook paper.  I knew the graphic novel was to be divided into four chapters.  So I decided that I would separate the book in half, and tell the story as two long flashbacks.  

Always start your story with a dramatic scene.  So I decided that Chapter One would begin in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI Pope.  For many people in the world. Josef Ratzinger was just an obscure German cardinal until that famous conclave, so I thought I would start from the moment where Josef realizes that he might just be elected to succeed John Paul the Great as Pope.  

Gabrielle's 16-page manga, which my manga was supposed to expand upon, had as its theme "I never thought I'd become Pope."  I thought this was a good place to start - with a reluctant Josef Ratzinger reacting in disbelief when a cardinal comes up to him and says, "Josef, you must become Pope. We're going to nominate you."  Reportedly (no one is supposed to tell what happens at a conclave, but sometimes things slip out, like this one:), Josef responded, "Are you crazy?" and walked away, distressed.

Habemus Papam, p. 1 excerpt

As Josef ponders this possibility, his thoughts go back to his boyhood in Bavaria, and the first flashback, and the story, begins.  

I decided that Chapter One would deal with Josef's growing up in a Germany that was rapidly subcumbing to the evil charms of Adolf Hitler.  Most people don't know that the Ratzinger family were against Nazism right from the start, before most people were even aware of the evil.  I liked being able to show the quiet heroism of Josef's father, a police captain in rural Germany.  I didn't get a chance to include Josef's mother's famous sense of humor.  She liked to tell Hitler jokes, even when doing so was treasonous. The family's stance kept them poor, and the Ratzinger siblings had to learn to "swim against the tide."  More on that later.

Chapter Two would start at a key turning point of Josef's life - his entrance into seminary.  Seminary was his "coming of age," and represented the first time in his career that he could study what he wanted without any interruptions from war or Nazis randomly closing down his schools, etc.  Chapter Two also showed how other people around Josef began to realize that this young man was a genius.  (I don't think Josef himself ever realized this.)  I hope to write more on this later.

Chapter Two ends with Josef embarking upon what was probably the happiest period of his life: teaching at Regensburg University.  The words of his older sister Maria come back to him as he sits in the conclave, helping him to make yet another life-changing decision.  Is that how it really happened?  Who knows?  My story is only a guess, but I hope it's an educated guess.  I'll write more about "educated guessing" and writing fiction next time.

Habemus Papam, p. 115 excerpt