How to Start Building Amazing LEGO MOCs (Part 1)

A friend on Instagram recently asked some questions about how I go about building a LEGO MOC (that’s ‘My Own Creation’, by the way). Do I design it first and then buy the bricks? How do I and other builders create such detailed scenes? I thought the questions deserved a blog post.

First, a quick back story. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and had a boatload of LEGO as a kid – mostly Castle and Pirates sets. When I turned into a sullen teenager later, I decided I didn’t need toys anymore and sold them all at a yard sale. Heartbreaking, right? The things I could do with all those old bricks …. But that’s in the past.

Most recently I started building again about three years ago, when I came across the Series 14 Collectible Minifigs in my local drug store. I started an Instagram account called @Tiny_Suicide_Squad featuring my modest collection of minifigs, and that was all it took for the bug to bite me again. That account is gone now (though you can still see the pics here on my website), but I have a new account on Instagram to showcase my work – @LegoGuacamole.

Now let’s look at some of the basic questions and problems that confront someone just starting out as a builder of LEGO MOCs.

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This Silent Moon

This Silent Moon is a ballade with double refrain based on a traditional Zen story. Anyone familiar with the ballade format can tell you I’ve only mostly followed the rules.

I would be interested to hear your comments, especially if you’ve written a ballade with double refrain or know of good examples.

This Silent Moon

 A monk met a thief on the road to White Thay

Who brandished a mace as he strode ‘cross the snow.

“Your purse and your coat, and you’ll live yet a day.

Bright gold I must have, though it prove my soul’s woe.”

Said the monk to the thief, “Pray, withhold your blow.

I’ll give you my garments, and with them this boon.

There shines Selene against the night’s indigo.

If I could, I would give you this silent moon.”

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The Red Elves

The Red Elves dwell in the darkest parts of the forest where venomous snakes and spiders abound. They fortify ancient ruins with their wooden palisades and distil wicked poisons from the local flora and fauna. They are more than happy to sell vials of spider venom and dried boughs from the scarlet fever trees they cultivate, but let the adventurer be warned! The Red Elves will not hesitate to murder and rob the unwary, and a Red Elf witch never goes far without her escort of goblin archers.

Out of Season

Walking home on this post-Christmas pre-New Year’s December day, I saw:

in the bare branches of a shrub –  a tiny scarecrow made of twine and fabric on a slender wooden stick, something you might use as a whimsical accent in a fall container garden

crushed in the road – a neon purple plastic spider ring like children buy for a quarter from the toy vending machines in the department store lobby around Halloween

Why did these creatures choose this day of all days to come creeping out of whatever under-baseboard secret kingdom obsolete holiday decorations dwell in? Perhaps some myopic felt Easter bunny stuck its head out of a hidden burrow, mistook the glitter of Christmas lights for the twinkling of stars, and sounded the all-clear – “Christmas is over! Come out! Come out!”

I felt sorry for the poor things, the way I feel when I see the crocuses pushing up their heads during those rare warm spells in February. “Shhhh, go back to sleep. Winter isn’t over yet.”

Meet the Rocket Family

The Dragon of Iletupa

Is it wrong to start designing the cover art before you write the book? I hope not. These are pen-and-ink studies for the cover art of The Dragon of Iletupa, the next novel I’m working on. The first one began as studies of dragon scales and then turned into an odd little street scene with characters taking their colorful balloons for a walk. This in turn inspired a limerick entitled ‘The Droll Encounter.’

The other two managed to come out looking like dragons. Progress!

While taking his balloons for a stroll / Professor Lanyard encountered a troll / A White-Crested Rail and a belligerent snail / Under circumstances unusually droll.

cover art study 2 cover art study 3

Lego Dungeons and Dragons: Spider Pit Trap

I’m home with a cold today, nothing better to do than play with Legos . . . jk, this is what I would be doing anyway. I had this idea when my sinuses woke me up at 4 am. I’ve been inspired to make interlocking Lego dungeon modules like Heroica or BrickQuest (check out @LegoGuacamole for my first example). This is a pit trap leading down to a chamber occupied by a giant spider and her babies. I had no plan whatsoever for how this might integrate into an actual Lego dungeon, so we’ll just call it a prototype. Maybe I’ll strip out the interior of my Death Star and convert it into a multi-level Lego dungeon . . .

Anyway, here’s the module:

Where the Sidewalk Ends

My first sideways Lego build! This was inspired by Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, one of my favorite books growing up. I had to prop it against my refrigerator and lay on the floor in an awesome yoga Sphinx pose to take the pictures. The gray sky plus gray buildings and sidewalk turn the whole thing into some kind of commentary about post-industrial society I guess, but that’s only because I don’t have enough blue plates to make a proper sky.

Also I wish the dog was brown.