Aug 07 2014
I’m going to be out of the country. If you’re waiting on a review or have a question, I’ll probably need to hold off until I get back. Japan pictures here.
Aug 07 2014
I’m going to be out of the country. If you’re waiting on a review or have a question, I’ll probably need to hold off until I get back. Japan pictures here.
Aug 01 2014
My expectations were modest — e.g. “What if they made a watchable version of Green Lantern?” The movie is better than I think anyone could have reasonably anticipated. It’s more like an exceptionally funny version of Star Wars. 5 stars.
PS: I’d suggest against bringing most kids younger than 13. The violence level is more like a Vin Diesel movie than a talking raccoon movie. (You did notice that the talking raccoon has a machine gun, right?)
May 26 2014
May 22 2014
Often with works of fiction that involve superpowers, writers look for ways to effectively limit or check those powers. This is done to keep characters vulnerable to challenges while maintaining dramatic effect within the story. After all, if a character can consistently deal with situations by using their unrestricted abilities, how invested will a reader (or publisher) be in the work? Probably not very.
Writers of comic books, superhero novels and other forms of speculative fiction utilize a variety of approaches in addressing this issue. Examples include requiring a specific power source or item to use an ability (e.g. Green Lantern’s ring or Mr. Freeze’s diamond-powered freeze gun). Another example is requiring the character to be within a specific proximity (e.g. in the film Push, Kira has to be able to see people to tamper with their minds). Sometimes a character is susceptible to a specific substance or external force (e.g. Superman and kryptonite or his vulnerability to red sunlight).
These limitations are mostly environmental or physical contingencies that the character must yield to. One alternative is using a character’s progressive learning curve to limit their capabilities.
If you want to restrict a character who can channel cosmic energy as concussive force blasts, a good place to start might be by asking: What does the actual development of that proficiency look like? (Keep in mind this question can be asked of anyone in any endeavor, not just fictional superheroes. Choosing to spend time with it as a literary theme could be a good way to develop relatability within the work.)
So what does it look like for a character to actually learn about their extraordinary powers over the course of a novel? Is it believable that they would start out fully knowledgeable in their understanding, or would there be gradations of trial and error, of setbacks and success, of growth? A character learning to use concussive force blasts will provide their own limitations in the form of their inexperience. Be encouraged to explore that. It could be a much more resonant and effective restriction than a target that has to be within X amount of feet. Even as the character grows in the use of their powers, surpassing old limitations, the learning process by nature should continue to supply new thresholds for them to meet and be challenged by.
In the sci-fi novel Psion by Hugo Award-winning author Joan D. Vinge, the main character Cat is recruited into a psychic research program. The technicians are able to determine the vast amount of telepathic power Cat possesses; they can ascertain what he should be able to do… But Cat can’t do those things because doesn’t know how to be psychic. Even as he gains greater understanding and command of his telepathy throughout the course of the novel, his learning curve continues to provide natural limitations and challenges for him in the use of his powers.
Of course, not every story’s main character is a fish out of water. While most superhero stories handle the initial emergence of the primary hero, some characters come to the plate further developed than others. And that’s fine. Even in those instances, I’d encourage writers of superhero fiction (especially novels) to consider the learning curve (specialized here, perhaps) as well as the more concrete and specific limits meant to rein in the chosen superpowers.
Wolverine can be used as an example of an already expertly-skilled character forced to negotiate the learning experience. When he first joined the X-Men, he was leagues beyond his teammates in training, combat experience and the use of his mutant powers. Despite this he still had a significant learning curve dealing with the way the team functioned and occasionally his approach to obstacles was more detrimental than helpful. Additionally, it was because of his experiences with the X-Men that he learned to take more control of his berserker rages, which were a danger to everyone.
Well-rounded characters resonate more with readers. Going through the journey of learning to use superpowers along with those characters – most notably experiencing how that process provides limitations, checks and challenges in organic and relatable ways – can contribute greatly to the development of that relationship, potentially endearing readers even more than originally considered.
To finalize, focusing on the superpower learning curve can be an enormous boon as there are potentially countless ways writers can incorporate it regarding their character’s superpowers, specifically as a means to limit those powers. These elements can be made to manifest as significant and effective by simple virtue of being so unknown, or it can be more a matter of learning to use familiar capabilities in entirely uncharted situations. In either instance, this also demonstrates the flexibility and personalization of the learning curve, in that it can be uniquely shaped to fit each character. This kind of development and attention to theme can greatly increase the depth and resonance of a novel while providing necessary restrictions and challenges for the characters within them.
May 01 2014
One of my coworkers (who asked to remain anonymous) received this business proposal from Ghana.
My name is Barrister Agams Enoch Mifetu, the personal attorney of late Mrs.Eunice Maccabee based here in Accra republic of Ghana I did a lot of web search before choosing your contact from the skype. It is with trust and sincerity that I approach you for assistance in this business.
Please do accept my apology if my mail infringes on your personal ethics and honestly it will be my humble pleasure if we can work together.
I would like you to act as an executor of late Mrs.Eunice Maccabee my deceased client who made a deposit of (US$14,000,000.00) with a Bank here in Ghana a few years back. She died in Plane crash with her husband and their only child leaving behind no next of kin. And a citizen of my country cannot stand as next of kin to late Mrs.Eunice Maccabee that is why I contacted you.
Dear friend I am ready to share 70/30 with you, if you are interested mail me immediately for further details in this great future relationship.
If you are interested write me with your email and telephone number,reply me immediately.
Barrister Agams Enoch Mifetu
Dear Honorable Mifetu,
Thank you exceedingly much for contacting me! It has been many years since I have heard the name Eunice. What a shock it was to hear that name again and from such a surprising, but altogether trustworthy, source.
Now, your position as barrister affords you the close knowledge of many things personal to the Maccabee family that one in your position would have and know of from the very nature of the position that you hold in close proximity to those in the family whom hold the secrets close to their hearts of which I speak.
However, there are some things that you may not know. Firstly and foremostly, is that Eunice was not all that she seemed to be. Please know, now, that at the time of her fiery death, she had quite effectively become the black dingo of the family. You see… Eunice was actually born under the name Eugene.
It was with great consternation of the family that the family’s general practitioner admitted to the accidental circumcision of the boy during a routine visit for treatment of dengue fever. While the name of Eugene was hidden from public purvey, the incident itself is well documented in the Ghana Premier Aboriginal Court of Law of which I am quite sure you are well accustomed. The case played out over years and, toward the end, even appeared in an episode of Current Affairs.
But I digress… let me speak more of Eugene… that he lived his early years as a woman was only the beginning of the shame that would befall the Maccabee namesake in the coming decades. Eunice, as she wished to be called after the accident, would go on to make her own name before the court, in activity ranging from strong arm tactics to online thievery, of course, it should be noted that most of the rape charges were effectively dropped as the court believed that she (he) had no way of carrying through with her threats of same.
Now, speaking of ethics… it is with the humblest of sincere intentions that I must inform you of the other piece of information that I am certain you are not aware of: You said the plane crashed killed Eunice, Bentley and the boy… but this is just the story we wanted the press to hear. I survived. I SURVIVED, Agams! I AM EUNICE’S SON!
I don’t blame you for not knowing. No one knew. I was found in the jungle, still in the loving arms of my mother-father, and they say I was quite sun burned but crying. That’s how they found the plane; a woeful child’s cry in the dense jungle.
Which brings me to the following: A very much appreciated the offer you made… but as I am a man of business, I am prepared to counter offer: Because of your sincere due-dilligence, and to keep you from revealing the secret of my identity, I offer you a substantial piece of both the inheritance, which as it has been accruing interest in the National State City Bank of Ghana since the seventies, is quite substantial. I cannot reveal numbers here, but let me just say that should you see this figure written down on a piece of paper, your eye balls would quite literally fall from their respective sockets.
Along with this, you are also welcome to keep a portion of the monies of fourteen million of which you earlier spoke. This is chump change to me as, I am sure you have done your research, know now that I am a tin foil magnate and make fourteen million in my sleep every month.
Your only requirement is that you breath not a WORD of any of this to any party, and should I learn that you went to the press with any of this information ALL POSSIBLE OUTCOMES WILL BE REMOVED. I hope I have made myself abundantly clear.
So, Mr. Enoch, it is up to you now to contact me.
-Uncle Maccabee The Third Esq.
Apr 05 2014
My expectations were far too high — with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of ~90% at the time I saw it, I was expecting a really excellent movie. There were a lot of competent moments but personally I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to theaters to see it.
In Scott Pilgrim, there’s a scene where Chris Evans (Captain America’s actor) parodies a really bad action star. Captain America 2 gave him so little to work with that I feel he came off like the bad action star.
Some notable issues with the movie:
Dec 16 2013
Email: “One of my protagonists is a detective looking for superheroes/vigilantes. What sort of traits might tip him off?
Here are some trends that come to mind for American superheroes.
“Too Long, Didn’t Read” Version:
Almost every adult superhero will meet at least at least 5 of the following:
Nov 06 2013
Modern superheroines are easily the most abused type of character in any story. And while you’re likely aware that most of them are simply there to be cardboard love interests (all ravishingly beautiful, of course . . .), today I’m not going down that path.
Instead, today we’ll discuss superheroine clothing (or the lack thereof).
From Wonder Woman to Supergirl, costume designers seem to think the more bare skin the better.
As we all know, it’s pretty unpractical. Still, for superheroes, they might not engage in a lot of hand-to-hand combat, therefore, there’s no reason for her to have plate armor from head to foot. But that doesn’t give any reason to be wearing bikinis.
Obviously, any superhero or superheroine you’ll likely want to look good, some girls (or guys) might want to look hot, which would reflect in their suit. But, this also means no clashing colors, elf shoes etc. etc. etc. all of which you can identify and learn more about on this article. Nevertheless, with every variation of character you’ll need to modify your take.
Generally, lighter and brighter colors should be used for more youthful characters, and darker gloomier colors for older, more serious characters. But aside from the specifics of each character you will have to decide for yourself, there are a few stereotypes in the looks of superheroine costumes you will want to avoid.
First and foremost, practicality, but we’ll have more on that later.
Second is that not every female in a story that’s supposed to be beautiful has to have skimpy clothing.
Sep 28 2013
Prisoners was highly entertaining and I think the writers did a good particularly good job portraying the families going through the kidnapping of their daughters. However, basically everything the police did in the movie was exceptionally Hollywood, so much so that it nearly turned the movie into an idiot plot. If you’re the sort of person that would be distracted by characters habitually acting stupidly to put themselves in suspenseful situations, this movie may not be for you.Pro tip: ace detectives should not hunt alone for serial killers. There must have been SOMEONE in his unit that was good enough to keep up with him… and have Thanksgiving dinner with him.
I think the best decisions in the writing/direction were in what they DIDN’T show (e.g. the kidnapping, the 911 call, the relative lack of emotional outbursts from family members, the way the movie ended, etc).
Anyway, the movie was extremely entertaining. If you like Homeland or Dexter even though they play really, really loose with realism, you’d probably find this movie very entertaining.
Sep 17 2013
The rivalries between superheroes and supervillains represents the battle between good and evil as a whole. It could be said that, without villains, there would be no heroes. Supervillains provide the opportunity for comic book characters with superpowers to become superheroes, as opposed to just regular everyday super people.
But would supervillains even exist without heroes to fight against? The answer is probably not. Heroes tend to either be born with their powers or gain them accidentally. Crime suddenly becomes a difficult way to make a living in whichever city they are based in. The simple solution would be to start a new, crime free, life. But with criminals being criminals, this never happens, leading to them taking often unethical steps to acquire comparable superpowers.
If superheroes create supervillains, then supervillains definitely keep superheroes relevant. Take Batman for example, without the Joker, a villain only he could handle, his uses would be limited. He could be replaced by a stronger police force or something to that effect.
Villains give their counterparts the chance to shine, heroes are pushed to greater accomplishments. Nobody wants to watch or read about an allpowerful hero who destroys all of their opponents quickly and easily. Having this happen can make the hero come across as a bully. Having a strong villain to test their wits against creates suspense and keeps the reader coming back for more.
Facing adversity allows our heroes to grow as characters and truly become superheroes. It is no coincidence that all of the most popular superheroes have become synonymous with their villains. Batman would be nothing without the Joker and Spiderman would be nothing without the Green Goblin. At the same time, the opposite is true.
Superheroes really do need their supervillains, and vice-versa.
Mark Enright is a comic book enthusiast and writer for GB Posters, a retailer of high quality posters.
Jun 27 2013
If you can spare a few dollars/pounds/euros, I would really appreciate it.
Jun 27 2013
Tony Stark has a drinking problem. And a broken heart. Peter Parker is a nerd. Superman has daddy issues. And Bruce Wayne? Where do you start?
These are our heroes. And we learn about their addictions and predilections, their agendas and vendettas over the course of hundreds of issues, creating a tableau of identity that evolves over the span of years, or even decades. But in any one issue we are given only a snapshot of their character, another piece of the puzzle that we have to thread together ourselves, week by week.
Not so in a novel. The novel is a tapestry in itself. All the threads already stitched together so the reader can unravel it, page by page.
It doesn’t take a genius (or even a writer) to figure out how such a dramatic difference in form can impact a superhero narrative. What’s interesting, however, is exploring how authors of superhero novels can use the boon of all those extra pages to revise, and sometimes even pervert the norms of comics as a genre.
The comic book, by its very nature, is plot driven (which is not to immediately suggest that many novels aren’t). This is simply a matter of real estate. Geniuses that they are, comic writers and artists are capable of cramming all the conventions of good story telling into cramped panels, but when it comes to the more nuanced issues of theme or character development they often must engage in a type of literary guerilla warfare—a hit and run of suggestions and asides, because as soon as you turn the page, somebody’s going to have to “do what they do best.” Action is paramount, and for every moment of pathos where our hero reveals his innermost fears, desires, etc. there are three more where he opens up a can of Snikt-brand whoop-arse. This is to be expected. It’s what gives the genre its returning weekly audience.
A superhero novel, on the other hand, has fewer limitations and a much wider repertoire of conventions to draw from; after all, the history of the novel and the sheer number of books vastly dwarfs its glossy-covered counterpart. This allows for a multiplicity of purpose that can be both daunting and exhilarating to a writer.
Jun 24 2013
Sidekicked is a superhero novel about a sidekick who’s got just enough superpowers to get everybody killed and the various forces trying to screw him (e.g. a possibly nefarious superhero/spymaster, a squad of supervillains hell-bent on revenge, and whoever named him “The Sensationalist”). Here’s what writers can learn from it and how it could improve your writing.
–The team dynamic was unusually believable and three-dimensional. In particular, the conflicts between the sidekicks and their sort-of-spymaster boss were more satisfying because both sides of the conflict were somewhat likable and sympathetic. Instead of just having the kids fight with Hardass Drill Instructors, for example, the spymaster instead grilled them during debriefings about various decisions and mistakes. It raised the stakes for their superheroics (e.g. not noticing that someone reeks of mind-control chemicals and/or explosives could make for a really bad day).
–I love the idea of a team leader bringing in an outside superhero because he thinks the team is lacking in some way. It’s a very promising way to create a dramatic conflict between the team and the new guy (and perhaps between the team and the leader). It also helps develop the character more quickly than just randomly adding someone because the team wanted an extra person.
–The characterization was not very groundbreaking… For example, the main character is generally a stereotypically ordinary teen who gets relatively few opportunities to make decisions that any other young superhero wouldn’t have made in the same place. Generally, I’d recommend giving your characters more opportunities to stand out from the crowd because it’ll help make them more memorable. For example, this main character gets a kickass scene with a cop car and is unusually gutsy when confronting a deadbeat hero. Both are a great start.
–The main character’s voice/dialogue is interesting enough that I think most readers can let his personality slide. E.g. “[If my identity got leaked] I’d have to tell my parents everything… even about mixing nitroglycerin in the bathroom sink.”
“At least ten weeks [until my arm heals up],” Mike said… “I asked [our boss] if we could just chop it off and get me one of those cybernetics jobs like Cryos has?”…
Cryos has this killer cybernetic arm… It was pretty awesome. If Mike got one of those, I’d catapult myself down the stairs until my own arm broke off.
–The story was usually most interesting when the superheroes were improvising. For example, mixing nitroglycerin in your parents’ sink is far more memorable than mixing it up in a secret lab that is actually suited for mixing nitroglycerin. Hot-wiring a police cruiser is more interesting than having a Batmobile, especially given that the “driver” can’t actually drive and the “hot-wirer” is an electrical superhero with explosively imprecise powers.
–I can’t speak for the target audience (grades 3-7), but I felt like the non-superheroics elements could have been incorporated in a more interesting and coherent way. For example, right after a terrifying supervillain breaks his gang out of prison, I would not recommend cutting to an uneventful flashback of a middle school romance. I’d recommend instead incorporating that sort of information into scenes which somehow develop the central plot moving forward, so that it feels more coherent with the hunt for the supervillain. For example, see how X-Men: First Class used a romance between Mystique and Beast to advance a critical plot arc about mutant self-acceptance or how the romance between Bob and Helen in The Incredibles influences their major decisions.
–Refreshingly non-stupid for a work aimed at this target audience. I’d feel a lot more comfortable using Sidekicked than Captain Underpants in a (say) 4th grade classroom.
–I think the book skews considerably older than the target audience. If the author had removed all of the lines where the characters’ age or grade were mentioned, I would have guessed the main characters was 16-18. It doesn’t have any of the focuses I’d associate most with tween audiences (e.g. an emphasis on fitting in and/or being socially acceptable, academic angst like too much homework or a nasty teacher, and low-stakes conflicts with siblings or parents).
–The book has fun with superhero tropes without getting too ridiculous. For example, although a few of the side-villains were a bit wacky, it never felt at all like the work was either aimed at idiots or written by someone who sort of hated superhero stories. For example, in introducing a new side-villain, the main character helpfully notes that “I have no idea what his deal is, though anyone who dresses up like a bumblebee and carries around a rocket launcher is obviously several eggs short of a carton.” In comparison, if a superhero’s facing off against (say) Sticky Glue Man, the villain probably feels so pathetic that 1) there’s no danger, 2) it doesn’t matter whether the hero wins, and 3) both the heroes and the villain lose the reader’s attention.
–The dweeb vs. jock conflict could be fresher. Fortunately, it’s a pretty minor plot arc, and the target audience probably isn’t old enough to have seen hundreds of these stories yet.
–I like that the character’s superhero name only comes up a few times, especially given that the name is a bit hard to use in conversation (“The Sensationalist”). The name isn’t a huge deal, so I wouldn’t recommend spending hours on this when you’re writing your own manuscripts, but here I would have recommended something a bit shorter, perhaps Keen or Sharply.
–CHICAGOANS DO NOT USE THE PHRASE “WICKED COOL.” For your handy reference, here are some phrases you’ll hear in Chicago but not Boston:
On the plus side, Kid Colt sounded a lot more believable (to this Chicago-area layman with very little exposure to Western or Southern accents).
May 25 2013
New writers have a tendency to focus so much on their character development that they forget that the right setting can be just as important. Setting provides a picture for a reader, without which your characters are flying through nothingness. Action and drama mean very little without interaction between the characters and their environment so, in the right circumstances, a well-established setting can become a character in its own right. Think of Hogwarts, where the staircases are just as likely to move as the people walking on them, a flying car that saves the protagonist from his enemies and the hidden caverns and passages which not only help move plot along but which often interface with the characters too. It is this intelligent use of setting that sets your work apart from average writers and makes your work truly readable and re-readable.
“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”
–J K Rowling
Setting can be magical without the presence of magic though. If you’ve ever visited the ancient ruins of a castle, you will know that age brings with it a sense of history and stories unknown. So as your character stumbles across a castle in the night, a hundred feet tall all around, its harsh grey stone covered in green and gold lichen which reflects the moonlight and all but one window dark, you are able to bring about a sense of age and vastness, a sense of mystery and majesty. Similarly, if you’ve ever found yourself in an exotic plant store, there is something about the bizarre, unknown vegetation that demonstrates you don’t need a tree that takes a swing at you as you pass to give a fantastical element to the setting. In the shade of leaning palms, your character finds escape from the arid heat. Winding your way along an isolated trail in the Amazon rainforest, the flora and fauna hold a great deal of surprises, distractions, obstacles and dangers which can be relevant to the progress of your story. Familiarity is what causes something to become clichéd. As long as you stay fresh and thoughtful about your setting then you won’t fall into this trap.
Apr 28 2013
When mapping out any kind of superheroic narrative, a consideration has to be made that is not often an aspect of other types of stories, and by that I mean you have to determine power level, or maybe we should say Power Level, since so many superheroic concepts work better with capitals.
This is not just a concern of traditional “long underwear” types of superhero stories either. Really, any story in which characters are differentiated from the usual run of people in their setting by powers above and beyond the norm can be termed a superhero story. This can be a movie script, a story or novel, a comic, or even a roleplaying game. Before you ever start plotting, you should decide on what kinds of power level your characters will transact, and that starts with the setting itself.
Mar 22 2013
Who am I?
Hello, I am Proxie, and I am a… ahem, a Marine in southern California. I try to defy the laws of physics and avoid the use of as much language as possible.
What am I writing?
I have two “great works” in the, well, in the works. The first is actually under another screen name I had on here for a while, WinsloWMudd, but you can look there for THAT synopsis. This other thing I’, working on is sort of a Supernatural Mystery with elements of horror added in…not arbitrarily i might add.
This is a story of one woman who tries to return home to her family after having estranged herself for years, but must first save it from the people she believes will endanger it. The only thing is, her family may be just as involved in the web of lies as the enemy themselves.
Who is my target audience?
My target audience is going to be fairly flexible, I think. I know that I grew up on mysteries, even though every character was almost ten times my age. But if I had to but an age or a group to it, I would say it would be late high-school or older
I am going to begin posting different character summaries and plots/subplots soon. I can be really busy sometimes, but I will try to post at least one thing a day…
Mar 09 2013
Short version: Dr. Short at the University of Oklahoma conducted a study which found that graphic novels helped students learn material more easily and were preferred by 80% of the students. You can enroll for free here to test whether they are more effective for you.
Here’s an example of the study incorporating visual cues to make business-school material easier to learn/understand:
If you’d like to see for yourself, please enroll for their free option here:
I’m definitely in; diagrams and other visual cues really helped me in school, especially in understanding complex processes with distinct phases like the Krebs Cycle in biology and the earmarking process in congressional budgeting.
Mar 05 2013
We live in a world where technology has taken over our lives and it has got to the point where it is saving lives but where did this notion of technology saving lives come from, the answer is superheroes. Many people think of superheroes as a comic book character but there is more to them than meets the eye. Have you ever studied the abilities and power they have? If not, then this infographic below will show you what the real value of their powers and abilities are and how it can influence life in the real world.
From DC Comics to Marvel characters, these characters have influenced the growth of technology. The U.S army for instance has looked to them as role models when developing super human soldiers. The “Iron Man” soldiers are just one form of technological advancements and as you shall see in this real superhero powered infographic it has been a wise investment. Much research goes into developing powered technology and armour suits and this has inspired the medical community to develop products that will help those with disabilities. Superheroes have even influenced the digital world we live in, no one would have thought that Tupac would return from the dead through a hologram, but he did through the inspiration of the Green Lantern from DC Comics.
The world incorporates many super humans and through some real training and parkour movements you could be the next superhero.
Continue Reading »
Feb 28 2013
I’m currently writing a page for a U.S. company which is targeting business worldwide. At one point, we have a form which asks for a “ZIP code” rather than a “postal code” or “postcode.” As far as I’m aware, only the U.S. and the Philippines use the phrase “ZIP code.” Would the phrase “zip code” be hard to understand and/or annoying for many international readers? It seems like it could be a problem. Then again, I have been pleasantly flummoxed before–while writing a proposal for The Taxman Must Die, I asked ~20 international readers if they knew what the IRS was, and almost all of them did (including several readers too young to have paid income taxes). Apparently antipathy for taxmen is global.
I categorized this post as “Questions, Frequently-Asked and Otherwise.” Umm… definitely otherwise, I think.
Jan 27 2013
1. Bank robberies with faceless criminals that never had a chance of accomplishing anything. If you’re mainly including this scene to give the superhero(es) a chance to show off their powers, I would recommend reevaluating whether anything is at stake and whether the scene actually contributes anything to the story. For example, Dark Knight’s opening bank robbery does a really good job developing the Joker and the main antagonist-vs.-antagonist conflict, even though the main character is not at stake.
2. Any scene featuring more or less helpless antagonists. If your superhero’s opponents cannot challenge him, there’s probably very little at stake, which means that the fight will create very little suspense. Some possible solutions:
3. Confrontations between protagonists which hinge on a protagonist(s) being irredeemably stupid. Particularly with protagonist-vs-protagonist conflicts, I’d recommend making both characters at least somewhat sympathetic. For example, in The Dark Knight, both Lucius and Batman have a likable reason to oppose each other on the use of a cutting-edge tracking system. In contrast, if one (or worse, both) sides are wildly dumb and/or childish (e.g. see Batman & Robin), the conflict is more likely to make readers want to brain everybody involved and throw the story in a fire.
3.1. “I hate you because I’m one-dimensionally evil and/or stupid.” Common offenders: abusive parents, bullies, and Jim Crow stand-ins (e.g. more or less every non-mutant in X-Men). If you have to demote characters to mind-numbing unlikability, I’d recommend doing so sparingly. For a potential solution here, I’d recommend checking out how Homeland and The Wire treated mostly unsympathetic antagonists (terrorists and drug dealers, respectively) with some degree of human empathy. It made them feel more believable and the conflicts against them more satisfying.
4. Any scene where the main character does the same thing(s) 95%+ of other superheroes would have done. Give your characters more chances to be original. For example, in a particular scene, is there anything the superhero does or says which is really unique? If not, I’d recommend reevaluating the character development (so that the characters have more unusual traits to act on) and/or reworking the plot so that the characters have more chances to demonstrate these traits. For example, if you have a superhero who is uncommonly loyal to his friends, you could make his/her loyalty more memorable by developing friends that many superheroes would not be loyal to. In Point of Impact, the main character is a fugitive that risks his life breaking his dog’s corpse out of an FBI-guarded morgue. The scene develops the character very effectively–he risks himself for honor in a way that almost no protagonist would have and it establishes how isolated he is (the dog is the closest thing the protagonist had to friends or family).
5. Any funeral scene so generic that 95% of the words could apply to 95% of superheroes. E.g. “Captain Awesome was a great hero who risked himself for us on so many occasions” while teammates sob about how hard it is that he’s gone. Boohoohoo, nobody cares. I’d strongly recommend moving towards more distinctive scenes–e.g. you can focus instead on teammates/friends/family sharing memorable stories showing us what kind of person the fallen superhero was, and that would help readers genuinely care on their own that he’s gone. I’d recommend staying away from eulogies, especially by faceless extras–it’s generally not the best approach to making your funeral scene memorable.
5.1. Any funeral scene where the character isn’t actually dead*. Personally, I’d probably lean towards a quick rejection on an unsolicited manuscript here–the scene (and the death arc in general) is probably a waste of time. Also, this is very cliche–see pretty much every comic book funeral. For best-selling superheroes, it’s sort of justifiable because actually killing the character would leave millions of dollars on the table. Most unsolicited manuscripts don’t have that excuse.
5.2. Undoing death. Unkilling a hero means that death doesn’t actually matter, which tends to ruin action scenes. If death is temporary, there are no stakes to losing — it doesn’t matter whether your characters win or lose a fight. That’s much less interesting than characters that actually have something to worry about. If you want to kill a character, please be brave enough to make it stick. Alternately, just take it out. As a last resort, if you’re absolutely committed to resurrecting a character, I’d recommend setting some hard limit (e.g. the destruction of the time machine or whatever was used to unkill the character) so that readers know that this cop-out was absolutely just a one-time thing and will not happen again.
Exception: The readers know the funeral’s not real. E.g. characters holding a fake funeral to convince an enemy that the hero is no longer a threat. This is more promising because you’re not asking readers to be emotionally invested in a supposed death which won’t actually go anywhere.
Jan 14 2013
Will Beall, the screenwriter for the upcoming Justice League movie, just had his first movie (Gangster Squad) out. It averaged 33% on Rotten Tomatoes (thanks to “lackluster writing and underdeveloped characters”) and disappointed at the box office. I think this bodes poorly for the JL movie.
I’m lowering my Rotten Tomatoes prediction for Justice League from 30-45% to 25-35%.
PS: Speaking of box office results this week, the three top-performing theaters for Zero Dark Thirty (a movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden) were within 5 miles of the CIA headquarters in Langley, VA.
Jan 13 2013
I won’t mince words: this movie was generally disastrous, juvenile, and the plot was driven by idiocy. However, the final confrontation between the hero and the villain is incredible–the best of any Pixar movie. If you need help writing a more interesting climax to your story, I’d recommend checking it out.
Here’s a spoiler-laden breakdown of the scene:
Here’s a few reasons this makes for an incredible scene:
Jan 13 2013
Silverfish: “I’m writing a novel about facing your fears and learning from your past mistakes. The story is told from the perspective of a superhuman with incredible power, but a flawed personality and with much to learn. He is chased by the demons from his past: not only the hauntings from his past mistakes, but also the superhuman cult he has recently betrayed. At least at the start, a lot of the updates on this forum will be character and setting development.”
“My target audience: 16-20 year olds that enjoy action with moments of emotional turmoil. This will probably be targeted more towards a more stereotypical male audience, as I do not intend on including a romance throughout the novel, and the violence might be quite graphic.”
“Author experience: I have no professional experience in writing, though I definitely need to improve my writing skills as they are, put mildly, bad. Therefore, I would ask that you please be polite, but do criticise my work when needed.”
Please see the comments below to learn more.
Jan 08 2013
Especially if you’re interested in historical fiction, I’d recommend checking these infographics for a better idea of how much harder it was to move hundreds or thousands of miles before railroads were widely available.