Archive for January 20th, 2008

Jan 20 2008

The Narrator Did Nothing to Deserve This! (Don’t Screw the Salaryman)

Published by under Comedy

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

On a whim, I was thinking about downloading the pilot to Bleach, which is a ghosts-and-spirits anime series, on  (It’s free).  Some quick observations:

  1. The preview sounded bad.  I decided not to download a free episode.
  2. The preview sounded so bad that I actually felt bad for the announcer/narrator, who had to use his Always-Excited Announcer/Narrator voice to deliver lines like “But when she touches him with her sword, Ichigo absorbs most of her power and he too be-comes a Soul Reaver.”  The narrator gamely tried his best to put an unusual inflection on random words, to distract us from how inane the plot sounds, but you can tell.  You can tell that he was really thinking “Sweet Christ, even the Sarah Connor Chronicles wasn’t this bad.”

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Jan 20 2008

Quote Set of the Day (January 20)

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.

–Friedrich Nietzsche

I save the day by wasting many, proving reptilian awesomeness. There, I only needed ten words.

–Agent Orange

You’re despicable.

–The Superhero Nation writing staff

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Jan 20 2008

Go figure

Published by under Superhero Nation

Today, the two cities leading the Superhero Nation readership board (in terms of total time spent reading today) are both named London.

And Texas claims the top spot among the states for individual hits today. Previously, only California, Indiana and Illinois have seized a day.  (Most of SN’s contributors are Midwestern, so networking goes farther there).

Speaking of SN contributors, Gainsville, FL has the longest average reader time today. Mutated alligators everywhere thank you for your support and hope to see you at the games next season.

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Jan 20 2008

Common Superpower Problems

If you’re writing a superhero story, don’t let your superpowers fall into these traps.

1. The hero’s powers can’t be used creatively. Readers really want to be surprised, so it’s very important that the powers be versatile. If your character is only superstrong, you can only surprise them by using different things as weapons.  That gets tedious fast. (Watch a Superman or Dragon Ball Z fight scene). Test your superhero against some of these situations. Can he get through them in an unexpected way?

  • Distracting a guard.  (Cliche:  mental control, illusions and possibly telekinesis).
  • Nonviolently subduing a guard or cop (cliche:  mental control and/or hypnosis).
  • Preventing a building from falling (cliche:  superstrength, telekinesis).
  • Getting past a locked door (cliche:  teleportation, phasing, lockpicks, blowing open the wall).
  • Finding a password (cliche: anything electronic or electrical, beating it out of a bad guy).

2. The character’s limits are hard to grasp. In Heroes, a head wound will permanently kill the regenerating heroes, but a nuclear explosion won’t.  Huh?

3. The character’s strength fluctuates arbitrarily. Most Superman cartoons feature two battles. Superman will lose the first bout (to raise the stakes) but he’ll win the second.  He hasn’t gotten any stronger, so why does he wins the second time? That usually feels unsatisfying.

4. The superpowers are hard to understand. Ideally, you can explain each hero’s powers in a brief sentence.  “He has spider-powers, like slinging webs and climbing and sensing danger” is OK.  “She can control the weather” is even better.  Please stay away from heroes that have many unrelated superpowers.  What’s the connection between eye-beams, cold breath, flight, superstrength and x-ray vision?  It sort of works for Superman because readers are exposed to him, but it is likely to ruin a superhero story that is completely new to its readers.

5. He’s overpowered. Superman is the best example of this. He can only have interesting fights with supervillains. (Theoretically, he could fight thugs armed with kryptonite, but Superman limping around isn’t much of a fight). If your character is completely immune to bullets and other common weapons, it will be hard for you to challenge him.  Also, humans are vulnerable and we relate more to (somewhat) vulnerable heroes.

6. The hero’s superpowers ruin the drama. In particular, time travel, reading minds, erasing memories, and resurrection are particularly bad here.

  • Time travel:  if your hero can undo anything bad that happens, nothing will ever be dramatic.  “Why doesn’t he just go back in time?”
  • Reading minds: surprise, suspicion and uncertainty are all dramatic.  A story about a psychic is all-but-unable to use any of them.  (To some extent, lie-detection suffers from a similar problem).
  • Erasing memories:  this is probably the lamest way to protect a secret identity.  It will also confuse readers because we can’t keep track of who actually remembers what.
  • Resurrection:  if someone can bring people back from the dead, death will become banal and the action will suffer.  “He died, big deal.  Why don’t they just bring him back?”  This is almost as serious as time-travel.

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Jan 20 2008

Movie Trailers

Published by under Comedy

Vantage Point and Harold and Kumar 2 are on the board today.

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