Feb 24 2008

Index: Writing Guides

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.

How to Improve Your Characters

  1. How to Introduce Major Characters
  2. How to Name Characters (Superheroes and Otherwise)
  3. How to Save Mary Sues (Insufficiently-Challenged Characters)
  4. How to Develop Interesting Characters
  5. 15 Interesting Motivations for Villains and Heroes
  6. A List of Character Attributes
  7. Writing Male Characters
  8. Please Don’t Model Your Characters on Your Friends
  9. Don’t Make Your Villains Unnecessarily Evil
  10. Why Secret Origins Usually Fail (“Leia’s my sister!?!”)
  11. How to Make Your Character’s Job Interesting
  12. How to Use Characters with Mental Disorders
  13. Don’t Let Minor Characters Steal the Show
  14. How to Make a Character Likable
  15. Please Don’t Use Generically Nice Characters
  16. Writing Villains Vs. Writing Heroes
  17. How to Make Your Love Interest a Real Character (Banana Slug)
  18. Be Careful With Crying Characters (Marissa)
  19. Female Characters: Awful Vs. Awesome


How to Improve Your Titles

  1. Is Your Title Stylish Enough?
  2. 10 Common Mistakes of Novel Titles
  3. Even More Ways to Blow a Title
  4. How to Write Titles That Sell (Novels and Chapters)
  5. Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 1)
  6. Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 2)
  7. Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 3)
  8. Your Title is Bad… (Part 4)
  9. Your Title is Bad… (Part 5)
  10. Your Title is Bad… (Part 6)
  11. Your Title is Bad… (Part 7)
  12. Your Title is Bad… (Part 8 )
  13. Your Title is Bad… (Part 9)
  14. Your Title is Bad… (Part 10)


Introductions and Prologues
  1. Prologue Tips
  2. How to Write Excellent First Lines
  3. How to Survive to Page 2
  4. The Five Worst Novel Introductions
  5. How to Write Strong Introductions (Novels)
  6. Don’t Wait to Introduce Your Main Character


Structuring Your Story

  1. Writing a Novel’s Synopsis
  2. End Your Chapters With a Bang
  3. Chapter Checklist
  4. Organizing Your Story With Cause and Effect
  5. How to Handle Backstory
  6. How to Do Multiple Narrators and POVs With Style
  7. How to Convey Information the POV Doesn’t Have
  8. Be Careful with Sequels
  9. Common Problems with First-Person Narration
  10. Common Problems with Third-Person Narration
  11. Organizing Your Plot: Five Kinds of Central Plots
  12. Story Structure
  13. Cover Your Plot Holes– It Might Be Hilarious


Becoming a Professional Writer

  1. Eight Facts About Writing That Surprise Inexperienced Novelists
  2. Another Eight Facts About Writing That Surprise Inexperienced Novelists
  3. Why Is It So Important for Authors to Read Widely?
  4. Rules of Professional Behavior
  5. Mental Issues in the Workplace
  6. Think Like an Editor (Marissa)
  7. How to Communicate with Agents and Editors


Plotting and Pacing

  1. How to Build Coherent Transitions Between Scenes
  2. Start Your Story As Everything Goes Wrong
  3. When the Villain Beats the Heroes, Don’t Just Let Them Go
  4. Make Your Story Interesting with Urgent Goals
  5. Automatically Generate a (Goofy) Plot
  6. Your Introduction Should Not Read Like an Atlas
  7. Don’t Let Your Characters Walk Away from the Story
  8. How to Make Traveling Interesting
  9. How to Beat Disbelief and Immerse Readers
  10. Plot Elements That Should Not Be Added Lightly
  11. How to Avoid Info-Dumping
  12. Training Scenes


How to Avoid Common Writing Mistakes

  1. 5 Common Mistakes of First-Time Authors (Part 1)
  2. 5 Common Mistakes of First-Time Authors (Part 2)
  3. 5 Common Mistakes of First-Time Authors (Part 3)
  4. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 4)
  5. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 5)
  6. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 6)
  7. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 7)
  8. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 8 )
  9. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 9)
  10. 5 Common Mistakes… (Part 10)
  11. If You’re A First-Time Author, Do Not Self-Publish!



  1. Dialogue Checklist
  2. How to Use Dialogue Tags Effectively
  3. Common Dialogue Mistakes
  4. Keep Your Dialogue Tight
  5. How to Punctuate Dialogue
  6. Please Don’t Use Bad Accents


Other Writing Mechanics and Miscellaneous

  1. How to Write Memorably
  2. How to Beat Writer’s Block
  3. Don’t Quit Your Day Job!
  4. Show, Don’t Tell
  5. How to Write Gripping Scenes
  6. Write Concisely!
  7. Eliminate Gimmicks in Your Writing
  8. Don’t Abuse “There’s”
  9. 9 Words That Usually Shouldn’t Start a Sentence
  10. A Few Notes on Punctuation
  11. Make Your Story Intriguing, Not Cryptic
  12. How to Do Settings and Scenery Well
  13. Don’t Tell Readers What the Character Isn’t Doing


Learning Writing Skills from Published/Aired Works


Genre Writing and Resources

  1. ANYTHING SUPERHERO: How to Make Interesting Headquarters for Superheroes and Villains
  2. FANTASY OR SUPERHERO ACTION: How to Keep Your Superpowers and/or Magic Extraordinary
  3. ACTION: How to Pace an Action Scene
  4. ROMANCE: Common Pitfalls of Romance (ReTARDised Whovian)
  5. ROMANCE: How to Make Your Love Interest a Real Character (Banana Slug)
  6. COMEDY: How to Write Comedy
  7. COMEDY: How to Write Parodies (Tom)
  8. DETECTIVE/MYSTERY: Probing for Inconsistencies


Research and Resources
  1. A Writer’s Guide to Guns and Firearms
  2. 7 Things Guns Cannot Actually Do
  3. An Introduction to Bounty Hunting


Editing and Refining Your Work

  1. It’s Okay If Your First Draft Sucks
  2. How to Take Criticism Well
  3. Applying “Rules” of Writing to Your Work
  4. Twenty Questions to Ask Before Submitting Your Story
  5. 100 Questions to Test Your Story
  6. Style Checklist
  7. How to Make the Most of Beta Reviews


Getting Published and Self-Publishing

  1. Length Guidelines: How Long Should Your Novel Manuscript Be Before You Submit It?
  2. How to Format a Novel Manuscript
  3. How Novel Manuscripts are Evaluated
  4. Why Do Good Manuscripts Get Rejected?
  5. How Long Does It Take to Get a Novel Professionally Published?
  6. 10 Reasons Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected
  7. List of Instant Rejections
  8. Teresa Hayden’s List of Novel Rejections
  9. 16 Reasons Your Novel Manuscript Got Rejected Before Page 1
  10. Will Your Manuscript Survive to Page 2?
  11. Will Your Manuscript Survive to Page 20?
  12. What is a Query? How Do I Write One?
  13. Sharpen Your Story With a Two Sentence Synopsis
  14. More Two-Sentence Synopsis Tips
  15. Marcus Hart Explains: How to Self-Publish
  16. How Much Will It Cost You to Self-Publish?
  17. Why First-Time Authors Should Not Even Think About Self-Publishing
  18. Why Self-Publishing Might Work for You


Target Audience

  1. How to Write for Kids (Tom)
  2. How to Write for Kids (B. Mac)
  3. Your Readers Are Not the Same as You!
  4. Market Trends: Teen Literature is Selling Quite Well


Social Commentary in Fiction

  1. So You Want to be an Opinionated Author
  2. Writing About Racism

29 responses so far

29 Responses to “Index: Writing Guides”

  1. idraaxon 13 Nov 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Your article on how to make traveling interesting did not come up for me. It said post not found. Did you take it down?

  2. B. Macon 13 Nov 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Ah, thanks. I’ve fixed the link: How to Handle Travel-Scenes in a Novel.

  3. Rosegirlon 23 Mar 2011 at 9:01 am

    Would you be able to set up a review forum for me?

  4. B. Macon 23 Mar 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Sure, Rosegirl. I’ve set it up for you here. Right now, the summary I’ve used is “Rosegirl is working on a live-action superhero TV show,” but please feel to let me know if you’d like to try something else. (Like a few paragraphs laying out some of the major plot points, etc).

    Please bookmark the page for easy access.

  5. Sylaron 25 Jun 2011 at 10:19 am

    B. Mac, have you added anything new to your comic book section

  6. B. Macon 25 Jun 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I’d recommend checking the Writing Articles category. That’s a lot more current than this index is and almost all of the content is relevant to comic book writers.

  7. Hotrod198on 09 Jul 2012 at 8:50 am

    Would you be able to write something on how to structure chapters and how long they should be? This is something I have trouble with and I’m sure a lot of other people do as well.

  8. A_mashon 11 Jul 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Wasnt there a link where you could post about the story your tryin to do havent been on Here in a whillle

  9. […] new website to get sucked in by – http://www.superheronation.com The website contains a great set of writing guides which had me absorbed for hours ! I worked my way […]

  10. Fixgooon 09 Jan 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Can i hav a review forum please b.mac

  11. […] Super Hero Nation’s Writing Post Index (dozens of excellent posts) […]

  12. […] […]

  13. Armond Hendersonon 07 Jul 2013 at 9:27 am

    Was wondering if you had any tips about writing a character waking up. Not going into their daily routine but just the sensations and feelings of waking up.

  14. B. McKenzieon 07 Jul 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Hello, Armond. “I was wondering if you had any tips about writing… the sensations and feelings of waking up.” Hmm. In most cases, I think waking up can be brushed over in 0-1 lines. Is there some unusual circumstance here that makes waking up an important part of this scene? (E.g. if someone had been paralyzed and woke up fully healed after a miracle surgery, the sensations of waking up would obviously be a big deal).

  15. Proxie#0on 19 Aug 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Hello B. Mac. Proxie here…even though you could probably read that.

    I was curious if you know of any sites similar to yours, except focused on the horror genre. I only ask because I have searched on Google for said similar sites, or just horror sites in general…but they are usually not very helpful.

  16. Aj of Earthon 09 Dec 2013 at 7:07 am

    Just a friendly nod – I’m sitting here this snowy Monday morning with a big mug of coffee reading and re-reading the articles and comments of this site. Once again I’m moved to say how awesome it all is. From the super (pun?haha) insightful articles on he mechanics of writing and heroics, to the great dialogues between like-minded folks…

    What a superb place, Superheronation.com. Two very enthusiastic/appreciative thumbs way up. 🙂

    Dig it like a snow day.


  17. Aon 15 Dec 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Do you think you could make a character development article for tips on developing characters?

  18. Jedon 10 Jul 2014 at 8:10 pm

    This site is great and helpful, but I want to know if there are any other websites that are dedicated to writing Sci Fi and Fantasy that also have review forums?

  19. B. McKenzieon 11 Jul 2014 at 10:52 pm

    “This site is great and helpful, but I want to know if there are any other websites that are dedicated to writing Sci Fi and Fantasy that also have review forums?” I’d recommend Critters Writing Workshop. It’s not specifically sci-fi/fantasy, but there are a substantial number of reviewers there that have been published in those fields.

  20. CDon 07 Aug 2014 at 5:40 am

    Hi, I want to create a story about a man who can absorb, for a period of time, a power of a fictional character. Would it be okay to use already established characters like ‘Batman’ or ‘Peter Pan’ without getting into any legal trouble?

  21. B. McKenzieon 13 Aug 2014 at 3:37 pm

    “Hi, I want to create a story about a man who can absorb, for a period of time, a power of a fictional character. Would it be okay to use already established characters like ‘Batman’ or ‘Peter Pan’ without getting into any legal trouble?” I believe there would be legal issues here. I believe the easiest solution would be selecting a superpower that doesn’t explicitly draw upon billion-dollar franchises.

  22. […] #3. Superhero Nation […]

  23. Commit2Happinesson 06 Mar 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Hey, love the site!

    Any suggestions for secret societies set in this world? Also having a difficult time with reasoning behind not telling the MC about said secret society… something to do with protecting MC but trying not to be cliche…

    -I really like some of this site’s fresh ideas (Especially the article with describing a magic user throwing a fire ball at an orc- how the smoke pools in the lungs) I would love to incorporate some fresh ideas like that into my own writing… Any suggestions on how to get better at that?

    Thanks- C2H

  24. B. McKenzieon 08 Mar 2015 at 9:50 am

    “Any suggestions for secret societies set in this world? Also having a difficult time with reasoning behind not telling the MC about said secret society… something to do with protecting MC but trying not to be cliche…” I’d suggest something more confrontational/adversarial. E.g. not telling the main character because they do not trust him and/or because anyone worth working with could figure it out on their own. At the very least, whatever information they share should be earned by the main character and distributed in pieces. E.g. just being a soldier does not entitle someone to all (or even most) of the classified information available to the army.

  25. Crosseon 17 Mar 2015 at 3:37 pm

    B. Mac, what would be your overall opinion of the characterization and usage of characters and abilities in the british tv show “Misfits?” While certainly going into the “darker” and “grittier” territory of super-powered television, I feel it also has some lessons, positive and negative, that can be learned from viewers aspring to begin their own writing.

    One major example from the third season [SPOILER]:

    The character with immortality/ressurection, Nathan, touts his ability to the villain. The villain then states that he has no intention of killing Nathan, and is instead going to effectively lobotomize him.

    The show, if nothing else, certainly has very effective ability-personality correlation:

    Curtis is a former star athlete who was caught in possession of cocaine and publicly shamed. Haunted by regret, he develops the power to turn back time when he feels incredible guilt.

    Simon, a shy, introverted and Genre Savvy young man who has been ignored and bullied all his life, develops the power to turn invisible.

    Kelly, mouthy, aggressive, and always worried about what people think of her, is granted the power of telepathy.

    Alisha, a shallow and vain party girl, who flaunts her sex appeal in order to use and abuse the men around her, develops the ability to inspire uncontrollable lust in anyone who touches her.

    Nathan, snarky jerkass, who much to his consternation does not seem to have a power. He does. His utter recklessness and lack of concern for consequences has made him lose his mortality.

  26. Writing Resources | Writing Radicallyon 04 Jul 2016 at 9:37 am

    […] Superhero Nation […]

  27. AjofEarthon 24 Apr 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Heh, is there a writing article for when you’ve been working for what feels like eternity and you’ve had way too much espresso and you want to take your manuscript and fling it into the air because it’s all you ever look at and worry it might be the only thing you ever look at for the rest of time when the only thing you want is for it to be finished and out of your face, oh my God, why isn’t this done yet?

    …Because I would just love to read that. =D

  28. Schuyleron 09 Jul 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Hey, didn’t you have an article on origin stories earlier? I can’t find it.

  29. B. McKenzieon 11 Jul 2018 at 12:32 am

    “Didn’t you have an article on origin stories earlier?” There are around 5. How to Write Superhero Origins and the List of Superhero Origins are probably the most read.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply