Archive for July, 2008

Jul 17 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Help the Reader Suspend His Disbelief

Published by under Writing Articles

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.

I read a story today that started with the sentence “This story has to begin with a small lesson in geography.”  First, starting a story with a geography lesson will earn you an instant rejection (see question #8 under the fantasy subheading).  But I was almost as annoyed by the self-referential “this story.”  When you remind the reader he’s reading a book, it’s harder for him to immerse himself in the fantasy.

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Jul 17 2008

Your Title is Bad, but You Can Fix It (Part 2)

Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.

Above Average

  1. The Merchant of Venison. This title does a remarkably good job of identifying the story as a Shakespeare parody. Also, it was the only title this week to get me to chuckle.
  2. Dogs in Clogs. This was a real head-scratcher and failed to foreshadow the plot in any meaningful way, but was invitingly weird.
  3. Creeping Death. It foreshadows the story and tone well. If I were rewriting it, I’d make it more subtle and less cliché.

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21 responses so far

Jul 16 2008

How to Write Titles

Published by under Art,Titles,Writing Articles

This article gives nine tips to writing a title that grips readers and sells your book.

1. Tell us enough about the book to make us want to read it.This is what separates bland, forgettable titles like The Dragon from classics like His Majesty’s Dragon. The more we can surmise about the plot, the better.

2. Do not use imaginary place names.Readers haven’t heard of Asgardia, Lukawanda, or whatever your fictional kingdom or city is called.Your invented words won’t interest us because they don’t mean anything to us.I think the place names most appealing to prospective readers are those that use English words, like the Temple of Doom. We can guess what a temple of doom is.
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494 responses so far

Jul 16 2008

Your Title is Bad But You Can Fix It (Part 1)

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.

Above Average

  1. One Brown-Haired Girl With A Stick. This title slaps readers across the face and dares them to start reading.
  2. A Labyrinth of Entrails. This story easily bests its horror competitors with comically gruesome imagery.
  3. Moral Issues Aside. This has potential, but I think it would help to identify its genre and subgenre or add details about the plot. For example, “Moral Issues Aside, It’s Time For You to Die” or “Moral Issues Aside, Killing My Boss is a Bad Business Move.”

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26 responses so far

Jul 16 2008

Webcomic Issue #8: Agent Orange and the Hospital of Doom

Published by under Comedy,Comic Books,Webcomic

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4 responses so far

Jul 15 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Avoid Bad Accents

Published by under Voice,Writing Articles

Just because a character has an accent doesn’t mean he has to ruin all of his scenes. This article describes how to keep your characters from sounding like Hagrid.

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25 responses so far

Jul 15 2008

Manuscript Killers: Part-Time Dragons

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31 responses so far

Jul 14 2008

Don’t Start Sentences with Empty Interjections

When an interjection like “well” starts a sentence, it’s usually wasted space.  If you start sentences with any of these common offenders, double-check to make sure that they actually contribute something to the sentence.  Otherwise, please remove them.

  1. Well
  2. You know
  3. Oh
  4. Like
  5. Umm
  6. OK
  7. I mean
  8. Seriously
  9. Basically
  10. Yeah

4 responses so far

Jul 14 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Avoid Looking Backwards

Don’t have your characters spend too much time musing about events that have already happened in the story.

When characters are preoccupied with something that’s already happened, the author has probably lost track of where the story is going. You can give your story forward momentum by drawing our attention to what’s just around the corner. If someone tried to kill the protagonist yesterday, we will care more about what the assassins are planning for tomorrow than what the character thinks about the attack today.

If you are interested in building on what has already happened in the story, it will probably be more effective to try to have your characters investigate the mystery. But an investigation is very different than just musing with your friends and confidantes. An investigation will add evidence, either by looking for clues or trying to get witnesses to talk. Investigations are superior to musing because the search for information adds more to the story than just talking about what has already happened. (There’s also more potential for conflict, particularly if someone’s trying to sabotage the search).

Here are a few common scenarios that frequently lead to characters musing about the past.

  1. Musing about the death of a loved one, particularly one that  sacrificed himself to save the protagonist.
  2. Romantic failures.
  3. “Why me!?!”

6 responses so far

Jul 14 2008

An Exercise to Help Write Better Settings

The Associated Press describes a California town that is so xenophobic that it has a vigilante “Border Patrol” tear down all the road signs that might help motorists find it. What a delightfully gruesome detail. Would you like a writing assignment? Write a detail that describes a fundamental flaw of a place or character. The more flavor, the better.

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Jul 12 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Don’t Use Your Hometown as a Setting

Published by under Setting,Writing Articles

Conclusion 1: Don’t set a story in your hometown or place of birth.

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3 responses so far

Jul 12 2008

Webcomic Issue #7: Black’s First Assignment

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Jul 11 2008

A few questions for opinionated authors

The authors that try to present political or religious opinions usually confuse their opinions with insights. How is your message different from what people have already heard about abortion? For example, your readers have already heard many people chant “abortion is good” and “abortion is bad.” Is your story just another voice in the chorus or will it actually add something? Why will anyone care about your opinion? Do you have any unique perspective on the subject material? Do you have relevant professional or scholarly experience? Are you personally affected by the issue? Etc.

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9 responses so far

Jul 11 2008

Comedy Tip of the Day: Don’t Use Laugh-tracks

Authors shouldn’t tell cue their readers to laugh. Consider the following comedic exchange. “What’s the difference between the Yankees bullpen and Pizza Hut?” asked John. Mary shrugged. “Pizza Hut delivers,” said John. They laughed. “They laughed” cues the readers to laugh at John’s joke.

That’s insulting to your readers. If your comedy is effective, readers will know when to laugh. Reminding them to laugh at something that wasn’t funny to them will just draw their attention to ineffective writing.

Here are some situations that are usually examples of laugh-tracking:

  1. When a character laughs at a joke, particularly his own. Seriously, who laughs at his own jokes?
  2. When a character says something like “that’s funny.”
  3. In certain circumstances, when a character cracks a smile. (This is forgivable if the character’s reaction to the joke is significant to the plot).
  4. “Touché.”
  5. “I walked into that one.”

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Jul 11 2008

A true conversation between a prosecutor and prospective juror

Published by under Comedy

According to TV Tropes, the CSI Effect is “the growing tendency of juries to refuse to convict if the prosecution fails to provide comprehensive crime scene analysis, even in trivial cases,” because of the influence of forensic crime scene dramas. Now, prosecutors sometimes try to weed out jurors that have watched CSI. That’s where conversations like this one come from…

Prosecutor: Have you ever watched CSI before?

Prospective Juror: Yes.

Prosecutor: Do you think crime scene investigation really works like that?

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Jul 11 2008

Dr. McNinja

Published by under Webcomic

Although I think the name comes off as a kitschy attempt at Real Ultimate Power, ultimately I think Dr. McNinja is far superior to RUP.  Plus, because McNinja is a webcomic, it has graphics.  Suitably badass graphics, of course.

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Jul 10 2008

11 Examples of Gimmicky Writing

Published by under Writing Articles

Gimmicky writing is when a writer tries something “new” that annoys readers, rather than actually giving a better reading experience.

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6 responses so far

Jul 10 2008

Five More Mistakes of First-Time Authors (#26-30)

This short article will help beginning novelists avoid another five common mistakes that will usually cause publishers to throw out a manuscript.

You can read the first three articles in this series here, here and here.

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24 responses so far

Jul 09 2008

Webcomic #6: What’s in a Name? (Usually Not ‘Certain Death’)

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One response so far

Jul 09 2008

Five More Mistakes of First-Time Authors (#21-25)

This short article will help beginning novelists avoid another five common mistakes that will usually cause publishers to throw out a manuscript.

You can read the first three articles in this series here, here and here.

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12 responses so far

Jul 08 2008

Life Imitates Comic Books

Published by under USAgent

U.S. Agent Fires at 3 in Sleepy Town on Quebec-Vermont Border

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Jul 07 2008

Cliche Superhero Characters: National Paragons (“Captain Ethnic”)

One common superhero archetype is the national paragon, a hero designed to represent a country, ethnic group or other group of people.  The most obvious example is Captain America, but the list is long.  For example, Hadji from Johnny Quest exists only to charm snakes and hack computers.  (Also, have I mentioned that “haji” is an ethnic slur?)

Here is a list of potential problems with using national paragons…

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4 responses so far

Jul 06 2008

Superhero Nation Webcomic #5: Jim’s House of Lies (Don’t Forget the Extended Warranty!)

FIRST COMICPREVIOUS COMICNEXT COMIC

FIRST COMICPREVIOUS COMICNEXT COMIC

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One response so far

Jul 05 2008

Bad Authorial Excuse of the Day

Published by under Comedy,Writing Articles

Reviewer: I like your work, but I think that [some aspect of your writing] is flawed.

Author: Oh, that? I meant to do that.

Reviewer: Ahh… do you think you could fix it?

Author: But that would ruin the style of the piece!

Deliberately inflicting substandard writing on your story for “stylistic” or “literary” purposes is usually a prelude to rejection. If your reviewers were able to discern that it was either stylish or literary, they wouldn’t be complaining about it.

Here are a few areas that are especially prone to intentionally bad writing…

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Jul 05 2008

Hellboy Quotes + Gunfire = Funny Hellboy Quotes?

The Hellboy Quote Generator is out, although it has been technically unreliable. On a comedy scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this a 5: amusing but uneven. It’s a well-done piece of viral advertising, though. (“Let me put this to you as delicately as I can.” *BANG*)

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One response so far

Jul 04 2008

Webcomic Issue #4: Jim’s Gunz ‘n Mattresses

Have a happy 4th of July!

FIRST COMICPREVIOUS COMICNEXT COMIC

FIRST COMICPREVIOUS COMICNEXT COMIC

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2 responses so far

Jul 03 2008

We broke 25,000 hits for 2008 today!

Thanks for coming.

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Jul 03 2008

Mulling Over a New Introduction

I submitted a potential rewrite of our introduction to the Critters Writing Workshop. It’s very short (2 pages) and I expect that we’ll eventually expand it to about 5. Currently, it’s rated PG-13 for adult language, but we’re considering modifying it to PG.

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2 responses so far

Jul 03 2008

Superhero Nation’s Exam for Novelists

Like The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, we’ve written a list of questions to help you identify problems with your writing. Continue Reading »

239 responses so far

Jul 03 2008

After I take over the world, I will shove Google into a fiery pit of hurt

Published by under Comedy

I did a Google search for “bad superhero writing” and Superhero Nation was the top result. Screw you, Google!

[B. Mac] Speaking of Google, it decided to celebrate the 4th of July on its front-page today, which is slightly unexpected because instead of national holidays, they usually focus on holidays like Earth Day that are equally unimportant everywhere.

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