Archive for September 20th, 2008

Sep 20 2008

Heroes jumps the shark… again

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.

The creator of Heroes said

In the second season I think we had some interesting things happen. You can’t really plan for the audience’s reaction to things and one of the things we found out was that the audience did not want to start slowly and build.

First, the show has been going on for two seasons.  Why does an action show need so much time to develop a plot that is far less complicated than Battlestar Galactica or Eureka?  Second, after introducing 10+ recurring characters in the first season, did Heroes really need to introduce another 5-10 characters?  No.

Finally, it seems that what we’re building up to is what they already did last season: a loosely linked assortment of heroes has to save the world from Something Really Bad.  That’s a premise that doesn’t lend itself well to repeats and tweaks.  The coincidences and contrivances were strained enough the first time, but it only gets worse as more and more characters have to be drawn into a badly uncohesive plot.

What I liked about the first season was the development of Hiro from a scarcely comprehensible desk-jockey into someone that could almost be confused for a badass geek.  Now Hiro has disappeared 500+ years into the past and we’re left with Peter (who makes Keanu Reeves look like a thespian) and a bunch of characters that have added virtually nothing to what the show has already done.   Add the crazy contrivances that Davis listed here and you get a show that’s at least half a season past watchable.  Unfortunately, it looks like the creator doesn’t have a clue what’s wrong.

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Sep 20 2008

How specific should a novel’s title be?

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

An e-mailer asks:

When you guys review titles, you frequently suggest that the title go farther to distinguish itself from other books with a similar setting.  For example, you said that the manuscript Questor failed to distinguish itself from other Roman stories, but how many Roman stories are there?  Why would you need to distinguish yourself within such a small subset of books?

Thanks for your e-mail, Giuseppe.  Questor’s title failed to distinguish its premise.  The setting is uncommon, but what happens in the book?  What is the hero trying to accomplish in ancient Rome?  Generally, the best titles identify the book’s premise.

  • His Majesty’s Dragon (“what if the war against Napoleon was fought with dragons?”)
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible: (“what if we told a superhero story mostly from the supervillain’s perspective?”)

Some other titles neglect the premise and focus on the subgenre and setting.  That may be sufficient, but it’s generally not as impressive.

  • Superhero Nation.  The title suggests it’s a superhero story set in the real world, but you’d have to look at the book cover to know that the book is mainly about an unlikely police officer and his non-human partner.
  • Questor.  It’s a story set in ancient Rome, but that’s just the setting.  What is the premise?  What happens?  What is the hero attempting to accomplish? My guess is that the setting isn’t interesting enough to sell the book on its own.

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