Dec 29 2008

Writing Tip: Start Your Story As Everything Goes Wrong

Generally, a book has only 5-20 pages (depending on audience age and genre) to establish three critical elements.

  1. The status quo of the main character.  What is this character like before everything goes wrong?  In the Lord of the Rings, for example, Frodo celebrates Bilbo’s birthday before being called upon to save the world.  In Superhero Nation, Gary is a workaholic accountant.
  2. The inciting event.  What throws the character off his status quo?  Usually, this is the point at which everything starts to go wrong.  For example, in Superhero Nation, Gary narrowly survives a car-bombing very early on.  This forces several changes on him:  first, he is transferred away from his job for his safety.  So he’s completely out of his social comfort zone.  Second, assassins are now trying to kill him.
  3. A goal for the main character.  This is usually a response to the inciting event.  This can be as simple as “I want everything to return to normal.”   Gary wants to rebuild his life by getting a job somewhere and he wants to survive the assassins.  This brings him to the superpowered Office of Special Investigations.  Wacky hijinks ensue!  (Buy the book when it finally gets published, heh heh).

A lot of manuscripts get bogged down in details that are typically too far removed from these three goals.

  1. Prologues.  They usually lack immediacy and, far too often, they just skip the main character entirely.  Ick.  The main character is almost always the best available way to hook readers into your story.
  2. Backstory.  Typically, it doesn’t really matter what your character was doing 5 or 10 years ago.  Readers want to know what’s happening now.  If you are literally unable to start the story without explaining what happened 5 or 10 years ago, you may wish to reevaluate the starting point for your story.  Ahem.  “If your backstory is more interesting than your current era, you’re writing the wrong story.”  If you have to introduce backstory, try to keep it to a bare minimum. Tell us only what we need to understand what is going on now.
  3. Side-characters.  If the side-characters are the best hook to your story, there’s probably something wrong with the main character and/or the plot.  For example, if a fantasy novel wants to show us the parents of the hero right before he is born, that will trap us in backstory.  Furthermore, will readers care about the hero’s parents?  Probably not.  If they were the most interesting characters in this book, they would be the leads.  Harry Potter #1 was very well-written, but it made a questionable choice to start the book when Harry was an infant.  It was a very slow beginning.
  4. Elaborate settings.  Typically, the main character is a better hook into the story than the world is.  A strong character can be relatable and likable, mostly unlike a strong world.  Try to limit the setting at the very beginning to just what we need to understand the main character and the plot.

I originally wrote this article for novelists, but it’s largely true for comic-book writers as well.  The main difference is that a comic-book writer has even fewer pages to establish the status quo.  What is your Peter Parker like before he becomes Spiderman?  If your character has a particularly interesting origin story, I’d recommend giving the status quo no more than half an issue (12 or 16 pages, probably).  But readers tend to appreciate introductions that are much shorter. A good establishing shot is typically sufficient and lets you get to the interesting stuff faster. (I love alternate identities as much as anyone, but usually the superhero identity is more gripping.  Would you want to read a comic called The Amazing Peter Parker or Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne?)

In a comic that probably ranges from 24-32 pages, you really need to get to the inciting event (probably the radioactive spider-bite or however else your hero got his powers) as soon as possible.  In a superhero story, I’d recommend giving the hero his powers early enough in the first issue that you can introduce his goal.  Ideally you can conclude the first issue with a fight or some other climactic event that gives you some room to offer some resolution (which satisfies readers) while setting up a greater conflict that will leave the readers wanting more.

109 responses so far

109 Responses to “Writing Tip: Start Your Story As Everything Goes Wrong”

  1. Armondon 10 Jan 2009 at 8:47 pm

    OK, so my story starts with my main character waking up, heading to school and then getting jumped by a bunch of rival gang members. He kills one of them. He gets arrested and since it is his second strike and his lawyer gets him a choice, Juvie or a military camp where he will eventually get his powers. Is this good?

  2. B. Macon 10 Jan 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I like the inciting event, killing one of the gang members in a fight. If you’re writing for a maturer audience, I think it will fit in really smoothly. Being forced to choose between juvie and a military camp is also interesting. I think it will raise the stakes for him.

    That said, I’m not sure about the story starting with him waking up. What would you think about starting the story with him already at a typical day of school? That’s probably more interesting than his morning routine.

  3. Armondon 13 Jan 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Ok, that’s pretty logical advice. Anything else?

  4. Davidon 13 Jan 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I think my advice is that if he’s gonna be a serious character, you need someone to lighten the mood a little by being a bit less serious. Then again, I’m no professional.

  5. dforceon 08 Feb 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hello good people. I’ve decided to divide my superhero story into “blocks”: part 1, part 2, part 3… etc. and I plan to copy-and-paste them together when I’m through. The overall story pretty much progresses into the three critical elements, and I’m filling in the details and expanding the three as I go.
    I’ve tried to “write” the story linearly and each time it has come to a dead stop, or there’s WAY to much in it.
    Is it possible to get the story together and finish it like this? Or have you tried this and failed miserably before?
    Any advice for someone lost at sea? Anything would be welcomed.

  6. B. Macon 08 Feb 2009 at 11:03 pm

    “Each time it has come to a dead stop, or there’s WAY too much in it.” Writing too much is not a huge problem. I think the most effective way to write a story is to write more than you need and then cut out the parts that add the least. You can shrink down subplots, remove characters, cut scenes, etc.

    Do you have a plot outline? I could look that over for you, if you’d like.

  7. dforceon 09 Feb 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Sweet. I’d really appreciate any thoughts, but where would I put it? It’s a bit much and in a copy and paste here would give you a pile of letters.
    Anywhere else to put it, or is here fine?

  8. Ragged Boyon 09 Feb 2009 at 4:31 pm

    You can post it here. Or B.Mac can open up a review forum for you to post it there.

  9. B. Macon 09 Feb 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Hey, dforce. I set up a review forum for you here.

  10. Mackon 17 May 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I need to know if this is a good start.

    Hector was woken up very abruptly by a burning cigarette pressed against his cheek. Hector was in his 31st level of training camp in 2196. He was the most amazing fighter in the history of Marine Core. In the war for Ukraine he killed 218 troops of the Russian and Chinese alliance, In the War of Russia he killed 311 troops of the russian and chinese alliance. This training level you had to be captured in a camp guarded by 210 soldiers. So he woke up abruptly. He had a slop of something that was supposedly food. When the guard turned around he took a sharp piece of metal behind him and cut the rope. The guards were in armor so they would not get hurt. The guard turned around, but Hector quickly reacted and through the sharp metal at the guards throat. The guard’s breath got quieter as it hit the floor. There were no more guards by the hut but tons outside. Before he left he took the other guard’s gun.

    The sirens wailed. He was caught.

    I will stop there A: to keep it more suspenseful and B: because this was the beginning.

  11. Ragged Boyon 17 May 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Hello, Mack. Nice to meet you.

    I have some strong concerns:

    – My major concern is that this piece plunges us into action without introducing us to much of the setting or the character. This could be a problem because it really doesn’t give us a reason to want to read about this character. So what? He woke up in a training facility, why should I care, I don’t even know this guy.

    – The character, Hector, is probably not developed enough personality-wise. All we know about him is that he’s a good killer and he’s competent. This doesn’t tell us much about his personality. And since all we know about him is that he’s good at killing, he’s a bit hard to like. I’d recommend starting with a scene that establishes his character and gives us a reason to read about him, then putting him in a dangerous situation.

    – Overall, the actual writing is clean. Although, there are a few spelling and grammar issues, nothing major, though. I’d recommend having a close friend or relative proofread your work or you could have us do it here, I’d be happy to oblige.

    – The piece, in my opinion, lacks a sense of style. It doesn’t really evoke any feeling, it just feels like a read. I recommend playing up whatever tone you want your story to follow.

    I’m sorry if my critique feels a little harsh. Believe me I’m only here to help. 🙂

    Would you like a review forum for your work?

  12. B. Macon 18 May 2009 at 12:25 am

    This feels a bit more like a synopsis of a story than the first few paragraphs. I’d recommend introducing us to the character in a more gradual way. Dialogue might help. In particular, I think it’s important to show us something about his personality.

  13. Mackon 19 May 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Yes please ragged boy i would like a fourm and i dont think you were being harsh at all just telling it the way it is. Thanky you

  14. Ragged Boyon 19 May 2009 at 1:42 pm

    B.Mac should open up a review forum for you soon. No problem, I love to help.

  15. Mackon 19 May 2009 at 3:32 pm

    How do i get to the fourm when he posts it???

  16. Marissaon 19 May 2009 at 3:40 pm

    He’ll link you to it here, I’m guessing. 🙂

  17. Mackon 19 May 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Ragged boy, i have taken your thoughts to perform a new beggining.

    It was one sunny in Detroit, Michigan. Hector and his Uncle Tom who was very close to him. His parents sold him as a slave to a mob boss for money to buy drugs. His Uncle Tom was part of the S.W.A.T during that time and he saved him. Uncle Tom took Hector under his wing and they were really close. In school he was nice to everyone, was generuos, and caring. Even with these good qualitys he was always picked on. Well on this something happened something very very terrible. Uncle Tom just retired from the S.W.A.T. Hector and Uncle Tom were celebrating at their favorite restraunt B.K.A. They took a short-cut to Uncle Tom’s apartment when the mob Uncle Tom stopped appered.

    ” Eh-Eh, hey boys look what we got here Uncle Tom and his slave baby,” said the gang leader.

    they grabbed Hector.

    ” Stop,” sternly boomed Uncle Tom. Uncle Tom then pulled out a cigar. when bam,bam,bam. Uncle tom was shot.

    ” AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” sobbed and screamed Hector. Hector was 12, but when he got mad, he got mad. Hector rushed towards them. Hector took one gang member down and run.

    Now i now this isnt to good, but please post your opinions ☺☻♥♦♣♠•◘○

  18. Bretton 19 May 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Can someone please tell me how to do html? I seem to have missed that article, and now i cant find it. :'(

  19. Bretton 19 May 2009 at 5:09 pm

    🙁

  20. Marissaon 19 May 2009 at 5:41 pm

    What sort of HTML are you referring to? Bold and italics? Or links? Or what?

  21. Bretton 19 May 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Bolds, italics, links, underline, and line breaks.

    Incidentally, check out my work here:
    http://www.superheronation.com/2007/11/28/an-in-depth-forum-for-bretts-work/#comment-28733

  22. Marissaon 19 May 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Replace all [brackets] with

    [b]bold[/b]
    [i]italics[/i]
    [u]underline[/u]
    [a href=”the URL here”]text of the link[/a]

    We can’t do line breaks, only B. Mac can do those?

  23. Marissaon 19 May 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Ah, it erased them. Replace [ with what happens when you press shift-comma, and ] with what happens when you press shift-period. Those triangle things.

  24. B. Macon 19 May 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Hi, Mack. I’ve set up a review forum for you here.

  25. Bretton 20 May 2009 at 4:24 am

    Mack, the most unique advice i can give you is maybe to tone down the number of soldiers this guy has killed? Unless he’s a super-soldier or a metahuman, I dont think these numbers are very believable. Just tone it down a tad maybe, or give us a reason this guys so ridiculously talented. 🙂

  26. Mackon 26 May 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Hello, I am thinking of a new superhero. I will post the beginning sometime in 3 days.

  27. Mackon 26 May 2009 at 5:59 pm

    To anyone who would like to help…

    Hector Adams was just a 19 year old boy. He was a private for the Army. It was just about the time of 2911 and America got in a war with Canada and Mexico who became a alliance. The world has changed; part of Canada has become a very nasty and polluted swamp. That is where Pvt. Adams was. America had been retreating into this swamp for several days now. Hector was shaking, because he did not want to be in the army. He needed to be, his family has became very poor with his dad being sued for 10 billion dollars which made his company go bankrupt. Hector was there shaking like a baby. His squad got whittled down by sharpshooters.

    Hector ran and ran until a terrible thing happened. Canada had been working on a poison missile which didn’t blow up but gas shot every where when it hit the ground. The poison waste was there and Hector did not see it he ran straight into the nasty, green, vat of the poison. He sunk and sunk. 3 days passed and Hector finally woke up. The war was still raging in the swamp. He then felt very very weird he grew fangs, poison fangs and poison was shooting out of his hand. He sat by a tree and thought a thought that was going to burn inside of him for the rest of his life. He was a freak.

  28. B. Macon 27 May 2009 at 7:29 am

    Hello, Mack. I think that you did a pretty good job of starting the story as everything goes wrong.

    I have a few thoughts and suggestions.

    –The backstory about the father getting sued for billions of dollars seems a bit distracting and out of place. I would recommend just having him get drafted; I think that would be a bit more intuitive and would require less setup.

    –I’m not sure if you’re army or anything like that, but my layman’s take is that trying to run from a sniper is likely to get him shot. I think soldiers are encouraged to find cover or lie prone instead.

    –In some ways, this story feels a bit more modern than super-futuristic. We have recognizable countries, recognizable weapons (sniper rifles and chemical missiles), etc. It might help to set the story maybe 100 years in the future rather than 900.

    –I think it might help to add another character or two to develop the plot. OK, the character became a freakish monster. Then what? Hopefully there’s more here than him just going crazy on those sinister Canadians.

    I like that he’s unwilling.

  29. Ragged Boyon 27 May 2009 at 7:38 am

    You know Mack you could have post this in yourforum. It’d be a good way to start your development site.

  30. Mackon 27 May 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Ragged Boy i am sorry i did not i dont like using fourms att all i realized i thought it would be much different

    Hector Adams was just a 19 year old boy. He was a private for the Army. It was just about the time of 2911 and America got in a war with Namoco which used to be known as canada until they were invaded and taken over by hailen A.K.A Iraq and New Russia which used to be mexico. who became a alliance. The world has changed; part of Namoco has become a very nasty and polluted swamp. That is where Pvt. Adams was. America had been retreating into this swamp for several days now. Hector was shaking, because he did not want to be in the army. He needed to be, he was drafted. Hector was there shaking like a baby. His squad got whittled down by a S.S.S or Small Shot Sharpshooter. These bullets were so small they were the size of an ant. But these bullets made you disinagrate on impact. These were deadly.

    Hector ran and ran until a terrible thing happened. Namoco had been working on a poisonous fire. The poison waste was there and Hector did not see it he ran straight into the nasty, green, vat of the poison. He sunk and sunk. 3 days passed and Hector finally woke up. The war was still raging in the swamp. He then felt very very weird he grew fangs, poison fangs and poison was shooting out of his hand. He sat by a tree and thought a thought that was going to burn inside of him for the rest of his life. He was a freak. He had to sleep so he ran to the outscurts of the swamp where the war was not raging. The next morning he woke up in a New Russian Facility. Where he saw that S.S.S’s face. He knew it was him from a flashback he had. Hector was scared and knew something evil was bound to happen

  31. Ragged Boyon 27 May 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Is this a prologue? Honestly, I’m not feeling it that much. This feels more like an origin story and it’s handled at a flitty and throw-away pace. I’d strongly recommend slowing down and expanding. You could probably stretch this to about 1 and half pages.

    I’d recommend adding scenery (deeper than a vague description), more body language, dialogue, pacing, and character development.

    “Where he saw that S.S.S’s face. He knew it was him from a flashback he had. ”

    I’d recommend replacing flashback with something like a memory. Technically, I don’t think a person can have a flashback. Alternatively, you could remove the second sentence.

    -I’d replaced the S.S.S.’s with the sharpshooter’s or the sniper’s.

    Sorry if this sounds negative.

    On a side note, I’d like to know what you don’t like about the review forum.

  32. Mackon 27 May 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Ragged Boy, this is just the base. I will do those things, but I am just using this to know if this is a good base.

    Second off, the review forums are just plain out horrible to me.

  33. Ragged Boyon 27 May 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Fair enough. In that case I think this is a good base from which you can start to build.

  34. Ribbiton 25 Oct 2009 at 8:17 am

    (thoughtful) Prologues are bad?
    I tend to use them to set the scene and ease the reader into the world (seeing as my stories tend to be somewhat unusual.) For example, the prologue for the story I’m mulling over right now is a letter written from the main character to her father. It sets up that she and her family have superhuman talents, establishes that they have a feud going with another family, and mentions that the town she lives in is a bit weird. The casual final line tells us she’s actually writing a letter to a dead man, as her father was killed in a car crash a few months ago, and serves as a hook into the meat of the story.
    Should I reconsider this?

  35. B. Macon 25 Oct 2009 at 9:05 am

    Yeah, I’d recommend looking into possible alternatives. I’m sort of concerned that the letter will come off as an infodump because it seems that it’s more focused on backstory and setting us up for what will happen rather than, say, developing the character in a way that makes her and her goals interesting.

    Nothing happens in a letter. What is happening now? Why did you start the story at this particular point in time rather than, say, immediately before or after the father’s death?

    I suspect that the letter would also tend to tell rather than show. Because there aren’t any physical cues (like body language), you’d probably need to have her narrate any feelings, which is sort of cheesy. (You could somewhat fix that by shifting the scene to her writing the letter, allowing you to work in body language). Finally, if you go with the letter, I’d recommend suggesting that she’s not actually interested in communicating with her father and that this is an emotional catharsis (or whatever). Otherwise, it may be a “what the hell?” moment for readers and probably not in a good way.

  36. Ribbiton 25 Oct 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I did consider shifting the scene to her writing the letter, and I think it would work better that way. Plus, it is actually about emotional catharsis rather than communication- sane girl here.
    Would it be more interesting perhaps to start at her father’s funeral? I thought about using that to also introduce another main character with them meeting there and talking.

  37. Rawron 12 Apr 2010 at 5:31 am

    I’m trying to write a film script on the Ghost Rider, rebooting that Mark Steven Johnson movie. How should I start it? Johnny Blaze gaining his powers like in Spider-Man or him already having his powers like in Tim Burton’s Batman then drawing out his backstory later.

  38. B. Macon 12 Apr 2010 at 1:05 pm

    What are you hoping to accomplish with this? I’m pretty sure Marvel doesn’t accept unsolicited movie scripts. (I know it doesn’t accept unsolicited comics).

    Also, thinking in terms of project selection, I wonder if Marvel has much stomach to take a second look at a series that didn’t sell too well the first time around. It got burned pretty bad the last time it tried that (the Punisher sequel was an absolute bust).

  39. A.jon 13 May 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Hello I was having a little trouble starting out my own story. So far its about a brother and his little sister who act as vigilante heroes where ever their parents move them too, but. Willow his sister grows a dark obsession for killing not only the bad guys but civilians. When her brother tries to get her to stop she turns on him completely and a sibling rivalry comes up where he will have to kill his own s do you think you could give me any advice on starting it?

  40. Lighting Manon 13 May 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I have a similar dichotomy in my own work, so I know what kind of elements you’re dealing with. My suggestion would be to focus initially on the details of the situation that led to her morality devolving to the point of driving her to murder.

    A situation that might allow you to examine that devolution might be a particularly difficult or grueling case, for example, 1990’s fantastic cop drama “Homicide” featured a detective obsessively driven by his failed investigation of the brutal murder of Adena Watson, a young girl, and each time he encountered a situation the least bit related or resembling that case, it brought him back to the edge of sanity, with the show and subsequent made-for-television movie implying it ultimately cost him his sanity and life.

    You mention the parents transplanting them a lot, perhaps a longterm pen pal or old friend is murdered directly as a result of the most recent move? The sister could’ve taken it on herself to protect them from an abusive parent, a gang lord of some sort, or a criminal relative, leading to a violent death or possibly suicide, which they feel responsible for, or actually are responsible for? Perhaps she took violent action against the threat but left before she could protect them from retribution?

    Just a few ideas, but generally, I would focus on the traumatic event that made her deviate from the norm and change as an individual.

  41. B. Macon 14 May 2010 at 9:34 am

    I think that a gradual devolution would help. For example, maybe she starts out a little rough with criminals but kills the first one unintentionally and realizes belatedly that it was a good thing. Then she starts killing criminals for increasingly minor offenses (IE: mob hitmen -> drug dealers -> mob accountants).

    I’m not sure what would lead her to make the leap from killing minor criminals to civilians, though. I think that’d be worth some thought. If she’s a megalomaniac, she might be utterly convinced that she’s protecting her victims from an even worse death at the hands of the “bad guys,” whoever that is. (Similar to the “angel of death” type of serial killer in medicine). Or maybe she’s so neck-deep in paranoia that she’s unable to distinguish between the guilty and innocent. Or maybe it’s a power thing (she does sort of sound like a prototypical frustrated serial killer).

    All throughout this, you can show how the circumstances of her life are pulling her in this direction. (Her parents raised her to be violent, she’s in an extremely stressful and possibly traumatic line of work, she probably doesn’t have a normal social life and may be lonely and/or asocial, she may gradually convince herself that violence is the only way to help people, etc). Most of these would apply to the brother just as much as the sister, so I think it’d be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure.

    PS: I think Lighting Man’s suggestions in the previous comment are very helpful. I’d recommend giving that a look, if you haven’t already.

  42. Rileyon 10 Jul 2010 at 7:43 pm

    My story begins with the characters getting their powers in an accident. Should I begin the story by introducing them first or is my original idea okay?

  43. B. Macon 10 Jul 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I’d recommend introducing them first. That’ll give you some time to introduce the status quo (what life is usually like for these guys). In contrast, if you start with the accident, you’ll have to do a lot of things at once: describe who they are, portray what they’re doing at the time of the accident and hint at the status quo.

    At the very least, I would recommend starting with 2-3 chapters establishing the characters as interesting and/or likable even before the superhero stuff shows up. (Also, it’ll make it easier to understand the context of what’s happening during the accident scene and why we should care).

    I think the main time it would make sense to start either as or shortly after the character gains his superpowers would be if the character does not remember what happened. (In that case, not knowing what this character was like beforehand helps us empathize with him and how little he initially understands about what’s going on).

  44. Rileyon 10 Jul 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks for all the help

  45. ShardReaperon 11 Jul 2010 at 1:07 pm

    B. Mac, you’ve seen how I started my story. Should I stick with that or begin years earlier when “the event” happens and take off from there?

  46. B. Macon 11 Jul 2010 at 6:11 pm

    “Should I stick with that or begin years earlier when “the event” happens and take off from there?” When you say “the event,” do you mean the human-alien peace 50 years before the story starts or the meteor shower 20 years ago? Either way, we’re talking about quite a few years before the story itself. You might be able to introduce this material first-hand by using a significantly younger version of Jake or Karnak, but starting with a child/juvenile character may inadvertently scare away readers by suggesting the book is for kids or young adults.

    One slightly different alternative would be to start the book more or less as it is and then later on having Jake or Karnak have a traumatic flashback to one of the events. (For example, maybe one of them has a traumatic dream, or is knocked unconscious at some point, when Jake tries using the power-stone thingie, etc).

    Aside from that, I think the best option would be to lay out the backstory in a sentence or two of the backcover blurb. “After a meteor shower shatters most of civilization…” or something like that.

  47. Shadowon 29 Sep 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Ok so my story is of a guy who lost his parents,home and even his last name, when he was a baby, by a guy who is the living, breathing defenition of the word evil. He is 26 and lives in a garage. He meets a girl who is tracking the same killers he is. He saves her life and tells her who he is. He becomes a hero but is seen as an evil vigalante. what do you think?

  48. Shadowon 29 Sep 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Plus he has a Scar by the evil guy

  49. Shadowon 29 Sep 2010 at 2:21 pm

    And he has alot of paranoia and trust issues.

  50. B. Macon 29 Sep 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I think that the fact that he lives in a garage is interesting. It’s sort of like a darker, less idealized (more loserish) version of Peter Parker. I think his older age contributes to that as well (living in a garage is borderline acceptable when you’re in college, but as you grow older, people expect more of you, right?).

    It sounds coherent that he meets this girl who’s after the same guys he is. So that sounds like an interesting way to meet somebody, and it makes sense. When you submit the synopsis, I’d recommend saying a lot more about the personalities of the guy and girl. Maybe some details about how his trust issues/paranoia affect his life and/or his relationship with her. Or maybe some details about how he changes as a character as he pursues his revenge. (IE: Does his relationship with her make him a more socially-adjusted person? It seems like his revenge would be a lot more complete if he not only stopped the bad guy but also gradually became a likable, functioning person… the best revenge is living well, right? 😉 )

    One thing that’s not really clear is whether he actually IS meant to be seen as an evil vigilante. If his revenge is really gruesome, I think it’d be a tougher sell to publishers because I don’t think as many readers are interested in material like The Punisher as they are in somewhat softer (say, ~PG-13) material.

    With a really mature story, you could maybe pitch it to Avatar, but I’d caution you that the revenge plot sounds kind of banal so far. You’d really have to pull out the stops to make [paraphrasing] “a guy seeks revenge against a villain that screwed him” feel fresh and exciting. For example, unusual and distinct personalities for the characters, distinct voices, well-developed motivations, etc. (In particular, the villain probably needs something better than something like “the villain screwed over the protagonist because he is a really bad dude”–does he have any higher motivations?).

    One interesting revenge plot that comes to mind is Scott Pilgrim Versus the World (particularly the manga, which developed the revenge angle more). In that case, it was the villain motivated by revenge (getting back at the love interest that rejected him). In that case, the revenge opens up to something more than just stopping the villain: The love interest has complicated relationship issues that present their own challenges to a protagonist trying to get over a long-dead relationship of his own. So I’m wondering is there any way you could use the revenge angle to develop a plot more involved than “I need to kill/stop people A, B and C”?

    Another interesting revenge angle is Harry Potter, which uses the Voldemort vs. Harry revenge angle to raise the stakes on Harry’s exploration of the magical world. It’s not just that he’s taking a joy-ride through a cool wizarding school and meeting new people, but he’s got to (repeatedly) save everybody from the plots of Voldemort and his allies. One way you might be able to work something similar into your story is that your hero starts out with a pure revenge angle but gradually discovers that his job is much bigger than than avenging the deaths of his parents. Perhaps the villain is planning an epic scheme that would screw over a hell of a lot of people. Many revenge plots (like Kill Bill) fall into a trap of making the villains too reactive (waiting around to get killed, mostly) rather than letting them proactively affect the plot on their own. One advantage of giving the villain an active plot of his own is that it gives you more opportunity to surprise the character and readers.

    For some ideas on possible motivations, I’d recommend this article.

  51. ShardReaperon 29 Sep 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I plan on starting my story sort of in medias res, with the planet Zevran destroyed and all members of Omega dead. Tenzen and Kobel are merely devices to represent what happened at the aftermath of what goes on prior to that. Is this a good place to start, or should it begin in a different way?

  52. B. Macon 29 Sep 2010 at 8:29 pm

    I think it would probably be more effective to start with Jake, preferably doing something interesting and characteristic. (Perhaps what he’s doing as he gets taken prisoner?) He’s the main character, right? I suspect that the main character matters more to the story (and, more importantly, how readers get hooked into the story) than the fate of seven dead characters. I think he’d probably be a better point of entry into the story than the destruction of Zevran and/or Omega.

    But you can still have Tenzen and Kobel provide that information later on. I think it’ll be useful, particularly after Jake joins the team. First, I think it foreshadows that Jake’s in a very dangerous situation. Second, it could help create conflict and/or fear. Jake might not be as enthusiastic about staying on the team if he knew that everybody on the previous team died. (If you’re interested in maximizing conflict and/or distrust, you could have Jake discover on his own that the team died, rather than having somebody tell him upfront).

  53. Ragged Boyon 29 Sep 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I’m having a hard time trying to come up with interesting introductions. This may be vague but what would be some effective ways of establishing a character early on before ‘things go wrong’? I think once I get past the introduction I can really start to work with the story (obviously).

  54. ShardReaperon 30 Sep 2010 at 10:41 am

    You could start with the character discovering his powers/deciding to become a superhero.

  55. Ragged Boyon 30 Sep 2010 at 9:03 pm

    That would be good, but the character in question has had his powers, or skills I should say, long before the story’s start. I need some like a mini-dramatic opening event, something to help quickly establish the character by forcing them to flex their personality.

  56. B. Macon 01 Oct 2010 at 8:36 am

    Well, I think the main goal would be to establish that the character is interesting and introduce us to the story. So, generally, I’d recommend having the character do something dramatic/unusual but characteristic.

    Maybe a (preferably unusual*) situation that forces the character to use his powers, or a situation where his powers start acting up? Which power(s) are we we talking about?

    *Something that sticks out more than, say, the character having to stop a random banal crime or a random accident. Give it some personality. 🙂

  57. Ragged Boyon 01 Oct 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Well, the character, Finesse, used to work as a master thief before his record was expunged and he started work as a agent/superhero. The story starts at a jewelry exhibition with Finesse playing invited insurance policy*. I was thinking maybe his powers, gravitation, begin to mess with the jewelry in the displays and they begin to creep towards him. He doesn’t want the jewelry, but his powers remember his habits and act on their own. He has to quickly come up with a cover as to why the jewels are moving*.

    *I think I’ll have him say they are cursed. At the end, I’d make a joke with this. Marco, main antagonist, owns the jewelry store. He’d later find out that his company quickly went out of business when the news got out about his ‘cursed’ jewel.

  58. B. Macon 01 Oct 2010 at 1:28 pm

    “The story starts at a jewelry exhibition with Finesse playing invited insurance policy*.” Hmm. What is playing an invited insurance policy? (I interpreted it to mean that he’s been invited by an insurance company to investigate a major insurance claim, but please correct me if I’m wrong on that).



    Your setup sounds interesting. It sets up a conflict between his old habits/desires and his current status, which I think has dramatic promise. I suspect this would probably be most effective if we knew pretty clearly what was going on (this is an old habit for him, maybe a subconscious desire, something so ingrained in him that his body tries to make it happen even when he’s there for something else). If readers don’t understand why things are apparently randomly going crazy, I think we’d lose the conflict of habits/subconscious desires vs. his current state/logic.

    Also, I imagine there might be some conflict if he needs to make up some explanation for why the jewels are going crazy. If this is the beginning of the story, I’d recommend making sure we have the context to understand that he’s lying and why.

    Is it necessary for him to come up with a cover? If his employers know about his background as a thief, can he just excuse it with an awkward “Bad habit”?

  59. Ragged Boyon 02 Oct 2010 at 11:04 am

    I suspect this would probably be most effective if we knew pretty clearly what was going on (this is an old habit for him, maybe a subconscious desire, something so ingrained in him that his body tries to make it happen even when he’s there for something else).

    Indeed! I reread the article about dealing with backstory before planning this scene. This way I hope to make his backstory advance his character without unnecessary exposition. In fact, quite a bit of this story (the whole story?) is based around the pasts of these two characters and what they are* so I’ll definitely have to find creative ways to deal with it. Gotta show, don’t tell!

    I think you’re right. I don’t need the cover. I’ve already got a new joke planned. 😉

    *The personification of metaphysical aspects; Marco is time and Finesse is space.

  60. Ragged Boyon 02 Oct 2010 at 11:19 am

    “What is playing an invited insurance policy? (I interpreted it to mean that he’s been invited by an insurance company to investigate a major insurance claim, but please correct me if I’m wrong on that).”

    Oh, he was basically invited to act as security in case of a robbery or super-robbery. Sorry for my indirect dialogue. Haha.

  61. B. Macon 02 Oct 2010 at 12:59 pm

    “I don’t need the cover. I’ve already got a new joke planned.” Nice. Depending on who he’s speaking with, I could envision a groaner based on “magnetic personality” or (even worse) “the gravity of the situation.”

  62. Shadowon 04 Oct 2010 at 9:39 am

    Raggedboy your story does sound interesting. I like it

  63. Shadowon 04 Oct 2010 at 9:41 am

    B. Mac i wonder, how old are you? If that is personal info please don’t answer. I just want to get a good idea of the age group i’m in. I think i might be younger than most of you

  64. Shadowon 04 Oct 2010 at 9:52 am

    By the way I like what you said about my idea. I was thinking of how he should change by meeting this girl. Maybe he should become easy going? Likeable and not so threatning and dull looking. I’ll work on it.

  65. B. Macon 04 Oct 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I’m in my 20s. Not that that keeps me from getting confused for an eighth grader sometimes.

  66. Shadowon 04 Oct 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Wow im in the 8th grade. Eh that doesn’t bother me

  67. B. Macon 04 Oct 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I think easy-goingness would make sense, particularly if he’s a tense/paranoid wreck beforehand.

    Some other possibilities that come to mind…

    –He becomes more forgiving.
    –He becomes more trusting.
    –He becomes more compassionate.
    –He becomes more focused and/or mature.
    –His relationship with himself changes in some way. Maybe it helps him get past the deaths of his parents.
    –He becomes less morbid/more optimistic.

  68. Shadowon 05 Oct 2010 at 5:51 am

    That works for me. 🙂

  69. Shadowon 05 Oct 2010 at 6:19 am

    One thing you mentioned about the revenge is if it is grusome. Turns out he can’t kill anybody, but he fights himself about if he should or shouldn’t kill this man. He is seen by the police as a threat( like every superhero ) because of the way he solves and handles the crimes. I’m trying to put it all together but I sometimes even confuse my self with my plot.

  70. B. Macon 05 Oct 2010 at 2:17 pm

    “I’m trying to put it all together but I sometimes even confuse my self with my plot.” No worries. I confuse myself all the time when I’m trying to sort out my own plots.

  71. Shadowon 06 Oct 2010 at 7:17 am

    Have you published any of your Comic Books? ‘Cuse I never can seem to stay with one idea long enough to finish it. It’s very frustrating.

  72. B. Macon 06 Oct 2010 at 8:13 am

    No, I haven’t been published yet.

  73. Shadowon 06 Oct 2010 at 12:14 pm

    What’s your comic book idea? If you don’t mind me asking

  74. B. Macon 06 Oct 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I’m working on an action comedy starring an accountant forced to become a secret agent and his cheerfully violent mutant partner. If you’d like to see some sample illustrated pages, you can see them here. You can download a rough draft of the first issue’s script here.

    Please let me know what you think!

  75. Shadowon 06 Oct 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Man, your stuff is amazing. My artwork is crap compared to yours. If you saw my stuff you would wonder why your talking to a teenager and not Stan Lee. You got some cool stuff. Aligator not Crocidile, Gottcha.

  76. B. Macon 06 Oct 2010 at 6:44 pm

    My main recommendation is to keep practicing. Everything gets better.

    PS: I’ll let my artists, Rebecca the penciler and Emily the colorist, know that you like their work.

  77. Dillanon 06 Oct 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Hey b mac im wondering your thoughts on marvels michael korvac.I really like that he was part human part machine with cosmc powers

  78. B. Macon 06 Oct 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Hm. I haven’t read Defenders, so my opinion of him is very limited. Everything I know about him came from Wikipedia:

    Michael Korvac is a computer technician in the alternate universe Earth-691. When the Sol System and its colonies are conquered by the Alien Brotherhood of Badoon, Korvac becomes a collaborator and traitor to the human race. Caught asleep at a machine while working, the Badoon as punishment graft Korvac’s upper body to a machine, effectively making him a cyborg.

    Korvac is then transported through time by the Elder of the Universe the Grandmaster, who utilizes him as a pawn in battling the hero Doctor Strange and the Defenders….

    Korvac flees across time and space to the Earth-616 universe. Upon arrival, Korvac discovers the space station of the entity Galactus. While attempting to download the knowledge of Galactus from the station into his own system, Korvac is imbued with the Power Cosmic and becomes god-like. Korvac then recreates himself as a perfect humanoid form, and posing as a human called “Michael”, travels to Earth with the intent of reshaping it into a utopia. Korvac, however, is pursued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who join forces with the superhero team the Avengers in a bid to stop the villain.

    Some initial, mostly uninformed impressions:

    –For a character that’s a villain (right?), he doesn’t seem particularly threatening. Even Spiderman, one of the more kid-friendly heroes in the comic universe, routinely deals with villains that have butchered a medical team trying to remove metal tentacles (Dr. Ock), a megalomaniac businessman “that’s wearing a Power Rangers mask, but he’s scarier without it on” (Green Goblin), and a drug addiction that looks like a Call of Cthulhu extra (Venom and Carnage), a freaky man/crocodile thing (J. J. Jameson… and I guess that other one, too). You have to dig pretty deep into Spiderman’s or Batman’s list of villains before you find someone more likely to feel ridiculous than unsettling/threatening (Vulture? Calendar Man? Sticky Pot Pete? Frequently the Penguin?)

    –I feel that villains generally become less scary the more powerful they are. For example, the Joker has only the power of insanity and is at his most threatening and unpredictable when armed with only a pencil. In contrast, Galactus is either a cosmically large dude dressed in purple or a cosmic cloud of planet-eating dust. I think it’s harder for an uberpowerful villain to capture the imagination in the same way a more limited villain can. (Also, it’s harder for us to understand the modus operandi of REALLY powerful characters).

    –His origin story strikes me as needlessly convoluted. I see three major stages for him: human -> cyborg -> cyborg wizard. You probably wouldn’t lose anything and would save space by making him a human -> human wizard or robot -> robot wizard.

    –I’m not very impressed by the stories that have used the Power Cosmic. I’m not familiar with the details, but the loose outline of a time-traveling cyborg wizard from another dimension strikes me as a bit too ridiculous to be scary. In contrast, the time-traveling robot villains in Terminator and Terminator 2 are pretty horrifying perhaps because they are not as powerful as gods (although they are more or less immune to regular weaponry).

  79. Dillanon 06 Oct 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I really like jim starlins work such as thanos and adam warlock even the magus,cosmic tale just seem more interesting.maybe theres not a big market for those comics.I was writting the character i wanted the way he was able to comprehend his new powers and prevent insanity.(like dr doom when he stole the beyonders powers it was overwhelming).was by grafting his mind to an andvanced computer,thus giving him higher intellect now capable of higher analytical and reasoning powers,but in the process becoming more cosmically aware.The mc is now a sophisticated cross between a man and computer able to utalyze his psychic powers.Throughout the story he becomes more mechanical and less human,with Goals to recreate(first earth into his ideal utopia)and later recreate the universe with him revered as god.

    Just wanted your thoughts on cosmic works,and complex characters,from a publishers aspect


    i really want to write a space opera that has themes of ,cosmic scope, death, sacrifice, politics,and religion.I was wondering as a first time writter if this is a good place to start,or if i should start smaller.(but I really like the challenge of this level of story telling,and im writting it as much as to get published and crediblity,as i am for my own enjoyment 🙂

    Ps i have also sent hours balancing the character as to present challenge.I admit it is very boring watching a character who doesn’t have to struggle at times

  80. B. Macon 07 Oct 2010 at 12:36 am

    I think it’d be easiest to break in with a one-shot that could be expanded later if the publisher likes the sales. I think the main trick to plotting a successful one-shot is resolving enough in 32-40 pages that the readers feel satisfied (it shouldn’t just read like a trailer for a longer work), but creating enough openings/foreshadowing to interest readers in a prospective sequel and help show the editors that it could work.

    For example, if you were doing a romantic drama, you might end your one-shot with the character achieving some major milestone in his relationship with the love interest. Let’s say the book ends with them getting engaged.

    The engagement resolves what the hero has initially set out to do but creates enough future potential problems that you could take a sequel in a few different directions. (Will the wedding go off successfully? What happens if they try to raise a family?) Alternately, you could try foreshadowing some problems on the horizon. For example, maybe one of the characters in the one-shot notes offhandedly that the price of gas has shot up because somebody invaded somebody else. In the sequel, you might build on that line to have the war expand, eventually leading to the main character getting drafted to fight overseas. Then the plot might hinge on whether his relationship survives the war.

    In your story, if a sci-fi religion plays a major role in the larger series you’re thinking about, you could foreshadow that by having the characters advancing a goal while celebrating a religious festival or participating in a rite or having some interaction (preferably a confrontation–conflict creates problems that need to be solved) with a religious figure or organization. For example, if your character were a detective (he’s not but bear with me), you might give him a case about recovering a stolen relic from a religious group you’d like to use later.

    So, yeah. With only 32-40 pages, I think the main goal should be resolving the central plot of the one-shot, whatever that is (like recovering the relic). But, along the way, you can introduce a lot of elements that you can expand upon later. (Interesting characters, setting details, potential conflicts and other plot hooks, etc).



    I would generally NOT recommend ending a one-shot with the character getting his powers. If all you’ve covered is the origin story, I don’t think you’ll have resolved enough to make readers feel satisfied. (The powers are usually a means to a dramatic end rather than the dramatic end itself–readers care much more about what the character does with the powers than how he gets them). Moreover, if the series burns 32 pages on the origin story, I think it will feel slowly-paced.

    One possible solution would be working in a brief quest into the origin story, where the character does something fairly similar to his eventual work in the course of getting his powers (or shortly after he gets them). Give us a taste of what his job will be like.

  81. Shadowon 07 Oct 2010 at 6:30 am

    I like the idea of the space theme Dillian. It kind of gives a new set of rules you couldn’t use on Earth.

  82. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 9:48 am

    Hey in terms of limit villains and modus operandi, that btings up something rather interesting i think.In the dark knight,the joker’s way of thinking and opperating,where difficult to comprehend.This had nothing really to do with his level of power,but more with the actual character and his motivations.For sane people,the joker is more difficult to understand, why? I believe its because we precieve reality with order and structure and he sees it as chaos and destruction.He has become a devoted agent to its ideals and THATS what makes him scary.His scariness,for lack of a better word comes from the fact that you can’t reason with him,persuade him,bribe him,or bully him. With that in mind, look at Thanos.A powerful cosmic villain whos become omnipotent a number of times. He’s a nihilist and devoted to the annihilation of all sentient life as to gain death’s love (the female embodiment at least).If you look at thanos, all you might see is a heavyly muscled ,grotesqe(sry spelling using the mobil to type this btw)humanoid.Although he’s strong enough to fight both Thor and the Thing at the same time,His scariness comes from his intellect,his plans are down right ingenius.I mean hes capable of doping the elders of the universe into giving him there infinity gems(the infinity gems saga by far my favorite cosmic tale)which in gathering the six make him omnipotent.Now you have a nihilist with True godlike power whos tasked with killing off half the universe’s population,in which he does so with a snap of his fingers.Cosmic level threats are interesting to me Because they’re so beyond human comprehension.I mean look at galactus,he may not be a villain and we as readers at times may not understand his motivations,But say he came to earth,people would be scared shitless again lack of a better word still kinda tired.

  83. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 10:12 am

    Oh i didn’t mean to come off as if im ranting,just wanted to make a descent arguement for powerful characters.I just think that a well written character should be apperiated for more than just his powers and abilities.Granted their are rare cases where extreamly overpowered characters just don’t work i completely agree i think with out challenge a character just seems kinda dull even if the character isn’t in an action comic(in this instance lets say dr manhattan, his powers are cool. hes only interesting to me because of his character dynamic (the whole growing away from humanity).I much prefer the ozymandias, and its because his genius in manipulating events to get the best optimal results and uniting nations under a common threat to prevent a full scale war.His plan has some extreames like sacrificing millions in new york and turning on his old allies,but he basically saved billions of lives by preventing the war. I think that it is the character,his motivation/ambition,competence,and style that make them great not their powers.Im not advocating that very powerful characters are good,im only saying that without those elements listed above the character regardless of their power will not be any good.

  84. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 10:19 am

    Oh and b mac thanks for the publisher perspective i planed on writting a series of mini series for my Mc so his developement is spread accross multiple issues,when i start the first draft id love for you to review it.Also the audiance im aiming for is 18 plus and if you haven’t guessed scifi tale.At the moment im still working on the Mc ya know hes gonna be the main character so im spending time just working on him as the character and add some interesting dynamics to him and the over all story

  85. B. Macon 07 Oct 2010 at 12:54 pm

    “Oh i didn’t mean to come off as if im ranting,just wanted to make a descent arguement for powerful characters.”

    No, I don’t think it was a rant. Totally within the bounds of polite creative discussions in the publishing industry (which can get personal because writers are usually so close to their work).

    “In the dark knight,the joker’s way of thinking and opperating,where difficult to comprehend.” Hmm. His way of thought was unusual–I don’t know many anarchists or anyone else out to prove that anybody can be made into a monster by the right circumstances. But I don’t really feel like it was hard to understand in the same way as, say, a heavily philosophical villain.

    For example, a Buddhist or quasi-Buddhist villain’s reasoning might hinge on ideas that are hard for Westerners to intuitively grasp like “there is no self” and “life is only illusory,” from which he might conclude that killing cannot be a sin because you can’t destroy something that was never there to begin with. (In real life, Buddhist terrorists and the “soldier Zen” Buddhists of Imperial Japan have reasoned along these lines–if you’re interested in the details, I’d recommend checking out Buddhist Warfare, but it is not a breezy read).

    The Joker’s methods struck me as pretty simple. None of his powers bend the nature of reality or are otherwise confusing. (Although I’ll admit I’m a bit mystified how he was able to rig up a hospital with explosives without anybody noticing). In contrast, when a hero throws around powers such as “reality warping” (or really anything with “reality” in the title), it’s usually quite hard for readers to understand the parameters of what the character is capable of. In the background, I think it could work as a nice change of pace once in a while if the villain is something like a dream manipulator (such as in the Justice League episode Only a Dream), but I think that it’d be damn tricky to pull it off with a recurring character, particularly the main protagonist. (I found Sandman and the Sentry very hard to get into, but your mileage may vary, of course).

  86. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Oh also you know with the korvac character it made me laugh,human,cyborg,cyborg wizard.I also wanted to show the character in a few stages but to show the characters mentality at those stages is key,because i think a human thinks differently than a machine and would use those powers in different aspects.Not only that but you have a chance to show off the weaknesses and flaws of both ends . My character starts off human,then goes through a process of biocybernetic fusion to maintain his body after the accident.After that to understand his powers he believes he needs to gain higher cognitive powers and grafts his brain with an advanced sophisticated biocomputer.He achieves his higher cognitive abilities, capable of fully controling his powers through higher understanding.Making his psychic powers more effective without worrying out subconciously using them.He retains his human mentality,but slowly starts becoming mechanized.His personality goes from human to (kinda like the architect from the matrix).then upon utalyzing his powers to achieve his goal he decides to attain a perfect form(something akin to godhood i guess) im not sure on whether or not it be a human form or maybe a perfect Hybrid between man and machine,kinda like a sentient computer with a human/cyborg shell.And for the last stage itd be an energy form, slightly humanoid achieved after his copreal form was destroyed.Its a heavy sci fiction story lol but i love the genre and the way it makes one think.oh and if theres confusion this is just a short example of the Mc journey not the plot or story as a whole.Just wanted your thoughts on my ideas for the character developement in terms of how he’d evolve,grow,and change over the course of the story 🙂

  87. Shadowon 07 Oct 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I hope you guys don’t mind me entering your conversation. I had a question for a villian of mine. He’s alot like the joker in his personality. He kills without question and knows the difference between right and wrong. The only difference is that he isn’t insane , but loves to bring misery. Plus the evil laugh( always important ). Any thoughts of how i should modify him or not?

  88. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 1:35 pm

    With my character and his reality warping powers isn’t something that’d be used very often. And i agree fully thats a power that is difficult to comprehend,even i with the research ive done don’t fully understand or know whats the difference between warping reality and omnipotence.But believe me when i say i don’t take it as lightly as most and i impose limitations on it so its less power than your tradional reality warping. It mostly involve manipulation of time and space but i realize if not handled or written correctly(even in the slightest it could easily go from interesting and intriguing to cheesy and vaguely comical which is why im spending so much time and effort research and study,not only the subjects covered in my comic but in writting itself.Oh and btw i love the villains blog about compotence,ambition and style, but i believe that should apply to most characters both heroes and villains. I mean look at batman lol

  89. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Oh please don’t view my character as a mary sue lol. He has alot of limitations and flaws.Im writting him to be powerful, but defeatable. I know thats hard to imagine with his reality warping capabilies but i assure you nothing he does is without penalities either minor or major and that will either affect him personally or indirectly.Oh and I never got to say, I enjoy having an intellectual conversation with some one who also writes its refreahing.

  90. Dillanon 07 Oct 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I don’t mind shadow and id love to give my perspective.Well you say the villains kinda like the joker(im assuming the dark knight version).Well the joker in my opinion was an agent of chaos and followed its ideals,making him more of a threat than maybe your tradional villain. Id ask you what makes your villain different, maybe he isn’t insane(that to me would be interesting to understand a sane person with sadistic tendencies)maybe he has a reason why he’s sadistic as long as steer clear of a revenge motive, i think he could be interesting

  91. B. Macon 08 Oct 2010 at 5:12 pm

    “He kills without question and knows the difference between right and wrong. The only difference is that he isn’t insane , but loves to bring misery. Plus the evil laugh( always important ).” I’d recommend giving him a goal besides plain sadism. I think that a cackling sadist might seem a bit one-dimensionally evil?

    Also, there seems to be a discrepancy between him understanding the difference between good and evil and being a laughing (cackling?) sadist. In what sense is he not insane?

  92. Shadowon 08 Oct 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Yea I know hard to understand. Let me refrase this, there are two parts to the villian. The human part and the non-human part. The evil side of the villian is basicly chaos in a shell( or in this case a human body). The villian part is very smart and understands things more deeply than others. His basic desire to hurt is by the fact that he isn’t human , but just a knightmare infested in a mans body. I know it’s a little weird and it confuses me too, sorry.

  93. Shadowon 08 Oct 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Basicly he is a knightmare who understands things better than humans and loves the idea of ruining someone from the inside( in some cases literaly ) and is a parasite in a mans body, just using him as a way of transportation and nothing else.

  94. Shadowon 13 Oct 2010 at 1:24 pm

    whats a good idea for another villian?

  95. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Would it be overly confident of a novelist to write a book that uses minor incidents to lead up to the inciting incident of the series?

  96. B. McKenzieon 04 Apr 2013 at 8:56 pm

    If handled effectively, minor incidents can be dramatic. For example, Seinfeld is basically a show about characters overreacting to minor incidents in humorous ways.

  97. WinslowMudDon 04 Apr 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Awesome, thanks. Just to be sure you knew what I was saying-though I am sure you probably did,I was referring to using an entire book. Or rather, the first 3/4 or so of a book, to set up an inciting incident for a series, which would/could take place at the end of the first.

  98. B. McKenzieon 05 Apr 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Hmm… “I was referring to using an entire book [of minor incidents]. Or rather the first 3/4 or so of a book, to set up an inciting incident for a series, which would/could take place at the end of the first.” That sounds like a difficult sell. I think the idea of a story based around relatively minor incidents is workable (e.g. Waiting for Godot and Confederacy of Dunces work on a comedic and dramatic level, but have relatively uneventful plots), but it’s got to be more interesting than JUST 60,000+ words of setup for what the reader actually wants to get out of the story.

    If your story features interesting characters doing interesting things (even if they aren’t major or earth-shattering) and there’s some semblance of coherence, I think it could work. If not, I think editors would likely be suspicious.

  99. WinslowMudDon 06 Apr 2013 at 11:37 am

    Thank you again heh. watch for spoilers later on… ;D

  100. Tyboon 01 Dec 2014 at 11:20 pm

    I’m starting a plot line for a story and in the beginning it starts out as a seamingly peaceful day but as we introduce the major character we see that it is not so. Starting with the most mild of his problems we build up till the worst comes out.

    Ie: ohh what a sunny day. Ohh I spilled coffee on my shirt, flat tire, late for work on a day I couldn’t afford to be, lost the promotion, divorce.

    This is not my plot line but it helps to get my thoughts out. My question is, does this kind of introduction fit in with what you describe in the article. He’s not like the hobbits where he’s all happy then his life is thrown off hitter but it starts out bad and gets worse till he starts his journey. Any thoughts or suggestions?

  101. DancingCaton 31 Jan 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Umm, does anybody know how to actually post stories on here? Or do you need an account? And if so is there an age limit or terms of service or what? I’m thinking about posting a VERY rough draft of my story, just for reviews. I am totally clueless here.

  102. B. McKenzieon 31 Jan 2016 at 6:13 pm

    “Umm, does anybody know how to actually post stories on here?” I’d suggest using Critters Writing Workshop instead when you have something ready to review. But I’d recommend waiting until you have something better-developed than a very rough draft of the story. Otherwise, I suspect the comments will mostly be variations on “this is not ready to go,” which you probably already know. I’d recommend focusing instead on actually finishing the work.

  103. Dream Catcheron 23 Mar 2016 at 12:56 am

    Hey B.Mac, really enjoy your tips and writing style one here. Recently began to come up with a lot of comic book hero ideas and this site has been crucial to my creative process and paring out some of my worse ideas.

    One of my more fleshed out characters is called the Dream Catcher, a Native American private investigator with the ability to create delusions in people’s minds. Using his given name, Dakota Jones, he uses this ability to aid him in his PI work, such as faking an ID, disguising his appearance, or distracting a guard.

    The character has a backstory already mostly planned: his mother, hooked on a hallucinogenic drug, is impregnated in a rape. Depressed and unable to see meaning in life, the mother attempts to OD on the meds but a friend finds her in the act and is able to get her to the hospital, saving both the mom and the baby.

    However, the drugs and a brief lack of oxygen to the brain result in the strange mental ability, as well as causing Dakota to have dyslexia (and possibly a slight physical deformation).

    All that to say, I think a lot of that information can be stretched throughout the whole comic instead of being explicitly told in the beginning, and some of the information could not be mentioned at all in the first comic.

    Instead, I plan on opening in the middle of him using this ability in the apprehension of a suspect, letting some of the mechanics explain themselves through the visuals and what little dialogue is taking place.

    Of course, once the criminal is caught, it will set up some of the structure of his relationships with the various levels of law enforcement, including an antagonistic detective on the tribal police force and a good friend on the state police force. (The locale for this comic is a fictional Indian reservation, leading to a jacked up jurisdictional struggle between tribal, state, and federal law enforcement.)

    Just wanted your feedback to see if that is a potentially better way to handle a backstory that, while intriguing enough and eventually important, can basically be explained away as “born with the power” until it becomes more important. I also think it’s nice that in a mystery-based comic, the origin of his powers remains unclear for a while.

  104. Scarlet Wizardon 20 Jul 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Hi, I plan on writing a serial novel about a Counter-Terrorism Espionage Agency. The main character is a shapeshifter (but his abilities are limited to human male form), and he recruits several other agents (one of which has electrokinesis; the rest are normal) for a mission he’s assigned to, which deals with taking down a Russian terrorist group and their leader, a peak-human. Any ideas on how to start? I’m having trouble coming up with an introduction/beginning. Thanks!

  105. B. McKenzieon 20 Jul 2016 at 5:20 pm

    “Any ideas on how to start?” Some possibilities that come to mind:

    –An initial case, possibly somehow involving the Russian terrorist group or otherwise establishing or foreshadowing them in some way. Would recommend having the case go mostly badly to raise the stakes, introduce uncertainty, and/or make successes more interesting if/when they happen. Whether the case is successful or not, it may help to show his power failing in some way because his enemies are competent (e.g. he took it for granted that he’d be able to talk his way in if he looked like the target, but he wasn’t able to stay in character and/or did not pay attention closely enough to what the target would do in a particular situation). This will make his power significantly more interesting than a “sneak anywhere” card would be.

    –The main character is a shapeshifter, so he’s probably been used on some cases that call for a lot of social/infiltration work. It’s possible that he’s handling or has handled criminal informants and maybe convinced innocents to become assets. One of his informants might try contacting him out of the blue in a way that suggests that something is going really wrong. Bonus points if the communication is interrupted or fragmented in some way and we only see snippets of what’s going on. (For example, maybe one of his former informants panics because she starts to suspect that the NEW handler working with the informant is working with the Russians, and the informant tries to make contact with the MC. Someone, probably the corrupt handler, kills the informant shortly after the call starts. The handler’s cover story might be that he had a meeting arranged with the informant, but the informant was killed before she got there. Over the course of the story, the MC might gradually realize that the handler’s story is almost perfect, except that the handler makes some minor mistake indicating that he actually had made contact with the informant shortly before the informant was killed (e.g. maybe he lets something minor slip that he only could have learned from seeing the informant that day, e.g. seeing a recent injury or knowing what she was wearing that day (or even what she looked like at all, if he’s really new to this informant and supposedly has never met her before).

    –Any other interaction he’s had with members of the Russian’s organization or other people that have interacted with him before (e.g. maybe he knows someone from a previous case that has worked with or run across the Russians, and bonus points if he now needs to use someone that hates him).

    –Probably not worth a scene of its own, but maybe incorporating into another scene(s) why he joined the organization and/or what he thought he was getting into. Bonus points if he’s wavering and/or what he thought he was getting into is radically different than the reality.

    –Something goes wrong and he starts to suspect the Russian has someone inside his organization. This may play a role in why he’s looking for outside candidates that he’s personally selected for this case (and/or give a motive for at least one other person at the agency undermining those candidates). Bonus points if the sabotage is superpowered in some way, but the main character is only guessing at which superpower(s) he needs to worry about.

    –The other members having problems in their everyday lives.

    –The main character identifying the other prospects and convincing them to join, preferably against at least some heavy opposition (either from them or from other members of his organization opposing the selection of some of his candidates, ideally with cause).

    PS: I love that most of the members don’t have superpowers. That will probably help immensely in terms of making the supernatural elements interesting and in writing fight scenes.

  106. Scarlet Wizardon 20 Jul 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks, B. Mac! This’ll be really helpful. My favorite idea of yours is the one about the undercover Russian(s) inside the agency. I’m also considering giving the main character another limit to his abilities; he can only be shapeshifted for approximately an hour before automatically reverting to his original form. Oh and if you have any ideas for an opening line or how to start the first chapter that would be very helpful! Thank you again

  107. Scarlet Wizardon 20 Jul 2016 at 8:24 pm

    And I forgot to add that when he is reverted into his original form, it takes him about ten minutes or so to regain the ability to shapeshift again.

  108. B. McKenzieon 21 Jul 2016 at 2:56 am

    Alright, a few possibilities that come to mind for the first scene:

    –Something with him outside the job (e.g. interacting with a major family member or maybe a symbolic pasttime like hunting), probably eventually interrupted by his work. Emphasis on establishing that he’s an interesting character — if at all possible, have him do things that 99% of police and/or military characters wouldn’t do in the same situation.

    –1-3 pages building up to a failed operation against the Russians. When the failure comes, I’d suggest not leaving any obvious indicators that they were set up. (I’d suggest building up to that over time).

    –Lower stakes work, interrupted by some conflict at the agency (e.g. he debriefs a series of failed operations against the Russians, maybe establishing what the agency is NORMALLY like and some shortcomings of their normal activities, and his boss lays into the team for repeatedly blowing it against the most ruthless terrorist on their radar). Might be helpful here if the MC is highly competent even though he’s been involved in a series of failures (some possible mitigating factors: the Russians are extremely competent and well-prepared, the MC got involved in the project relatively late, the MC shows great insight in learning from the failures and/or adapting to enemy tactics moving forward, and/or the MC identifies tactical successes that are useful for learning purposes*). Depending on the pacing, maybe having him boss tell him about some radical change (e.g. most of the current members of the team are going to be transferred to other assignments, and the main character is getting a demotion to working with a new team of rookies) or having his boss hint that a radical change is looming but not going into the details yet.

    *E.g. Maybe this operation had several phases or several parts (e.g. simultaneous raids on four different buildings or something). Counterintuitively, the phase that was the most successful was one that was conducted on short notice, probably with a great deal of improvisation (e.g. they weren’t sure on the location and made an educated guess). He might conclude that maintaining a fast tempo is more effective than giving this very competent opponent time to prepare and react. Over time, he might also realize that the part of the mission which was the most successful was the only one that wasn’t fully communicated to his own organization (read: the mole didn’t know about it until very late).

  109. Scarlet Wizardon 21 Jul 2016 at 11:24 am

    Oh ok. These ideas are a big help, thanks. I’ll definitely make use of them

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