Archive for January 1st, 2009

Jan 01 2009

Some of the Differences Between Writing Comic Books and Novels

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.

  1. Novels are overwhelmingly word-driven.  In contrast, the primary tool of a comic book writer is visual imagery.  Words are a secondary tool to express what can’t be shown visually.  Comic book readers are annoyed by long blocks of text.  As a rule, I’d recommend limiting a page to 175 words of text for an adult audience.
  2. Novels will usually describe the settings and what’s going on in the background at some length.  In comic books, those worldbuilding details are almost purely visual.
  3. Every novel relies on a narrator.  In contrast, virtually every comic book avoids narration and instead tells the story with a combination of action, visual scenery, and dialogue (in roughly that order).   A comic book narrator may offer us little snippets of information like “FIVE MINUTES LATER…” but it’s not very interesting or smooth for him to drop paragraphs of information on us.
  4. Novels are much longer (60,000-80,000 words vs. 2500-5000 and ~300 pages vs. ~24).  As a result, novels tend to focus more on dialogue and low-intensity scenes than action sequences, particularly combat.  A 24 page comic book might spend 10 pages on 2 fights, but a 300 page novel probably wouldn’t come close to 120 pages of fighting or 25 fights.   Having that many fights would get tedious.  Also, novel fight scenes tend to suck.  If readers wanted to see a rolling fight scene, they would go for a comic book or, more likely, an action movie.
  5. Novel readers (particularly adults) tend to expect deeper characterization, fresher characters and more interesting relationships.  Character growth is far more important in a novel than a comic book.  If the main character has not changed or grown in some way over the course of the novel, readers are likely to feel dissatisfied.  In contrast, a character like Superman tends to change very little over the course of a comic book series.

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Jan 01 2009

User Guidelines

My goal is to provide high-quality writing advice for adults and young adults.  Here are a few ground rules.


1.  No R-rated sexual content.

Anything more sexually graphic or creepier than a James Bond movie is probably not a great fit for this website–for one thing, about half of our readers are younger than 18 and many of the rest are teachers.


2. No gratuitous self-promotion.

I’d love to see your website, but contribute something first.  For example, if you’d like to link to your site, connect it in some way to previous comments or the article itself.  If you’d like to market yourself without contributing something, please go somewhere else, okay?


3. Don’t give too much information.

In particular, please don’t ever post your phone number or address on an open forum, especially if you’re younger than 18.  It is not the best way to convince a professional to reach you.  Personally, when I see someone post a business proposal with a phone number in an open forum, I’m more likely to think “Good God, what’s he thinking?” than “Wow, he’s really making himself accessible!”


4. No fan-fiction. 

Is your main goal as a writer to have a good time?  If so, serious reviews listing 25+ possible revisions for a chapter would probably be more emotionally overwhelming than fun.  If not, I think you’d give yourself a better chance to develop writing skills by building your own stories/premises/characters/settings from scratch rather than starting with a story somebody else has already written.  For fan-fiction reviews, I’d recommend instead.  Yes, the reviews will generally be as useless as “this’s really good!!!” or “this sux!!!” , but that’d only be a problem if you wanted to become a professional author.


5. Be friendly and professional.

A professional demeanor and friendly attitude are extremely helpful. Probably more than raw talent, actually.



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