Jan 14 2009
6. Don’t make your heroes too powerful.
Characters should be weak enough that the writer can easily challenge them. For example, if your character is as powerful as Superman, you’re going to run out of potential adversaries because only a supervillain can challenge him. In contrast, Batman can have dramatic fights with regular humans. For example, can Batman rescue hostages before a gunman can shoot them? That’s an interesting scene. It wouldn’t be interesting for Superman. He’d just fly in superfast and save them. That’s boring. There’s no challenge.
As a rule of thumb, I highly recommend against giving any character superstrength and superspeed. Either one could be problematic, but together they will probably cripple your story. I’d also recommend putting some limits on their powers. If your character is so ridiculously strong that he can push the moon out of its orbit or fly so fast that he can go back in time, he will probably make readers roll their eyes.
7. Please avoid rewinding the story, particularly bringing back dead characters.
If something in your story happens, you should not make it unhappen. Revealing that something was “all a dream” or a hallucination or a computer simulation is more likely to confuse your readers than intrigue them. Readers are also likely to feel annoyed that you jerked them around. Instead of wasting their time with a fake story, why not tell a story you’re actually willing to stick to?
The worst kind of rewinding is when the writers undo a character’s death (usually with gimmicks like a deal with the devil or time-travel or resurrection). If death is just an inconvenience, then readers won’t care whether the characters die or not. If your story is action-heavy, that’s probably game over. The fear of death is usually one of the primary reasons that combat is interesting.
8. Go easy on the catchphrases, particularly if the audience is older.
Catchphrases are very cheesy (Hulk smash! Flame on! It’s clobbering time! Dragon up!). If your target audience is mostly older than 13, I’d really recommend downplaying the catchphrase or at least making it a bit sober.
9. Please don’t let the hero solve all of his problems in the same way.
If your hero uses the same solution every time, it’ll probably get tedious. Force him to mix things up a bit. For example, if your character is a hardboiled tank, try putting him in a situation where he can’t go in with both guns blazing. If your character is like Ironman, try separating him from his powersuit for a scene. Etc.
10. Don’t pad your pages.
Every panel should advance the plot and/or develop a character. Otherwise, readers are going to get bored pretty quickly. Would you pay to see people chatting? “I’m doing well, Mary Jane. How are you?” If you’re not advancing the plot or the characters, the plot has probably stalled.
Also, please be especially careful about splash pages (pages that only have one panel). They take up a lot of room, so comic book editors expect that splashes will advance the plot in a major way.
Did you find this article useful? If so, please read part 1 here.