I’m working on my first novel, a comic fiction superhero story about a young superhero with no powers named Condor. My working title is ‘Superzero’.
My target audience: 18-30 male comic book/ comic fiction readers.
How thick is my skin?
I’ve only been writing for a year, so I’m pretty realistic about how good my work is. I also know I need to improve certain areas so I don’t mind people pointing that out. In many ways I consider writing this first novel a massive learning experience. I’m pretty sure it was on here I read that being aware of your weaknesses is an opportunity to improve your writing. I stand by that.
Not much! Been writing and learning about writing for a year, I’ve learned so much, but obviously there’s always more.
Funnily enough, I couldn’t compare my works to anything literary, but my inspiration for the book came from such movies as The Naked Gun, Dragnet, Ghostbusters, The Pink Panther and Mystery Men.
Here’s a brief rundown I wrote months ago, it’s changed slightly since then, but this gives you the general picture:
SOOPA – The Superheroes Of Our Planet Agency. A bureau steeped in years of tradition. Legends such as Jupiter – The Worlds Strongest man, Aqua Girl -with the ability to transform into water and General Max – The master military strategist have risen through its ranks and sworn to protect the city of Silverberg.
Then, there’s Joseph Condor.
He has no superpowers, he’s struggling to make a name for himself in the business, and his father, a retired superhero turned inventor, is offering advice he’d rather not take.
When a vacancy arises as part of Dr Paradise D’Evils Criminal Chef Gang, Condor grabs his chance to earn respect. Armed with only enthusiasm, his fedora and minimal skill, he embarks on the most bizarre undercover mission SOOPA has ever seen…
He’s referred to as Condor throughout the book, I’m still discovering what he’s like for myself to be honest.
I had originally based him on the Inspector Clouseau character from The Pink Panther, so he’d think he was the best superhero out there, but continually fail at his job without ever admitting it.
Since I’ve been writing (currently nearing the end of my first draft), I’ve seen him grow into a more ‘human’ character, so although he’s aware of his mess ups, he continues to spur himself on.
He’s also dealing with his father being a retired celebrity superhero and how he can live up to that, an overbearing mother and anupcoming appraisal at work to discuss whether it’s worth him staying part of SOOPA.
Having a bit of trouble working everything in to be honest, keep feeling like I’ve missed parrts of ot, but it’s only the first draft.
Things I liked:
-His father. I thought that was clever.
-The amazing genericness of SOOPA, plus the fact that it reminded me of Kids Next Door
-The name Condor. It’s nice.
Thing I disliked:
-His personality. Personally, I’d like someone who accepts their weakenesses and overcomes them more than someone that doesn’t realise they exist. But it could work, don’t change it just because I said so.
Yeah Tom, I get your point. I’m not sure how it’s going to end up to be honest, I think in the end he does accept and overcome his main weakness – the fact he has no powers, it’s just that he’s so so stubborn, he doesn’t let it stop him.
That is quite different from Clouseau, as he never accepted his weaknesses and never changed throughout any of the Pink Panther films. In fact, if he did, the comedy would be lost as it’s based upon him being oblivious to his faults. Those films still worked.
In the end though, I do think Condor is a lot more sympathetic than Clouseau was, but we’ll have to see as the story pans out.
Ok, here’s the first half of my first chapter. I wrote this months back, and I can see places where I’d like to change it, especially the opening, but see what you think.
It was obvious his first assignment lacked something at the planning stage. Mistakes had been made, and if asked by his superiors, he could identify them with no problem. He could learn from this, if given another chance.
All he had to do was somehow convince the man pointing the gun at his head to lower it.
Condor was on stage. Just about the only positive. Strictly speaking, it was a university lecture hall, not a theatre, and none of the 500 seats were full, but he was still front and centre, starring in his own drama. In a roundabout way, he’d done what many other people hadn’t – fulfilled a personal dream.
The man dressed in black pinstripe, the one holding the pistol, had a frame like the door to a bank vault. He was smiling, an expression that said ‘I’m going to kill you, I’m just toying with you first.’
A smile. But no words. The morbid hush in the air didn’t exactly help matters. Awkward silences were so uncomfortable.
He had to try something, anything. He couldn’t just stand around and wait to be shot, death certainly wouldn’t look good on his C.V. With speed and a bit of luck, he could still escape. Behind the man, the rope he had used to rappel, or rather fall from the balcony, was still embedded in the wall, attached to the spike he’d fired from the grappling hook. If only he’d managed to swoop down and apprehended this felon in one motion instead of the hook mechanism jamming.
It was definitely the grappling hook’s fault. It was typical really, the one time he’d agreed to use his dad’s invention, it failed. Never trust home made equipment.
But he could do this, he could chop the thug in the neck, bound to the rope and ascend. Above him, the rows of chairs normally taken by latecoming students would provide perfect cover.
There was a sentence from the handbook that applied to moments like this:
‘Avoid guns wherever possible.’
It was nice of the Academy to be so considerate of people like him. After all, there hadn’t been many Superheroes without powers in its proud history. Next time he’d take the advice more seriously.
If there was a next time.
The man with the gun spoke, his mouth opened slowly, revealing an array of jewellery attached to his teeth.
‘I’m curious,’ he said. ‘You don’t do anything. How did you expect to save her?’
Condor found it impossible to look at him directly. Was it the gun or the pawn shop in his mouth?
‘Make this quick. I do have to kill you.’
‘Of course. Actually I thought you’d let her go when I came in. You know the routine: a brief struggle, I overpower you…’
‘Yeah, I get it.’
‘Exactly, you look like you’re well versed in this kind of thing. Basically you were supposed to surrender, hand over the girl and we’d forget this whole thing ever happened.’
The man considered this.
Condor waited for him to change his mind. Hopefully this spiel would convince the man he had no chance of contesting the oldest rule of hero versus villain: the good guy always wins.
Come to think of it, there was no harm in getting a little plug in there too, it couldn’t hurt his chances.
‘Believe it or not, I’m not like other superheroes,’ he said, growing in confidence. ‘I don’t need powers in the traditional sense. In fact, sometimes they even complicate matters.’
The man nodded. Hopefully with appreciation. ‘You’re a gutsy guy.’
‘Stupid guy is more like it,’ a woman said. She hung behind them over a vat full of steaming liquid. Probably acid.
Ah yes, that was the reason the ‘hiding’ plan couldn’t work, he was here to save someone. Staring down the barrel of a gun did all sorts of things to the memory.
‘I’ll ignore that.’ Condor turned back to the man and nodded. ‘Thank you.’
‘No problem,’ He gestured towards the woman. ‘Don’t worry about her, she’s been givin’ me mouth all night. I know how you feel.’
Condor pressed for the sympathy vote. ‘Great, the guy going to kill me understands me better than the woman I’m trying to save.’
‘What a shame,’ the man said. ‘Anyway, enough of the pleasantries, get on the floor, I’m going to tie you up.’
So, appealing to his sense of tradition hadn’t worked, and apparently, he wasn’t full of compassion. There was only one other tactic he could use:
‘Why don’t you just shoot me?’ Condor said. ‘Wouldn’t that be more straightforward?’
The man chuckled. ‘It’s more fun this way.’
So he was a purist. Not content with simply shooting his victim and hiding the body, he chose to watch his captives suffer.
Despite the fact he was pointing a loaded weapon at him, there was something admirable about this man – In a purely artistic sense of course. Too many criminals these days subscribed to the ‘whack ‘em once’ school of hero disposal. It was refreshing to see a bad guy taking the time to savour the moment.
More importantly, it was a chance of escape. Being hung over a vat of acid probably wasn’t anyone’s idea of a fun evening, but his chances of getting out alive versus a bullet to the head were substantially improved.
‘I can understand where you’re coming from,’ Condor said. ‘The element of showmanship is a lost art.’
The man gave a mock bow. ‘Thank you.’
Every second he kept this lunatic talking was a second longer he lived. He pressed on. ‘It’s a rare thing these days. I’ve often incorporated methods of—‘
‘Don’t try and distract me. Get on the floor.’
Stalling was a delicate science.
Condor stroked his chin. Perhaps this new tactic wasn’t going to work, but something still didn’t make sense.
‘One question before you dispose of me.’
‘Think of it as your last request. Fire away. ’
‘Before you do?’ Condor gave a half-hearted chuckle.
The man remained silent.
‘Well, I thought it was funny—anyway, if you’re going to tie me up, why do you need the gun?”
‘If he didn’t have the gun, you wouldn’t get on the floor so he could tie you up, idiot.’
Condor turned to the hanging woman, ‘You know, I’m here risking what’s left of my life trying to save you. At least show some appreciation. Or do you want to be fried in a tub of—‘ he glanced at the man, ’what is that stuff anyway?’
‘The classic choice,’ he turned back to the woman. ‘Would you like that? Is that what you want?’
‘Enough.’ The man waved the gun in the air. ‘It’s too hot too for games. Get on the floor.’
Perspiration dotted Condors top lip, forming a sweat moustache. He fumbled with the tie in his pocket.
‘No,’ he said.
The man raised his eyebrows. ‘No?’
‘Right. Good. Get on with it then.’
‘No, I meant ‘Yes’ as in ‘No’.’
“You asked me ‘No?’ which I assume was a question as to whether I had just said ‘No’, so I answered ‘Yes’ to the question, not to the command to get on the floor.’
For a strategy that wasn’t working, stalling was working quite well. He’d have to figure out what to do next at a later point.
‘Later’ as in ‘now.’
The mans expression darkened. ‘This is a gun, yes?’
‘The bullets from this gun could do a lot of damage to your skull.’
‘Yes, I’ve seen pictures, on the internet.’
He took a step forward. ‘Then get on the floor.’
The man grimaced.
He was off guard, time to strike.
‘The reason I’m not going to get on the floor is because you, Mr…Mr…’
So that’s what his name was.
‘You, Mr Nick—by the way, what is the name of the lady up there?’
‘Interesting. Well, You Mr Nick, have completely ignored the crucial advantage that I possess over you.’
Mr Nick sighed, lowering the gun. ‘What would that be?’
‘This!’ He whipped off his fedora and tossed it towards him like a Frisbee of justice.
The hat sailed through the air, rapidly losing speed. It dropped at Mr Nicks feet in a limp finale, the dramatic effect of the manoeuvre completely ruined.
There was an awkward silence. Miss Damsel stifled a laugh.
I’m going to be giving feedback as I go along, so if I say something that’s corrected later on, I’ll probably say “Oh, nevermind” a little later. And also, I’m tackling some wording things too, so if you don’t want that, just skip to the bottom where I give my overall advice.
First off, I like the concept of the beginning paragraph. Maybe wording could be polished up, but I genuinely liked it. It drew me in, made me wonder how he screwed up, exactly. But the one-line second paragraph, the punchline in a sense, is a little bit poor. Not the concept, just the wording. It’s a little bit of an awkward sentence, in that it doesn’t quite flow when you’re reading it aloud. A few words are unnecessary, like (and this is just my opinion) ‘somehow’, ‘man pointing the gun’ (would ‘gunman’ suffice?)… Also, in this case, ending the sentence with ‘it’ contributes to the awkwardness. There’s a lot of tension built up from the first paragraph, all weighing on this sentence like an upside-down pyramid, so this sentence should have a solid ending. I think a simple rewording would work, though. I can think one up, if you can’t.
“Condor was on stage. Just about the only positive.” I think the second sentence should start with “That was just …” instead of simply “Just …” Try it both ways, see what you like. And about the section, “… none of the 500 seats were full.” Firstly, it’s very very much frowned upon, if not outright incorrect, to use a number below… I think 1100? Something like that. Anything below that should be written out. Five, one hundred, five hundred… Also, I’d reword that as ‘not one of the five hundred seats’ rather than ‘none’.
Just curious, is there a reason you’re spelling things the old-fashioned way? Theatre is fine, but centre is generally considered incorrect in a modern novel unless it’s the name of something.
“The man dressed in black pinstripe,” could simply be “The man in black pinstripe,” and the second way makes it feel a little less intrusive. I like how you compared him to a vault door. It’s a very strong visual.
A couple of lines lower, he’s talking about how ‘awkward silences are so uncomfortable’. He’s got a gun to his head, is he not afraid? That statement is incredibly cocky…
Also, it might just be my lack of common knowledge (at times), but what’s a “C.V.”?
Meanwhile, that whole paragraph and the next, or at least the part starting from “Beside the man, the rope he had used to rappel,” until “Never trust homemade equipment” seems… Well, it seems like something we should have seen rather than been told about now. This paragraph is a very rushed summary of what must have been a very tense event, for him. An attempt to stop this gunman. If you’re going to tell it here, after the fact, at least give it some detail. Flashbacks aren’t the best either, but… Hmm. I’m really not sure what advice to give you, here. Just that this whole summary doesn’t work. (However, I do like the last two sentences of that section. If you don’t keep them, put them in if he reflects back on it later. They’re amusing.)
[Not done, but if I get much longer, the mods will have to approve the comment. More coming.]
[Oh dang it, the mods have to approve it anyway. xD]
I notice that all of your dialogue is in ‘single quotes’. I’m pretty sure they’re all supposed to be “double quotes”.
Also, when he’s saying how a simple chop to the neck and whatnot would work. Most of the time, a reader doesn’t like to hear about the plans ahead of time. In this case, they’d be thinking, “If he’s planning all of this, why isn’t he doing anything?”
And I realize this is supposed to be dramatic, but a vat of steaming liquid in the theater? Really?
Alright, I quit the nit-picky thing for now. But this will please you: The reason I did was because I actually got interested in what was going on. You’ve got a rather amusing story here, though you walk a very fine line between humorous and too dramatic. For the most part, you’re dead-on ‘humorous’.
There are some punctuation errors, some wording issues, capitalization… But honestly? I like it. I’d read more. If you want me to point out the nitty-gritty capitalization and comma issues, I can do that too, but overall, it’s much better than I thought it would be. (I’ll admit… I actually wasn’t intending to read yours, by the “superhero without powers” summary. Consider me intrigued.)
Thanks Marrisa, this is a first draft, so I’m open to any changes that need to be made. I would actually like you to point out the comma and capitalization issues, as it’s something I haven’t pinned down yet, (obviously).
A lot of what you mentioned were things I noticed when reading this over before I posted it, things such as the wording that needs to be trimmed. In my second draft I’ll be changing the opening around.
I definitely have to work on him being more afraid in this opening, as other people have said he seems too nonchalant. He’s supposed to be so confident in his abilities that even this situation doesn’t scare him. I realise that kind of sucks the tension out the scene though, so I’ll have to rework it. I wasnt to find a balance between him having the confidence of superhero, but still working tension in there.
I originally put my dialogue in double quotes, then noticed all the books I was readun were in single quotes. I’m not sure which is correct.
The paragraph you mentioned not working – It does slow the whole thing down, I’ll be reworking it.
The vat of steaming liquid was supposed to be a wink at the reader-an obvious superhero story cliche.
It’s an interesting point you make abou the balance between humourous and dramatic. I’m going for the 80′s screwball comedy feel where even dead serious situations are taken for laughs. Where would you say I was too dramatic? Melodrama is something I have difficulty judging in my own work.
For the confidence… You could find that balance in having him consciously trying to be confident, but there’s that gun-to-his-head terror kind of seeping through the cracks. Most of the confident remarks would be out loud rather than in his head, and he’d be doing a little more worrying in his head. How does that sound?
Double-quotes is almost always correct, in a published novel. What books were they single, in? Are you sure they aren’t just inward thoughts (rather than dialogue)?
Ah, I got the wink, but I wasn’t sure. If you specified that even Condor thought that was ridiculous, here in the theater, that might make it a little less of an ‘is the author aware of this?’
Looking back, I can’t spot anything specific in which you were too dramatic, but I was just saying that as a warning: Condor’s ‘classic superhero’ way of thinking could dramatize even a normal situation, as was the style of the classic superhero. But there’s a very fine line between classically dramatic and overly dramatic, so I’d keep an eye on that line. Have some more dramatic moments like this, but also some less dramatic ones, where ‘classic superhero’ might not be his main concern and both you and the readers can take a breather.
If you ever reread something, shake your head, and think, “This is just… too much,” on the drama scale… The odds are, the readers were like that anywhere between two paragraphs and two pages ahead of you. You just need to figure out where it started and send that train down a different track, excuse my metaphor.
Glad I could help. If you want me to nitpick it, as far as wording and punctuation goes, you’ll have to wait until I catch up on a few other things first.
That’s a great idea about the confidence, it’s actually something I worked into the rest of the book without actually thinking about it. He uses a lot of one liners and smart remarks, but he’s almost always sweating or frightened inside.
I’ve just picked up thre different books and they all use single speech marks! Can anyone clarify this? I was under the impression either was fine.
Good idea about the wink. At first, I had Condor remark about how ridiculous Ms Damsel’s name is (another wink – Damsel in distress.) Someone said I was making it too obvious, so I removed it, I may consider putting it back in on your advice because him remarking on the cliche was something I had originally used. It’s a bit like where find out the acid in the tank is sulphuric and he calls it the ‘classic choice.’
Funnily enough, you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head there with your comment about classic superhero thinking. In a way, Condor dramatising even a normal situation because he thinks he’s a hero is something I was aiming for, for comedic effect – here’s a guy so caught up with acting like a superhero, he forward rolls into position to answer the door for example. I’ve since toned it down, so he reacts to things accordingly, but I do want to keep a small element of it. It’s all about whether I can do it effectively I suppose…
I kinda got that he’s in his own little superhero world, in his own mind, but that shouldn’t affect most of the rest of the world. Like, if he’s at school, he might see a bully picking on a ‘Damsel in Distress’, but that bully wouldn’t instantly have a supervillain attitude/speech pattern, there wouldn’t be any cheesy sound effects…
Basically, there’s gotta be a clear difference between his thinking and the real world, for this to work throughout the entire book.
However, that’s just for thought. You did it fine, in your exerpt, so don’t worry.
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