Archive for June 24th, 2009

Jun 24 2009

Key traits of interesting jobs

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.

Many, perhaps most, real life jobs have a fairly narrow and specialized focus. For example, most people of a company’s employees work for a particular department and newspaper reports usually focus on stories related to their section of the paper. In general, I’d recommend giving your heroes jobs that are more flexible because it gives more opportunity to entangle the character in the plot and add new developments.

Here are some aspects that can make a job more flexible and plot-friendly.

1. Get the character out of his office. Offices are mostly bland, forgettable, comfortable and safe. As far as readers and interesting stories are concerned, they are Kryptonite. I’d recommend giving your character a lot of work outside the office because the real world is harder to predict and gives you more opportunities to work in new scenes, danger, seedy characters, etc.

2. Please avoid making the character the boss. Usually, the boss has the least interesting job in the building. Privates and flunkies usually have more at stake than a general or a business magnate does. In addition, low-level work is generally more interesting. I’d much rather read about a platoon patrolling hostile streets or a corporate flack trying to steal corporate secrets than about the men that decided to send the patrols or steal the secrets.

3. As much as possible, I’d recommend having the hero spend his time working in situations that are high stakes and/or heavy on conflict. E.g. if the character is the CEO, it’d probably be easier to create interesting situations if most of his problems can’t be resolved just by telling people what to do (like unreliable employees, dissension in the ranks, embezzlement, corporate sabotage, labor unrest, whatever). If the relationships within a company are usually tidy and well-controlled, it might help to have the characters interact with outsiders. For example, if a police officer has to convince a reluctant witness to testify, that’s a better opportunity to show how impressive he is. In contrast, if the cop could just order the witness to testify because it’s the law, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or impressive. (Technically, a cop probably could order a witness to testify, but persuasion may be necessary (e.g. if the case is dangerous, the witness is wary of police, the witness has a good relationship with the defendant or a bad one with the victim, and/or would be creating major problems for himself by admitting that he was there).

4. I’d recommend making the hero accountable to a tough boss. Characters like JJ Jameson tend to add a lot more dramatic potential than friendly bosses like Perry White. They create more of an obstacle for the heroes and usually make the heroes seem more likable.

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Jun 24 2009

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Jun 24 2009

Comic Book Tip of the Day: Use Motion in Your Covers

Published by under Art,Book Covers,Comic Books

In visual media, motion usually makes a scene more interesting.  It’s particularly important in a cover because you have to catch the reader’s eye.

For example, let’s say we have two covers that use the world as a soccer ball. (The issue’s title is Americans Don’t Play Soccer, and the issue is about Darfurian genocide and other things very far removed from the typical American’s life.  For ideological balance, we might add a thinly veiled Obama vis-a-vis the Iranian democracy movement).

Cover #1:  On a soccer field, the villain is standing next to a globe.  In the background, the hero is the only thing between him and the net. The villain’s pose would probably look lifeless, like these.

soccerboring

Cover #2:  On a soccer field, the villain is doing an insane flip as he punts the world at the hero.  The cover would probably look a lot more energetic and stylish.  This is particularly important because the cover will probably show the villain from the back.  It’s quite hard to strike an immobile pose from behind.

socceraction

It would probably also help if the hero/goalie had some action. Bracing himself for impact is a little bit banal, so I’d like something that’s striking and makes it clear that this comic isn’t really about soccer. So let’s say the hero is bracing himself behind a transparent SWAT shield.

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