Archive for June, 2010

Jun 30 2010

Generate your own plots!

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.

Step 1: Randomly pick an inciting event, an antagonist, a protagonist and a goal.


  • cheated on
  • kidnapped
  • impaled on a national landmark
  • thrown out of a window
  • mentally mutilated
  • disowned
  • fired
  • hired
  • drafted
  • mugged
  • kicked down the stairs
  • put in the poor house
  • brutally murdered
  • psychically ravaged
  • drop-kicked in Times Square
  • publically serenaded
  • mistaken for a felon
  • exiled
  • sent on a one-way trip to Djibouti
  • interrogated
  • sold a [adjective] pet
  • implicated
  • sold into slavery
  • deceived
  • misidentified
  • sued
  • infected
  • ruined
  • mistakenly tackled
  • swindled
  • blacklisted
  • judo-chopped through a wall
  • poisoned
  • framed
  • drunk under the table
  • thrown into a pit of carnivorous gophers
  • beaten in the World Series of Poker
  • outed as a superhero
  • humiliated
  • betrayed
  • forced to read Twilight
  • thrown into a wood-chipper
  • blackmailed
  • tricked
  • nearly decapitated
  • rear-ended
  • magically turned into a man-eating llama

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14 responses so far

Jun 30 2010


I passed the Foreign Service Exam.  Getting closer!  The Personal Narrative Questions are next.  🙂

5 responses so far

Jun 29 2010

Some tips on dealing with unpleasant-teammate situations

I saw this today on LinkedIn:

I paid a name artist five months ago in advance for a pin-up for [series name].  In fact, I’ve had several artists, mostly old friends… all consummate professionals.

Just this one artist, who seems to be a bad actor. At the time he said contact him in two weeks and he’d give me an update on the status. Two weeks later I emailed him — nothing. I’ve been emailing him every few weeks very politely at first. Still no response at all. My last couple of emails were more strongly worded and in my last one I told him I’d be telling everyone I know on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on our blog about it and name him by name. Hell, I’m thinking I’ll put out a press release, too.

What do you think? Does he get away with it, and I have a lesson learned, or do I go nuclear on his ass?

Don’t go public about backstage drama.  It can only make the situation worse.  First, verify what you can. Is he actually being delinquent? You would look like a damn idiot if you accused your artist of going AWOL and it turns out that he was actually in an emergency room after getting hit by a car. (It happens).  At the very least, do not stumble into a slander lawsuit until you actually know (rather than suspect) what is going on!

If you have an editor/publisher, address any concerns to them and discuss whether you need to replace your artist.  Unlike publically accusing your artist of fraud, replacing your artist does not open you up to a slander/libel lawsuit if it turns out his absence was totally innocuous.  If you don’t yet have an editor/publisher, make the determination on your own.  It will cost you time and money and you’ll probably have to scrap most of the work by the original artist.  It’s highly bothersome and usually unprofessional for an artist to go missing for several weeks, but switching to another artist may well be a cure worse than the disease.

Finally, besides getting back at your original artist, going public doesn’t actually help you in any way.  It certainly doesn’t make it any likelier that he’ll come up with the art for you.  It may raise questions about your professionalism and will probably make you look inept.  (Don’t give yourself a reputation for workplace drama).

Some other general ideas to minimize problems with your teammates:

  • When you work with freelancers, pay no more than half upfront and the rest on completion. This increases the artist’s incentive to complete the job.  It also limits the amount of money you lose if everything goes to hell.
  • Work out a schedule ahead of time. I’m not sure what the case was above, but making your expectations clear is usually helpful.
  • Maybe exchange phone numbers. You may be uncomfortable asking for this if you’ve never actually met your freelancer.  However, when you’ve committed yourself to paying somebody thousands of dollars, I think your business relationship is strong enough to justify this request.  (At the very least, as a matter of customer service).
  • Business etiquette: when should you call (rather than e-mail) your freelancer? Since a call is more intrusive than an e-mail, I would only call if your artist hasn’t responded to an urgent e-mail within 1-3 weeks.  For example: the artist misses a deadline by more than a week (without explaining why) and doesn’t respond to an e-mail requesting a status update.  If you call your artist, politely remind him about the schedule, ask if there’s anything you can do to help*, and ask about when he thinks he can have the art in to you.  *Unless he needs clarification, there probably won’t be, but offering is still friendly.

One response so far

Jun 28 2010

Is there a quality difference between Marvel and DC movies?

Judging by ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, DC movies do almost as well on average (although its bombs tend to be uniquely awful).

For the sake of convenience and clean numbers, I took the top 20 grossing movies from each publisher and then gathered their Rotten Tomato rankings, which are averages of hundreds or thousands of reviews.  (A RT ranking isn’t a perfect measure of quality, but it’s probably pretty accurate).

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7 responses so far

Jun 27 2010

Today’s Recommended Articles

*An accountant and an alligator saving the world from a deranged cosmeticist… with a Heisman Trophy!  While playing Clue!  IN SPACE!

7 responses so far

Jun 24 2010

P. Mac to server limits: “Screw you, hippie!”

Published by under Navel-Gazing

P. Mac (my unevil twin?) got 100,000 readers last Saturday after the New York Times linked one of his posts.  So he performed some dark sorcery on the server and now the server’s sites (including this one) can cheerfully handle tens of thousands of people.  Good times!  I remember when 12,000 people caused SN to crash.

No responses yet

Jun 24 2010

Free Webinar: The Science of Facebook Marketing

If you have a spare hour from 1-2 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) on Tuesday, June 29, register for Dan Zarrella’s free webinar about marketing on Facebook. Here are some of the topics he will discuss.

  • The behavior of demographic groups on Facebook
  • The sociology of the Facebook community
  • The difference between men’s and women’s interactions on Facebook
  • How to get your content shared on Facebook

One thing that I find both interesting and scary about Facebook is that its audience isn’t gathered around a single interest (like a political site) or even a group of interests (like DeviantArt).  If you’re interested in marketing a book online but aren’t web-savvy enough to make your own site, I’d highly recommend giving this a look.

No responses yet

Jun 20 2010

List of Gender-Neutral Names

Published by under Pseudonyms

If you’re writing for readers that are mostly of the other gender, it may help to conceal your gender by using a pseudonym or your initials.  Here’s a list of unisex pen names.

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31 responses so far

Jun 20 2010

Best headline ever

Oh, please. Like it's never happened to you before.

25 responses so far

Jun 19 2010

Great Literature Retitled to Boost Google Results

Published by under Comedy

Mike Lacher has a pretty funny list on McSweeny’s Internet Tendency. I especially liked “Seven Awesome Ways Barnyard Animals Are Like Communism.”  Here are some reworked titles of my own.

One response so far

Jun 19 2010

A directory of concept art

Published by under Art,Character Design

This is a pretty awesome collection of concept art.  Pretty much all of it is kickass, but here are a few pieces that caught my eye. Hat tip to David Thompson’s Culture, Ideas and Comic Books.

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6 responses so far

Jun 17 2010

Amusing Google queries of the day

Here’s some of the queries that have brought readers to SN recently.

  • Can I exorcise myself with boiling water? Umm, I’d recommend running that past a priest.  Or anybody else that’s not completely nuts.
  • what are two common mistakes a writer make that could cause his writing to be ineffective fo readers?r. Punctuation and spelling errors.
  • is the scenario of superheroes getting powers from an explosion copyrighted–no, copyrights don’t work that way.  The main problem with using a cliche is less that you’ll be sued for ripping off a particular story than that editors (and/or eventually readers) will feel like your stuff isn’t fresh enough.  Plus, I don’t think that it’s all that cliche.   (The only remotely prominent competitors that come to mind are Daredevil and Static Shock, and the explosion itself only plays a major role for SS).
  • hawt edward cullen pix–YOU ARE RUINING THE INTERWEBZ
  • wereterrier–yes!

2 responses so far

Jun 17 2010

My inbox is clear!

Published by under Eww... gross!

Pretty much the only good news about getting hospital-grade food poisoning Tuesday-Wednesday is that I’ve had enough time to clear my inbox.  If you’re still waiting on a response to an e-mail or comment, please send me a reminder.

No responses yet

Jun 16 2010

How to draw M-4 carbines

Published by under Art,National service

The Wounded Artist Project has a helpful video here.

2 responses so far

Jun 14 2010

Would you like to suggest a writing article?

If you’d like to suggest any, I’d appreciate that. Here are some of the questions we’ve previously answered.

71 responses so far

Jun 13 2010

The Man on the Moon’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please see the comments below. Thanks!

4 responses so far

Jun 10 2010

Please take my reader survey

Published by under Reader Survey

Hello. If you haven’t taken my survey yet, I would really appreciate if you gave me 10 minutes of your time. That will help me get published. You can take it by clicking here or by reading under the fold. Completing the survey enters you into a raffle to win a free, signed copy of The Taxman Must Die when it comes out.
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2 responses so far

Jun 09 2010

Doing Comic Book Covers Well: 5 Tips

1. Market what you have.  The genre should be clear at a glance and the artistic should be consistent with the mood and content.  For example, if the story is a grim and macabre horror, you’d probably want something that suggested what danger(s) the protagonist will face.  Some possibilities that come to mind include a creepy mansion looming in the background, fog obscuring something sinister behind somebody, some supernatural creature, etc. 

2.  It needs to stand out at a distance of 10+ feet.  The single most important audience segment for most comic book covers is prospective readers browsing through a comic book store.  Before they examine the product, you have to grab their attention.  Bold color combinations are one effective way to do so.  I find that scenes involving motion (particularly extraordinary motion, such as a Batman karate leap) tend to be more eye-catching.  Obviously, it helps if something interesting and/or unexpected is  happening.  More on that here.  Finally, the title/logo should be legible across the room (at least 10 feet). 

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2 responses so far

Jun 08 2010

Bullies as protagonists? A writing exercise

Bullies are a very common, almost ubiquitous obstacle for young protagonists.  More often than not, I feel they’re stale, one-dimensionally malicious characters with incredibly thin motivations. (Hell, even Galactus has a better reason for consuming the Earth, and he’s apparently a cosmic dust cloud now).

If you’d like to use a bully, one alternative I’ve never seen would be to do a bully as a protagonist. I’ve never seen that before. You may be thinking something like “of course, because such a character would be so unlikable, you dumb ****.” Granted, likability would be a challenge.  However, if Kickass’s tween serial killer and adult serial killers like Sylar or Dexter can be likable, and I think they are, a likable bully is feasible. (However, making the bully likable might be harder, because it’s harder to give a bully good intentions, whereas you can have the serial killer prey on bad guys). So our writing exercise today is to come up with as many possible story hooks for a bully protagonist, preferably one the audience likes even if they don’t want him to succeed as a bully.

Here’s what I came up with…

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12 responses so far

Jun 06 2010

Superhero types and how to distinguish yours (Part 2)

(Part 1 here).

Jekyll and Hydes

  • Most superheroes have two distinct identities, like Batman vs. Bruce Wayne or Ben Grimm the Thing pining vs. Ben Grimm the human. For a Jekyll and Hyde character, the identities are separated not only by a marked physical transformation but also a multiple personality disorder. Sometimes the character shifts between the two states (such as the original J&H and the Hulk, but it was permanent for Dr. Manhattan).
  • Compared to other archetypes, curiosity and/or naiveté usually play a prominent role in the origin story of a Jekyll/Hyde character. For example, Dr. Suresh injects himself with his superserum rather than conduct tests, Jon Ostermann/Dr. Manhattan and Bruce Banner/The Hulk were involved in highly dangerous experimental research, etc.
  • Generally, the character gains his powers unintentionally (either through an accident or as an unintended consequence of a scientific experiment). What if it were intentional? What kind of character would want to do that to himself, and under what (desperate?) circumstances?
  • What causes the character to have separate personalities in each form? The most cliche (read: usually least interesting) explanation is that the transformed form is monstrous and/or bestial, like Hyde or the Hulk. (One of the many problems that might arise out of that is that the dialogue of the transformed form will be pretty dumb). Fortunately, there are fresher alternatives. For example, Dr. Manhattan’s perspective changed considerably when he essentially ascended to godhood, causing him to lose most of his empathy and estrange himself from humanity. What are some other ways a character’s perspective and/or values might change?
  • In most cases, the character is a scientist researching something that man wasn’t supposed to know. So he’s generally responsible for the transformation. What if he’s not? (Maybe he’s an unwilling or unwitting test subject, or he’s a janitor that accidentally triggers the device after-hours). Maybe the process is purely magical/occult rather than scientific.

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6 responses so far

Jun 05 2010

Some features of Adobe CS5 that may help your comic book…

Published by under Art,Comic Book Art

Unfortunately, it’s $200 for the upgrade.  Ouch.  Nonetheless, some of the features look like dynamite. Here are some that might help your comic book work.

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No responses yet