Archive for July, 2010

Jul 27 2010

Which famous author do you write like?

Published by under Research and Resources

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.

This writing analyzer is fun.  It’s totally useless for anything but amusement, though.  It claimed that a passage actually written by Hemingway most resembled the work of P.G. Wodehouse, which is a bizarre choice for a passage about a man that killed a lion.  Wodehouse mainly wrote comedies about foppish dandies more likely to use a club for golf than for anything interesting.  (In the program’s defense, alcohol does play sort of prominently in both the Hemingway passage and Wodehouse’s work).

36 responses so far

Jul 25 2010

13 Ways a Friendly Cop Can Help Superheroes and Urban Fantasy Protagonists

In most superhero stories and some urban fantasy, the protagonists know at least one friendly police character. Here are some ways police characters can help the heroes.

1. Alerting the heroes when there’s a problem too large for the police.  Common examples include superpowered robberies, jail breaks, and supernatural/occult/magical serial killers.

2. Crowd control (clearing out civilians during or before a superpowered brawl).  This helps explain why civilians don’t get killed in the crossfire and gives the police something to do besides watch the fight.

3.  Helping the heroes avoid legal trouble.  Or, if the cop is REALLY friendly, helping them break out of jail.

4. Helping superheroes maintain a secret identity.  “This picture of Superman turning into Clark Kent is obviously fake.  At the time it was allegedly taken, I was with Clark Kent on the other side of town.”  Alternately, this might help any protagonist avoid a case of mistaken identity/imposters.  “That bank robber wasn’t the real Harry Dresden! I was discussing a case with Dresden, so the the robber must have been a shapeshifter.”

5. Passing along messages and packages to the heroes, particularly from a villain.  When the Joker wants Batman to see something, the easiest middleman is the police because it wouldn’t make much sense if the Joker knew where to find Batman.

6. Delaying and/or thwarting hostile police officers. In many cases, some police officers are against the heroes, particularly if an antagonist impostor has torn up the town or the heroes are not very careful about collateral damage.  In urban fantasy, some police officers may be uneasy about working with a sorcerer, werewolf or other supernatural creature.  (“I went through six days of testing before I could take my firearm into the field.  How about your wand?)

Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

Jul 24 2010

Comic Sans Must Die

Published by under Fonts

Graphic novelist Jason Brubaker offers seven strong arguments against Comic Sans.

Here’s mine: Comic Sans is editor Kryptonite. It’s usually too kiddie for the tone of the project and handles capital letters poorly (which is a major problem, given that most comic books and graphic novels are published in all-caps). If you like the feel of Comic Sans but need something for an audience older than 5-13 year olds, I would highly recommend checking out this list of similar-but-more-professional alternatives.

Relatedly: The fonts available on most newly-purchased computers are generally unsuitable for most comic books, webcomics and graphic novels. If Comic Sans looks like your best option, please check out the free font selections at 1001 Free Fonts or Blambots.

(Note: Comic Sans crops up most often in comic book sample pages and rarely (ick) scripts, but like some vampiric Loch Ness monster it has made poorly-documented but much-rumored appearances in the novel-publishing industry.   Don’t get in bed with a vampiric Loch Ness monster.  Say no to Comic Sans.

No responses yet

Jul 23 2010

Bayamo’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

See the comments below.

3 responses so far

Jul 22 2010

Is Your Title Too Generic?

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

Does your title help readers answer at least three of the following questions about your novel? If not, it probably doesn’t say enough about the work.

  • What’s the genre? (Action, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, horror, etc).
  • What’s the subgenre? (Are we talking about an action with… Superheroes? Military/espionage? A natural disaster?  Adventurers? Vampires/supernatural creatures? Mythological figures? etc).
  • What’s the inciting event?  (What event throws the main character out of his status quo/comfort zone?)
  • What’s the main character like?  (Anything that makes him more interesting to prospective readers or suggests his role–please note that using the character’s name in the title does not necessarily accomplish either)
  • What’s the main antagonist like? (Same as for the protagonist)
  • What’s the setting like? (Time and/or place)
  • What’s the central goal of the main character and/or what’s at stake if he loses?
  • What’s the author’s style like?
  • Is there an interesting contrast between elements of the title?


If the title doesn’t nail at least three of these, I’d recommend rewriting it and/or starting over.  Here are some examples that I enjoyed.


Captain Freedom: A Superhero’s Quest for Truth, Justice, and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves

  • Main character: a highly self-entitled, egomaniacal superhero, maybe a parody of Superman
  • Goal: celebrity and recognition
  • Contrast: The idealistic, lofty name “Captain Freedom” vs. his preposterously petty goal.
  • Author style: I’d totally pick this up, assuming I could survive the cover.


Saddam Hussein and the Hippies from Space

  • Main character and antagonist: Either Saddam Hussein and the space hippies or vice versa
  • Genre: science fiction/comedy
  • Author’s style: Wow.  I love the contrast, too.

Continue Reading »

65 responses so far

Jul 22 2010

Cassandra’s Writing Forum

Published by under Review Forums

My name is Cassandra and I’m a senior in college (YM and sociology major). Writing is mainly a hobby for me; I haven’t thought much of publishing other than in the last couple years. However, I’m afraid that although my stories have decent plots, they are over-ridden with too much pointless romance. And I like to think there is more to a story than romance.

Currently, I’m doing a complete rewrite of one of my novels. It is a YA action-romance superhero novel. Perhaps comparable to Meg Cabot’s supernatural novels when she still wrote under her name Jenny Carroll (such as the Mediator series and 1-800-Missing.)

Summary: Adaline is a high school student by day and the superhero, Volt, by night. But when her family relocates to small-town Indiana, she’s forced to retire her Volt persona. Can she survive the normalcy of the ordinary life or will The City’s pleas for Volt drive her insane? To top it off, high school athletes have been falling ill with a mysterious life-threatening disease. Throw in a love triangle between her next-door-neighbor and the small-town super and you have yourself quite the shocking story.

I don’t plan on posting too much about my overall plot because I don’t like the idea of having the entire synopsis and storyline posted online. However, I may post scenes that I am having difficulties with or would like multiple opinions on. In addition to this, if somebody is interested in learning more or taking a more active role in reviewing, then I would like to correspond through emails.


19 responses so far

Jul 21 2010

Other writing problems and career disputes I’d love to have

Published by under Comic Books

Alan Moore: “I don’t want Watchmen back.

B. Mac: “I’ll take it!”

Apparently the hangup was that DC Comics would only give him the rights back if he agreed to some (inevitably awful) prequels and sequels.  I was expecting an author vs. publisher bloodbath, but this is only a bit more rancorous than “You paid me too much” and “Do I really need that many assistants?”

12 responses so far

Jul 21 2010

Questions from Google Users

Published by under Questions from Readers

  • Should I mention fan-fiction in my query letter? No.  Nor would I recommend mentioning self-published works unless you’ve sold at least a few thousand copies or blogs unless you have hundreds of thousands of readers.
  • cool superhero names. the superhero has all powers. I think your story has more pressing issues than character names.
  • how long should a novel be. Adult novel manuscripts are usually 80-100,000 words but there is some variation by genre.  YA novel manuscripts are usually around 40-60,000 words.
  • how do i represent foreign text in comic books? If the character is speaking another language but you want to translate it into English for readers, I would recommend something like this.

    If the text is in the art rather than the lettering (such as a store sign in Shanghai or a Babylonian tablet), then I would recommend sending the artist a copy of the text in a  large font, as well as a screenshot of the text in a large font (in case the artist’s word-processor can’t read the language).

    8 responses so far

    Jul 20 2010

    Rocking the iPad with Fingerpainting and Ironman

    I also liked this one of Ironman.

    3 responses so far

    Jul 20 2010

    Holly Ann’s Review Forum

    Published by under Review Forums

    See the comments below.

    No responses yet

    Jul 16 2010

    Do critics hate comic book movies?

    Over at the Sun Times, Jim Emerson argues that “critics seem to overwhelmingly approve of the current crops of comic-book, graphic-novel and superhero movies.”

    One of the commenters responds:

    While critics in general are happy to give approval to comic book films (and, I think, many critics do treat them fairly), I think there’s no question that there are elements of bias in many critics’ reviews.

    First, look at the language many critics use. When giving a positive review, many will say things like “despite its comic book origins,” or “leaping beyond comic books,” as if being based on a comic book is in some way a handicap.

    Actually, I think being based on a comic book (or a novel or TV show or anything else) is a handicap for a movie.

    Continue Reading »

    9 responses so far

    Jul 15 2010

    What are some unbelievable things that have actually happened?

    Published by under Believability,Comedy

    Just because something has happened doesn’t necessarily make it believable.  Here are some examples.

    John Quincy Adams kept a pet alligator in the White House.  (Not surprisingly, he faced no assassination attempts).

    Unwacky: Brett Favre’s first completed pass was to himself.
    Barely wacky: Austria’s World Cup team threw a key match to West Germany to screw Algeria.  The game got so bad the announcer asked viewers to change the channel.
    Wackier: “You were like 50 feet away.  How could you be so sure that the ball crossed into the German goal?”  “Stalingrad.”
    Outlandish: “The Band Is On the Field!”

    Continue Reading »

    One response so far

    Jul 12 2010

    Even More Ways to Blow a Title

    Published by under Titles

    1. Be careful about needlessly long titles, particularly ones loaded with separate phrases. They’re typically less inviting to prospective readers and harder for people to remember. Unusually bizarre titles, like Saddam Hussein and the Hippies from Space, have more latitude here. (Regardless of length, they will be memorable).

    2. If your title does not appeal to prospective readers, start over! Some words that rarely mean much to prospective readers include fictional character and place names.  Alternately, some authors use puns.  If the reader immediately makes prospective readers smile, fine. If readers will only understand the pun after reading the work, they won’t ever find out how witty the pun is… because they won’t open the book.

    Continue Reading »

    54 responses so far

    Jul 12 2010

    Learning Superhero Tricks from the Marines and LAPD?

    This news article might help you if you’re worried your superheroes don’t get enough to do besides superpowered brawling.

    The Marines are working with the Los Angeles Police Department to learn more about policing intensely violent areas without alienating the residents.

    (Incidentally, I wonder how much the LAPD can teach anybody about that. It’s like getting advice about how to cook Bambi burgers from a vegan).

    One response so far

    Jul 11 2010

    At this very moment, I am up to my neck in Internet gremlins

    Published by under Mea Culpa

    I’m changing a lot of content around tonight and many links may be broken until, say, Sunday.  I’m doing my best to update the links, but if you find any that don’t work, please post a comment somewhere.  Thanks!

    3 responses so far

    Jul 10 2010

    Your Story Doesn’t Have to be Realistic or Plausible, Just Believable

    If we accept the premise of your story, whether that’s heroes getting superpowers from unlikely insect bites or gaining magical powers, does the rest of the story make sense?  For example, you could get readers to buy into a guy getting magical powers and using them to fight a magical mob.  But if the story is mostly realistic, like a cop infiltrating the mob, it’ll really disorient readers if a mobster starts using magic on page 200.  If you’re planning on using unrealistic elements, introduce or foreshadow them early so that readers won’t be surprised when they show up.  (For more on this, please see Holly Lisle and the Case of the Exploding Cat).

    Realistic: the premise occurs or could easily occur in real life. Cops infiltrating the mob or students dealing with school, for example.  Most superhero stories don’t have very much realistic stuff going on, and that isn’t a problem.  Many premises give a superhero superpowers/capabilities through supernatural means such as science fiction, magic/occult, religion, etc.  The only thing that matters is whether the reader can maintain the suspension of disbelief.

    Continue Reading »

    10 responses so far

    Jul 10 2010

    My most important advice ever

    Published by under Eccentric Tangent

    When you do a barrel roll, try to flip your vehicle an even number of times rather than an odd.



    3 responses so far

    Jul 09 2010

    Clapham37’s Review Forum

    Published by under Review Forums

    Please see the comments below.

    13 responses so far

    Jul 08 2010

    What are the Costs and Benefits of Multilingual Characters?

    Published by under Plotting

    I was rereading through comments and found this one very sharp.

    I’ve never understood the appeal of the power to speak all or several languages in works of fiction, I’ve seen it numerous times in fan fiction, but it never really made sense to me. The whole point of characters going to places where the language barrier is an issue is, well, primarily because the language barrier is going to be an issue, with a few exceptions in a few plots, and discounting fantasy works. Why send Captain Superior to China if the fact that he is an American-born superhero isn’t going to matter? Couldn’t he just stay home and skip a panel or two of flying? How is it exotic if he can just wander into any McDonald’s and order like it was any other Friday?

    I agree that it’s important to cut out extraneous elements.  However, I think there are some situations where foreign languages would add something to the story even if the main character can speak them.

    Continue Reading »

    7 responses so far

    Jul 07 2010

    Signs of Criminal Activity

    Here are some behaviors and traits that are mostly not themselves illegal, but may suggest that something is amiss.

    Continue Reading »

    5 responses so far

    Jul 07 2010

    Criminal Interviewing Strategies: Probing for Inconsistencies

    While a criminal may have put some thought into creating a coherent story that’s hard to disprove, probing questions can move the conversation into areas where he has to make up a lie as he goes along.  The more you push for details, the harder it is to keep up a lie.  Here’s an excerpt of a fictional interview between an investigator and a criminal suspect.

    Continue Reading »

    3 responses so far

    Jul 05 2010

    Grab-Bag: Pixar > Dreamworks and The Independence Day Rap

    Published by under Comedy


    This is ridiculously crass, but pretty hilarious.

    12 responses so far

    Jul 04 2010

    This superhero anthology looks interesting…

    Published by under Superhero Novel

    Simon and Shuster is releasing a superhero anthology later this month.  (Hat-tip: SF Signal).  Some of the stories include:

    • “Head Cases blasts through the blogosphere to expose the secret longings of a Lonely Superhero Wife.”
    • “The Non-Event removes the gag order on a super-thief named Lockjaw and pries out a confession of life-altering events.”
    • “Vacuum Lad unveils the secret origins of the first true child of the space age—and disproves the theory that nothing exists in a vacuum.”
    • “A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too) presents a fully-realized vision of a universe where epic feats and tragic flaws have transformed the human race.”

    (By the way, when you write summaries of your stories, don’t use these for inspiration.  Besides Head Cases, they’re pretty awful).

    One response so far

    Jul 02 2010

    S-ever-ed’s Review Forum

    See the comments below. Thanks!

    No responses yet

    Jul 02 2010

    Automatically generate a plot!

    P. Mac coded this random plot generator:

    Did you like this? Submit us to Stumble!

    38 responses so far

    Jul 01 2010

    Who’s your favorite author? (Also, let’s wildly stereotype you!)

    If you’re into ridiculously petty literary squabbles, you might get a kick out of this amusing list of reader stereotypes based on favorite authors.  Just don’t take it seriously. I thought these two were funny. 

    James Patterson fans: Men who bomb the LSAT.

    Stephenie Meyer fans: “People who type like this: OMG. Mah fAvvv <3 <3.”  [But they’ll still complain when you misspell Stephenie!]

    Here are some of my own. 

    Aldous Huxley fans: People that have FAR too much fun to survive to 40. From his masterpiece’s Wikipedia entry: “…They turn on each other, in a frenzy of beating and chanting that devolves into a mass orgy of [drugs] and sex.”  Make that 35. 

    Tom Clancy fans: Guys that like guns but have never actually carried one. 

    James Joyce fans: Guys that like James Joyce books but have never actually read one. 

    Franz Kafka fans: I think they’re the people that run airports.  It’s the only possible explanation. 

    H.G. Wells fans: If they ever had a time machine, their first act would be erasing George Lucas from history.  (Could you wait until Return of the Jedi? Thanks). 

    Charles Dickens fans: Readers that think a book is twice as enjoyable if it’s twice as long.

    Lorraine Hansberry fans: Jeopardy writers.  I’ll take 1970s Tony-Winning Adaptations for $2000, Alex! 

    18 responses so far

    Jul 01 2010

    13-year-old climbs walls Spiderman-style with vaccuum tubes

    Published by under News,Superhero Stories

    20% of the way to total awesomeness.

    • Climbing
    • Danger-sense
    • Reflexes
    • Strength
    • Webbing

    He’s young, though.  Plenty of time to collect the whole set!

    3 responses so far