Archive for January 5th, 2011

Jan 05 2011

Reader Questions: Fonts, Mary Sues, and Intense Scenes

Published by under Writing Articles

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.

How long should a superhero story be? Generally I would recommend submitting at a length comparable to other works the publisher has printed.  That’s usually around 80,000-100,000 words for an adult novel manuscript and ~24 pages for a comic book, but check your publishers.  If you’re writing for children or YA, please see these length suggestions.


How do I make my openings interesting? Please see Surviving to Page 2.  Also, I would highly recommend religiously reading Flogging the Quill’s series of first page critiques.

Which font do comic books use? Umm, a lot of them.  If you’re submitting a comic book, I think most of the fonts at Blambots (many of which are free) will suffice for your sample pages.  After you’ve gotten published, most companies can provide you a letterer pretty easily.  Rule of thumb: If a font came pre-installed on your computer, it probably isn’t well-suited for comic book lettering.

Am I supposed to capitalize my main character’s name the first time I use it in my manuscript? I’ve seen editors go both ways on this.  Unless the publisher specifies all-caps or standard-caps in its submission guidelines, either JOHN SMITH or John Smith is fine.

Comparing your novel to a movie in your query letter. I would recommend against this.  The best-case scenario is that you’re “telling” rather than “showing” what the manuscript is like.  Giving details about the story is usually more emotionally effective.  The worst case scenario is that you come off as a wannabe screenwriter writing a two-bit knockoff.  Additionally, you may make a poor first impression if the editor doesn’t like the movie you’re comparing it to.

What’s a character that can be described in a few words and doesn’t have a lot of traits? Probably an archetype or stock character but possibly an extra or throwaway character.

How to save a Mary Sue. Good question!  Usually the main problem is that the character is insufficiently challenged.  I gathered some possible solutions in this article.

How to write an intense scene.

  • Intense scenes usually have shorter, more fragmented sentences.  It helps accelerate the pace.
  • Put a lot at stake.  This could be the character’s physical safety (like in a chase scene or combat) but it could be anything the character values highly.
  • Confrontation usually contributes to intensity but isn’t necessary.


Lol gator hatchling

Is it okay to introduce a main character later on in the story? As long as you start with one main character, I think you’ve probably given readers a point of access into the story.  I would recommend against starting with a minor character unless you have a really good reason, though.
Superpowers that haven’t been used. I haven’t seen anyone that explodes when exposed to water.  Potassium Man, go!  Or… You might be able to get a fresh-feeling superpower by adding a crazy limitation, like the ability to go back in time but only a few minutes.
My boa constrictor isn’t eating and spends all day stretching.  What’s wrong? He’s either too cold or is preparing to eat you.  (No, really–call a vet or Animal Control immediately).
Best comic book quotes ever. My favorite is Abraham Lincoln telling Hitler “Bring it, boy. I’m gonna emancipate your teeth,” in Tales from the Bully Pulpit.

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