Jan 05 2011

Reader Questions: Fonts, Mary Sues, and Intense Scenes

Published by at 9:44 am under Writing Articles

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.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Reader Questions: Fonts, Mary Sues, and Intense Scenes”

  1. Mr. Crowleyon 05 Jan 2011 at 3:24 pm

    The timetravel thing has already been done in The Batman. The episode in question had a guy with VERY limited time travel powers, and could only go backwards, who used the powers to get by Batman…or go back to make a better punchline or witty remark. Then Batman somehow CHANGES TIME whenever the guy uses his powers to dodge or attack, Batman somehow changes his fighting decisions and positions. THIS NOT ONLY MAKES NO LOGICAL SENSE IT ALSO DOESNT EVEN HAVE A HANDWAVE….sorry about the rant, I just hate The Batman.

  2. B. Macon 05 Jan 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Or the ability to see into the future but only a few minutes?

  3. Jeremy Melloulon 05 Jan 2011 at 10:50 pm

    lol the Boa Constrictor happened to my friend’s girlfriend’s uncle. He didn’t get eaten, though, he got in touch with a specialist who finally explained what his pet was doing. BTW – He would sleep in bed with his Boa (he really loved it).

  4. B. Macon 06 Jan 2011 at 12:23 am

    Most awkward conversation ever? “I’m sorry, sir, but it looks like your pet is trying to eat you.” “Chompy would never!”

    PS: I hope it worked out okay for your uncle. Is he an experienced animal handler? (Personally, I would not trust myself with anything more dangerous than a garter snake).

    On the plus side, at least he’s not showing off the boa constrictor at kindergartens.

  5. ekimmakon 06 Jan 2011 at 2:47 am

    The thing about the batman villain? Not exactly true. Each time, Batman got a sense of Deja Vu that got stronger with each fight, eventually almost getting to the point that he remembered the same stuff as the villain.

    There’s either an assumption that Batman learnt the trick from the villain, because he knew how it was done and he’s THE batman, or, I could give you the long and scientific explanation.

  6. B. Macon 06 Jan 2011 at 12:01 pm

    There were a few contrivances, but I don’t think that the plot could have worked otherwise. The villain’s powers were too weak for him to succeed without some Riddler Syndrome (when a hero suddenly gets weaker and/or dumber to compensate for a weak villain).

    1) Batman should have been able to force an overweight middle-aged guy into a situation where Batman could not be stopped even if the criminal knew what was coming. In particular, just drawing out the fight would bring it to the point where the criminal was physically unable to keep dodging even if he knew what was coming.

    2) If you know your opponent is planning on gassing Gotham, wouldn’t you have your gas mask on when you go to face him?

    3) Batman couldn’t knock out an overweight clock repairman in one hit? (Morality aside, I think the surest solution in a more adult-friendly story would be setting up a one-shot kill).

    On the plus side, I did like that the ending was more hopeful than the villain just getting carted off to Arkham. (To retire the character?)

  7. B. Macon 07 Jan 2011 at 11:56 am

    Ekimmak, what would be your long and scientific explanation?

  8. ekimmakon 07 Jan 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Darn. I’ve totally forgotten what it was.

    It’ll come to me eventually.

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