Archive for May 18th, 2011

May 18 2011

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Published by under Superhero Nation

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.

  • Why are editors laughing at me for “nonfiction novel?” Novels are always fiction.  If you’re writing nonfiction, I’d recommend pitching it as a “book” or something more specific (i.e. a memoir, a textbook, a machine gun ownership manual, a ninja survival guide, etc).  PS: I don’t think a professional would actually laugh at you for “nonfiction novel.”   Nobody you’d want to work with, certainly.  While “nonfiction novel” suggests the author is new to novel-publishing, it’s a minor mistake that won’t affect the manuscript much.  (In contrast, mixing up something like there/their/they’re will require major proofreading).  Laughing at someone for something so minor, particularly something rarely taught in school, suggests a serious lack of empathy.
  • How late can a superhero get his superpowers in a novel? Personally, I think it’d be perfectly fine if the origin story took up the first quarter (maybe the first third) of the book.  It’s okay if there isn’t a clear superhero element before then–if I could make a fantasy analogue, the first clear fantasy element in Harry Potter was Harry getting told he was a wizard, and I think that was around page 50 or 60.   I don’t think you need to rush into the superhero angle because it should be immediately clear (from your cover art, from the backcover blurb and probably the title) that it’s a superhero story.
  • How long is the average science fiction novel? For adult science fiction, I’d recommend submitting on the shorter end of 100,000-115,000 words.  Sci-fi (and fantasy) authors get a bit more room than most other novelists because their worldbuilding is usually more involved.
  • Am I an ailurophage? Unless Garfield and Nermal strike you as pretty tasty, no.
  • Why does Charleston Air Force Base have a pet alligator? To make its training course more interesting.  Or maybe to cut down on curfew violations.
  • How to write an awesome male character. I can be reached at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.  Oh, wait…
  • Character trait for being able to dodge unwanted situations. Savvy?  Intuition? A rocket-propelled grenade launcher?
  • Do comic book characters have to be likable? Some protagonists are misanthropes and/or nasty to the people around them (i.e. Batman).  However, even if the other characters do not like the protagonists that much, I think it really helps if the readers do.  For example, Dr. House’s tirades are icy and totally unprofessional but he’s hilarious enough that I think he comes across as very likable (even though I’d hate to work with him).  With villains, I don’t think likability is as important.  Readers can be impressed by and/or interested in a villain even if they don’t like him.  On the other hand, you wouldn’t want readers to dislike a villain so much they are raptly waiting for the next page without him.  (I’m looking at YOU, Gorilla Grodd).
  • Do police need a search warrant for a hotel room? If the suspect is still renting the room, then a search warrant (or the suspect’s permission) would be necessary.  If the suspect has checked out, the permission of the hotel staff will suffice.   (Legal reasoning: As soon as the suspect returns the room to the hotel, he has no expectation to privacy on whatever he has left behind).  For more details on warrantless searches, please read this.
  • Do superhero novels sell well? Generally, not really.  If they sold better, I think we’d see more of them published every year.  (In the past decade, fewer than ~50 independent titles have been published professionally).  There are a few bright spots, though.  The Wild Cards series probably sold pretty well.  It had 12 books published by Bantam, 3 by Baen and 4 by Tor, and I doubt they would have continued if the books hadn’t been selling.  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was a bestseller and I get the impression that Soon I Will Be Invincible did well.   In these cases, I think the authors had strong reputations or at least strong literary backgrounds.  The books were at least somewhat intelligent and I think that plays really well among adult novel readers.  If you’re trying to write the next Hulk (or, God help you, the next Dragonball Z) as an adult novel, I think your prospects are exceedingly grim because there’s not much demand among novel readers for a novel that’s essentially a comic book without pictures.  (By the standards of the novel publishing industry, comic books themselves don’t sell all that well–only one comic book cracked 100,000 sales last month).
  • What supervillain would you most want to be? Evil Editor.  Failing that, Bill Belichick.

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