Archive for August 18th, 2011

Aug 18 2011

Tips on Self-Destructive Protagonists

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.

Self-destructive protagonists have become well-known and easily recognizable stock characters, particularly in noir fiction. While this isn’t a problem on its own, the amount of characters that fit this basic archetype have cluttered the field and made it a challenge to create unique ones.


If you’re writing a similar character, to keep your story interesting and hard to predict, you should treat your character with care and a particularly open mindset.


What Is Afflicting Your Character?

Don’t just make your character a shadow of another character that uses the same device. That doesn’t mean you can’t use afflictions that have already been used, like drugs or alcohol, it just means you need to be sure that the affliction you are using is the best fit for your story.


First, did your character acquire the affliction voluntarily?  Drugs, alcohol and gambling debts are voluntary. But Alzheimer’s—which I consider to be an affliction that can lead to self-destructive characters—is not. For example, Joshua Hale Fialkov used a brain tumor in the aptly-named graphic novel Tumor.


The next part of creating interesting self-destructive characters is to have an open mind while indulging in the creative process. All stories and characters are prone to change, and in analyzing your character’s affliction you should question whether or not the affliction you have chosen is the best one for your character and/or story. Please use the most suitable device rather than just the first one that comes to mind.

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Aug 18 2011

An Allegory About the Importance of Proofreading

Published by under Getting Published

An aspiring airplane designer is discussing one of his test-models with a prospective buyer at United Airlines.  Suddenly the test-model bursts into a fireball on the runway.


The designer sips his coffee.  “And I’ve also achieved enviable fuel economy and a sleek but stylish frame.”


Your plane just exploded.”


“But what about the paint job?”




If your writing isn’t getting as many responses as you want (from prospective reviewers, publishers or agents), I’d recommend considering whether you’re sending them an exploding plane.  Please check hard for mechanical errors* before submitting your stories to other people.  Few things convince readers that a story is not worth their time as quickly as proofreading errors.  (Also, even the most altruistic reviewers hate getting used as a punctuation-checker).


*It’s okay to groan here. I did.

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Aug 18 2011

How to Make a Serious Character Likable

From my email: “What Makes a Character Likable? was helpful, but what if the character is serious and a bit of a hardass?”  Here are some ideas that come to mind.


1. The character has a sympathetic goal that calls for seriousness. For example, the protagonist in Silence of the Lambs is an FBI agent pursuing an unusually vicious serial killer and nobody else knows what’s going on besides a serial cannibal. Under these circumstances, it would probably be hard to like the FBI agent if she weren’t serious.


1.1. The character is hard, but has a good reason to be. If a surgeon snaps at a nurse for getting something 95% right, I think readers could probably be persuaded to sympathize with the surgeon because a 95% competent nurse might get somebody killed. It’d be harder to sympathize with a teacher snapping at a student that got a problem 95% right–unless he’s teaching Bomb Defusal 101. I think bigger stakes and stressful situations make it easier to like a hardass.


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Aug 18 2011

Name That Quote: Batman or Shakespeare?

Published by under Badassery,Batman

I found this Sporcle game’s mix of Shakespeare and Batman so dangerously amusing that I wanted to punch an English teacher in the face and throw him two or three stories onto the street.  Then I realized that the closest English teacher was me and I thought better of it.


PS: If you’re a long-time fan of Batman, you might remember that Adam West hid the remote control for the entrance to the Batcave inside a bust of Shakespeare.

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