Archive for October 31st, 2011

Oct 31 2011

5 Things About Your Superhero Story You Might Be Wasting Time On

Published by under Superpowers

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.

Some authors spend too much time thinking about and writing about story elements that are not particularly important to getting published.  Please don’t get bogged down in any of these time sinks.


1.  Names of characters and teams/organizations.  Character names are pretty easy to change, so publishers probably won’t reject an otherwise publishable manuscript because the names aren’t good enough.  Nor would I expect incredible names to convince a publisher to accept a manuscript that would otherwise have been unpublishable.


If you’re worried about the names in your story, I’d recommend using generic placeholders until something you like better comes to mind.   (Your dissatisfaction will force you to come up with a better name if you have to write John Smith or Super-Lad hundreds of times).


1.1. Copyright considerations, particularly related to names.  If the issue is just that your character has the same name as a fairly obscure Marvel or DC hero, that is probably not a huge problem (especially if you’re submitting a novel manuscript rather than a comic book).  Your eventual publisher might ask you to change the name, but that’s such an easy change that it would not scare away publishers from an otherwise publishable manuscript. However, publishers might pass if the copyright issues are more integral to the plot and cannot be changed as easily, particularly if the concept is very similar to a well-known character.  The easier it would be to change, the less likely it is to scare publishers.


2.  Superpower selection.  If you stay away from superpowers that make it too hard to challenge the characters, pretty much everything else can work.  The story will be a bit easier to write if the superpowers are versatile and it’ll be a bit easier to read if the powers require little explanation.  Besides that, I don’t think superpower selection matters very much.  It probably won’t make the difference between a story that’s worth reading and one that isn’t.


I’d recommend focusing more on how to use the powers to create an interesting story.   For example…

  • What are some ways you could use your story’s powers to create interesting experiences?  (For example, maybe John gets hit in the face by Kansas at a million miles per hour rather than “John teleported to Kansas”). Please see #3 and 3.1 here for more details.
  • How can you use the powers to show us things we haven’t seen before?
  • How do the character’s powers affect his perspective and/or personality?


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