Archive for January, 2012

Jan 31 2012

Creative Ways to Use Supersenses

Published by under Superpowers,Supersenses

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.

I wouldn’t recommend giving your characters supersenses unless they develop a character and/or serve an important plot purpose.  Otherwise, they’re probably wasted space.


1. You can use supersenses to develop an unusual point of view.  For example, maybe a nonhuman is supernaturally talented at perceiving something highly relevant to his species and/or culture.  (E.g. if an alien comes from a desert world, maybe he’s supernaturally aware of temperature and moisture and can apply those to social interactions—a human’s body temperature increases in stressful situations, for example).   Alternately, perhaps the character is a skilled hunter (e.g. Wolverine).  A musically-inclined characters might be able to hear emotions in a character’s voice that most people couldn’t, which may be useful in high-stakes social situations.


1.1. If the character has developed superpowers fairly recently, he/she may be blown away by extremely strong sensory experiences.  That is one possible way to show how a character’s superpowers affect his/her perspective.  Hat-tip to R.G. in the comments below.


2. You can do a scene or plot arc that hinges on only one character perceiving something.  For example, Daredevil’s senses allow him to figure out who’s lying pretty quickly, but he still has to prove it to actually break the case.  Alternately, you could do a plot where only one character can perceive a particular threat and needs to either deal with it himself or convince others that he’s not crazy.


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5 responses so far

Jan 30 2012

U.S. and Marvel Agree: Mutants Are Not Humans (At Least For Tax Purposes)

Published by under Publishing Law

Toys classified as “dolls” face import taxes twice as high as other toys do. Dolls are toys that are (only) humans, as opposed to, say, teddy bears. In 2003, Marvel successfully convinced the U.S. Court of International Trade that mutant action figures are not actually humans, even the ones that look human (e.g. Professor X).


PS: Biologically speaking, Marvel mutants probably count as the same species as humans.  If two organisms can have fertile offspring, they are (biologically speaking) part of the same species.

5 responses so far

Jan 30 2012

Witch Doctor has a very clever cover

Published by under Book Covers

Witch Doctor is a Lovecraftian medical thriller graphic novel.  According to one reviewer, “The metaphysics they reveal through the gruesome adventures in this volume has a weird internal consistency, but it’s so cockeyed and frankly revolting that I can honestly say it never occurred to me before they scarred me with it.”


I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment on the writing, but I think the cover is very informative. Witch Doctor’s cover does a very good job of marketing itself to prospective readers that would be interested (although I’m probably not one of them).  Even the logo is eye-catching.


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Jan 30 2012

Tehonym’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.  Thanks!

One response so far

Jan 26 2012

Another Plausible Superhero Origin?

“Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.”

31 responses so far

Jan 17 2012

How to Write a Successful Cover Letter

1. As always, be smart–the competition is pretty fierce.  I have superbly qualified candidates with postgraduate degrees and years of experience applying for a minimum wage writing internship.  If a prospective writer has typos in his cover letter and/or resume, he’s probably not in the running. I’ll assume that you’re pretty smart and already have the basics down (proofread, address it to a human reader if at all possible, stick with a one page resume unless you have 20+ years of experience and/or are applying for a professorship, etc).


2.  Make your cover letter as specific as possible–what have you achieved?  I’d much rather read examples showing traits you have than you just telling me which traits you have.  For example, rather than just telling me you have drive, describe a job where you demonstrated drive.  Instead of telling me you’re creative and/or a problem-solver, tell me about a time you creatively solved a major problem.  (Alternately, if it’s applicable to the position*, look at what they’re producing and offer a concrete suggestion for improvement.  I was pleasantly surprised that one candidate looked at our website and offered an idea that was worth considering–it gives me a better idea that the candidate has something to contribute and will fit in better into our creative process).

*But keep it as tailored to the position as possible.  Entry-level employees generally aren’t hired for their ability to make huge strategic decisions and it might look pretentious for a prospective intern without any experience in the field to propose changes that would be better-suited for the board of directors.


3. Be friendly, not unlikable.  For example, if a company has a silly application requirement (like a “if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” essay question), your options are either 1) fulfill the requirement in a professional way or 2) don’t apply to that company if you dislike the requirement that much. Applying with an essay about how much you hated writing the essay and/or found it pointless would be a waste of time.  If the job description was absolutely idiotic, perhaps because it was written by a Human Resources professional that was not at all familiar with the position, be classy and professional.

  • PROFESSIONAL: “I believe I’d be a very good fit for this position, having 5 years of experience programming for [company] in HAXIMUS, although I do not yet have the required 10 years of experience with HAXIMUS.  There may have been a typo in the job description, since HAXIMUS was introduced 8 years ago.  [Follow up with a paragraph about a notable project you’ve successfully completed with HAXIMUS].”
  • REJECTED: “Whoever wrote that job description is obviously an idiot.”  This candidate should think more about how he/she is demonstrating his ability to work with and assist coworkers that have bitten off more than they can chew, especially considering that the person that wrote the idiotic job description is probably a Human Resources staffer reading the applications.


4. Please make sure that you tailor your cover letter and resume for each particular position.  One easy way to do so is to take 2 or 3 traits and/or key responsibilities from the job description and spend a paragraph covering specific achievements that show you have each trait or have demonstrated the ability to perform the job responsibility.  If you do so in a remotely coherent way (and are at least remotely qualified), I can pretty much guarantee that the reader will at least glance at your resume.

2 responses so far

Jan 10 2012

Kahi’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Kahi: “At the moment, [I’m writing] a novel. Its about a world where superhumans have long been the cause for conspiracy and secrecy, but have recently entered the public eye in the last decade. While the world is adjusting to these superhumans walking among them, a mutant is discovered that has the ability to sense and create oil. The governments of the world all take interest in the mutant, and are prepared to enter into another World War to have such a valuable skill on their side.”


Target audience: “I’m not sure what the target audience would be…I’m suspecting male teenagers would be the primary audience for this sort of thing, but there is a chance that an older audience might find it interesting, as well as a female audience.”


“’Don’t sugar-coat your advice, but please try to be polite.’ While this is my first time posting something like this on an open forum, I really want to know what others think about this premise/idea.”

17 responses so far

Jan 07 2012

Young Author’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.  Thanks!

86 responses so far

Jan 07 2012

Possible Problems and Obstacles for Superheroes to Face Besides Supervillains

Here are some possibilities.

1. A lack of money.  Superheroics can result in injuries, but anybody with a secret identity probably wouldn’t want to reveal those injuries to an insurance company.  (Otherwise, they’d need to lie to the insurance company or reveal their secret identity).  Second, a lot of superheroes spend what must be substantial amounts of money on their superheroics.  For example, Peter Parker is practically on the verge of starvation (and has been evicted at least once), but he’s still buying high-grade flame-retardant fabric for costumes. Even a wealthier team like the Fantastic Four could have financial difficulties sometimes.  Their headquarter alone would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year (in financing/interest, property taxes, maintenance, insurance to protect nearby buildings from FF science, building upgrades, etc).  Government agencies might face budgetary restrictions, particularly if they’ve antagonized Congress/Parliament.


1.1. Troubles at work and/or school.  Superheroes don’t have very much control over when supervillains attack, so they frequently have trouble maintaining a regular work schedule.  Superheroes can take some steps to minimize the damage to their day jobs, but a worker that’s frequently late and/or absent without leave will probably get in trouble with his/her boss and/or school.


2. Physical stresses of a highly dangerous job.  For example, injuries stemming from fights or overexertion, a lack of sleep and/or time to recuperate, exposure to highly dangerous chemicals or alien symbiotes, mild aging (Batman’s at least in his 40s), etc.

2.1. Mental stress and/or combat fatigue. 


3. Pressure from friends/family/loved ones to give up or minimize superheroic activities.  They may be concerned about the superhero’s well-being because it’s such a dangerous job and/or the superhero might not be well-suited for the job.  Alternately, a spouse or lover may feel that the toll on their relationship is getting too high, particularly if he/she has been kidnapped or nearly killed before.


4. Disagreements with other protagonists (superpowered or otherwise).  For example, Lucius parted ways with Batman over philosophical differences.  Superheroes might privately and/or publicly hold each other accountable if a mission goes awry. Alternately, if there’s a crime or disaster where multiple superhero groups respond, the groups might have trouble cooperating–the teams might be very different philosophically, tactically, demographically, etc.  If a super-SWAT team and a team of superpowered high school students both respond to a hostage crisis, there are a variety of reasons the SWAT commandos would not want to trust the students with any responsibility.  Peter Parker is good at many things, but he’s not extremely methodical and probably doesn’t have much experience with hostage situations.  Alternately, the high school students might have trouble cooperating with the SWAT team, if they’re convinced that the SWAT team is so gung-ho they’re going to get a lot of hostages killed and/or the SWAT commandos don’t have the right superpowers for this situation and/or are using a more standard set of strategies against a completely unpredictable adversary.


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26 responses so far

Jan 07 2012

How to Make Chapters for a Novel Manuscript in Microsoft Word 2010 (Windows/PC or Mac)

Published by under Microsoft Word Tips

Instead of having a separate Word document for each of your chapters, I would highly recommend instead writing your manuscript as a single Word document with chapter breaks.  Otherwise, changing even the smallest details will be a nightmare.  (For example, if you want to change a character’s name, you’d probably have to Find-Replace every chapter).  That’s a huge waste of time, particularly since most novel manuscripts undergo hundreds of changes. If your chapters are in a single document, you just have to Ctrl+F once.


Fortunately, Word makes it extremely easy to break your novel manuscript into easily navigable chapters.  Once you’ve gotten the hang of how to add chapters in Word, this should take fewer than 10 seconds a chapter.


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46 responses so far

Jan 06 2012

Comic Book Guy’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Comic Book Guy: “I have an conceptual idea for a total redesign of the DC comic universe and would like to know what people of work I’ve done on the members of the Justice League.”

50 responses so far

Jan 02 2012

Damzo’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please see the comments below. Thanks.

2 responses so far

Jan 02 2012

How to Make a Boring Character Interesting

Here are some possibilities for making boring characters interesting–feel free to mix and match.


Problem 1: The character doesn’t have a distinct personality.


A) Make sure the character has distinct traits.  Can you name 3-4 adjectives that fit your character really well but not most other protagonists in your genre?  If not, please see this list of character traits for some possibilities and this article about how to use traits to develop characters.


B) Give him at least one flaw, a trait that makes it harder for him to achieve his goals and preferably leads to some conflict with sympathetic characters.   Some authors back into rarely-interesting “flaws” like being overly modest or “caring too much.”  If you can use those flaw(s) to create conflict or obstacles, that’s fine.  For example, maybe he wants to succeed in a job where modesty is an obstacle (e.g. marketing, sales or politics).  If you can’t use the flaw to create conflict, I’d recommend trying a different flaw instead or possibly rewriting the plot to accommodate the character.  For example, if you were really dead-set on a character whose signature flaw was his total inability to play the didgeridoo, maybe he’s growing up in a culture where mastering the didgeridoo is a critical rite of passage and/or the main way to pick up ladies.  For more on flaws and challenging characters, please see this article.


C) If all else fails, play up traits to the extreme.  Anything is better than having your character do and say “whatever the author feels like today,” and unfortunately I see many WTAFLT characters.  It’s generally easier to rewrite a character whose traits are too strong than one whose traits are too bland/unclear.


D) Make sure your plot gives your protagonists chances to make unusual choices. If 99% of protagonists from your genre would act the same way if they were in your plot, you’re not giving your protagonist a chance to distinguish himself.  If there’s a goal, a principle or a possession your character values much more than most other protagonists would, your character might make an unusual decision to protect/advance it.  For example, the fugitive protagonist of Point of Impact breaks into an FBI-guarded morgue to reclaim and properly bury his dead dog. It’s a memorable scene because the character is putting himself on the line for a goal that wouldn’t matter to most action protagonists–almost every protagonist would just skip to getting revenge or clearing his name.


E) Flesh out his perspective–what are some things he would notice or comment on that most other people wouldn’t?  What are some things he would draw connections between that most people wouldn’t?  For example, in a superhero-style world where people like Lois Lane or Mary Jane get kidnapped repeatedly, a veteran superhero (or investigator) might guess that anyone that’s been kidnapped by a supervillain for no readily obvious reason is probably very close to a superhero.


F) Force your main character to do or say at least one thing per page that he would do but you wouldn’t.  Don’t let your character get hemmed in by what you would do–most authors aren’t interesting or honest/circumspect enough to make an autobiography work.  Also, if at all possible, please force your main character(s) to do/say at least one thing per page that your other characters wouldn’t.  That will really help the main character feel distinct.  If that’s not possible, I would recommend reevaluating whether the character has distinct traits and whether the plot is giving him opportunities to show those traits.


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43 responses so far

Jan 02 2012

Please Don’t Write a Story *About* Superpowers

Published by under Superpowers

Instead of a story about superpowers, please write a story about characters who have them. The superpowers are just a means to an end (a dramatic plot and interesting characters).  Rather than worrying too much about the superpowers themselves, which I think is usually a waste of time, please worry more about the characters and the plotting, which ultimately matter a lot more.  Specifically:

  • The characters’ personalities and key traits.  (Red flag: the synopsis for the book spends more time covering the character’s superpowers than their personalities).
  • Their goals.
  • Their unusual decisions.  What are some things the protagonists do that most other protagonists wouldn’t do in the same situation?
  • Their voices.
  • The scenes the characters use the superpowers in.
  • Secondarily, any unique touches on your superpowers and how you portray them.

One response so far

Jan 01 2012

Check Out “Screws Loose”

SN guest writer Jeremy Melloul is trying to raise funds for his upcoming comic book on KickStarterScrews Loose is a supernatural military thriller about a team of mercenaries that finds a mysterious crate.  Even a $10 donation gets you a copy of the comic (when it comes out) and a $25 donation gets you a copy and character designs.  I have donated $150 in the off-hand chance that the mysterious crate holds a bathtub full of rabid mongeese.  “That’ll teach you to be a mercenary in a supernatural thriller!”


(I wonder if there’s any chance his thank you card will have a sketch of his characters fighting off a bathtub of rabid mongeese.  That would be the most badass thank you card I’ve ever seen).

2 responses so far

Jan 01 2012

2012 Resolutions and 2011 Summary

Published by under Navel-Gazing

My 2011 resolutions for SN:

  • Increase site traffic from 150,000 hits to 200,000 (around 25% growth).  I actually had about 219,000 (roughly 38% growth).   
  • Write at least 100 writing articles.  Including guest articles, we had about 105.
  • Get published.  Not yet!


My 2012 resolutions for SN:


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