Archive for the 'superhero story' Category

Aug 22 2010

Superhero anthology looking for submissions

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.

Jay Faulkner is looking for superhero story submissions between 2500-8000 words long.  (For longer submissions, query first).

  • Genre: anything with superheroes.  “This can be pure comic-book style heroes, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc but the central theme / characters in the story MUST involve superheroes.”
  • Deadline: October 31, 2010.
  • Pay: none.

Submission details here.  Thanks for pointing this out, Matt.

23 responses so far

Jul 03 2008

Mulling Over a New Introduction

I submitted a potential rewrite of our introduction to the Critters Writing Workshop. It’s very short (2 pages) and I expect that we’ll eventually expand it to about 5. Currently, it’s rated PG-13 for adult language, but we’re considering modifying it to PG.

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

May 19 2008

Featured Quote of the Day: Bring the Kids!

Agent Orange: Kids today are so hard to please.

Agent Black: I don’t even want to think about how you might know that.

Agent Orange: Yesterday…

Teacher: Class, today our guest speaker is Agent Orange.

Agent Orange: I’m a Special Investi-Gator.

Teacher: Could you explain what it is you do?

Agent Orange: Are you sure? There are kids here.

Student 1: Have you ever killed anyone?

Agent Orange: Laws need claws or they’d just be words.

Student 2: How many people have you killed?

Agent Orange: The confirmed score or a rough estimate?

Agent Black: …

Agent Black: Suddenly I have questions of my own.

One response so far

Apr 06 2008

Scene of the Day (B. Mac’s Temporary Return!)

B. Mac gave me this to post. He says he will be healthy enough to return to full-time status within a few days.

Agent White, junior recruiter: Mr. Smith, I have no doubt that you are an excellent IRS auditor, but I’d like to know more about how an accountant might be qualified for this agency. What about killing. Have you done any of that?

Gary Smith: No, sir.

Agent White: Have you ever seen someone die brutally? A de-limbing, perhaps?

Gary Smith: No, sir.

Agent White: I see. You seem like an excellent fit… for the IRS. I’m going to do you a favor and ask that you leave now. You would break in ten minutes here and you probably wouldn’t even be the first.

Gary Smith: …

Gary Smith: Is that a request or an order?

Agent White: …

Agent White hits his intercom button.

Agent White: Agent Orange, could you step inside, please?

Agent Orange, a hulking mutated alligator, enters the room.

Agent Orange: Greetings, mammals! Mammal-White, Mammal-Smith.

Agent White: Sir, could you please describe to Mr. Smith what your job is here?

Agent Orange: Indeed! I’m the head recruiter and trainer. I determine who enters training and then how best to systematically destroy them. We’ve reduced our mortality/psychosis rate to a historically low 6%!

Agent White: Mr. Smith, so far Agent Orange has broken six Navy SEALS, five Force Recons, ten Army Rangers and so many Special Agents we’ve stopped counting.

Gary Smith: But no accountants, I bet.

Agent Orange: …

Agent Orange: When are you available to start?

No responses yet

Jan 31 2008

Schedule of the Day

One of the Google searches that brought someone to Superhero Nation was “what do alligators do all day?” Agent Orange, our resident mutated alligator, provides his daily schedule.

1 AM: I respond to a WMD scare in Surf City. (It was just a death ray).

2: A purported representative of the British government calls, asking for urgent help “to stop an impending act of anti-supervillain activity.” Terrorist! I hang up.

2:30: Britain reports that Doctour Nefarious just carried out “anti-supervillain activity” at Big Ben. The reports don’t mention which supervillain he acted against, but I’m betting Jihad Joe or Paingod.

2:35: I call the Ministry of Defense and ask them to pass along my congratulations to Nefarious for turning on his evil compatriots. They swore and hung up on me. (And they wonder why we declared independence).

3: A genetically-engineered slime monster attacks Surf City. Dr. Darpa suggests that a salt-spray will kill it, but he doesn’t mention that salting it will send slime shooting for blocks in every direction.

3:10: Showering.

3:30: Still showering.

3:45: I get dressed. I’m feeling dangerous today, so I reach for a black tie instead of my usual navy blue.

4: I brush my teeth. (Yeah, I brush my teeth, too—it just takes more time).

4:30: Still brushing.

4:45: I check my voice-mail. IRS Agent Percy Leguin called again to complain that the Office of Special Investigations is doing too much “showboating,” by which he means investigating crime that Americans actually care about. The bitch insinuates that OSI agents couldn’t handle IRS work.

5: A citizen that incorrectly filled out a 1040-DX Schedule ECQ gets a very special no-knock home visit about why filling out a proper 1040-DK Schedule FIS is important. I’m sure it’s a mistake he won’t make again.

6: Downstairs, I encounter Agent Black and Captain Carnage discussing female-mammals. For reasons unclear to me, talking about mammalian matters makes Agent Black pathologically forgetful. Unsurprisingly, as soon as he sees me, Black mentions that he’s forgotten his ammo. When I offer to go find some for him, he smiles. (I’m so helpful).

6:30– I come back with the ammo, but Black’s gone. (Mammals). I’ll find him later.

7– As part of the ongoing Friendly Skies program, I get a free ticket to New York. Having a uniformed federal agent on a plane tends to terrify mammals, so I just told anyone within earshot that I was just scamming a first-class ticket. That calms them down considerably. (Mammals).

7:45– Mike is also on the plane with me! He is conspicuously surly and says that “I’m going to carpet-bomb your neural nodes if you ask about the Gators game again.” I don’t remember having spoken to the mind-wiper earlier today. I decide that until Mike gets unsurly, he doesn’t deserve to talk about the Gators.

8– On my way to the office, I stumble upon two gunmen attempting to rob a Caribou Coffee. They are not successful.

8:05– Waiting for NYPD.

8:10– Still waiting.

8:15– I assume that I’ll be here a while. I ask the cashier which species of caribou they have on hand. I’m especially partial to Rocky Mountain caribou, but even Alaskan elk are better than whatever else you can find in New York.

8:17– The cashier admits to me that Caribou Coffee does not actually sell caribou. I make a note to inform the Better Business Bureau of bait-and-switch advertising– they lure in unsuspecting customers with promises of caribou and then sell them coffee instead. (Mammals). Two NYPD officers walk in; I trust that they will take care of this criminal cesspool of deception and lies.

8:45– I reach the local police station and start filling out paperwork related to the coffeeshop arrest.

10– Still paperworking.

10:30– A detective asks me if I’d like some coffee or something. Unless coffee means caribou, no.

10:45– A captain interrupts me. Space slugs are clogging the Hudson again. I tell him that I’m still doing paperwork, but he calls my bluff by offering to handle the paperwork himself. I ask which way it is to the Hudson.

10:55—Goddamn. This was a new suit.

11: I walk down to the Office’s New York branch. Raul, our lobby guard, starts quizzing me with questions designed to weed out potential shapeshifters.

11:05: “Raul, I am coated in slug slime. Let me in immediately or you will regret it. “What does the 5th amendment say, sir?” “Here’s the abridged version. No person shall be deprived of life or limb without due process of law. Without due process, Raul.” He lets me in.

11:45– Still showering.

12 PM: The University of Florida calls. They want help creating a tagline for Albert the Florida Gator’s new clothing line. They like “Prepare to Get Swamped” but think that “Chomping Your Ass Since 1908” sends mixed messages.

12:15: They don’t like “Be a Gator, Not a Hater” either.

12:30—I walk down to the cafeteria and find… Agent Black! I hand him his ammo. He gives me a confused look. He has not only forgotten his ammo, he has forgotten that he has forgotten it. I swear! He’d forget his tail if he had one.

12:35—“He’d forget his tail if he had one.” Aha! I’ve stumbled onto the reason that Agent Black doesn’t have one.

5 responses so far

Jan 28 2008

Comic Book Glossary

This is a glossary of terms related to comic books. (See the Superhero Nation-specific glossary here).

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Jan 26 2008

Wait a minute! (Story generators make me feel stupid)

 

I’ve been using some random story generators. Usually I like laughing at how strange these get, but almost invariably I get something that’s uncannily like my writing and it makes me feel bad. The worst is that it usually starts off far enough away that you can laugh at it, but then it inches more and more towards Superhero Nation.

 

The story is about a secret agent who is in debt to an artificial life form. It starts in a large nation on a war-scarred planet. The story begins with someone giving a test and ends with smuggling. The side effects of faster-than-light travel play a major role in the story.

 

This is an action adventure. The story is about a crazed football fan who is actually an alien entity. It starts on a dying planet. The issues surrounding first-contact with an alien species is a major element of the story.

The story is a screwball comedy about a secret agent who is best friends with an investor. It starts in a solar-system-spanning nation. The effect of technology on humanity is a major element of the story.

This is a tale about confusion. The story is about a lawman. It takes place in a global empire [hey!]. The story begins with someone questioning authority.

 

This is a story about questing. The story is about a starship security agent and a dispirited CFO [close enough]. It starts in a solar-system-spanning technocracy. The story ends with someone writing a book.

 

Writing Challenge Generators

 

The story is set in a ghetto. The story takes place ten years in the past. The story must have a drug cartel involved in the middle. The story must have a cube appear in the end. A character robs someone.

(What do you think this is, Everybody Dies?).

 

Character Generators

 

Note: not all of these are gramatically correct. Deal with it!

 

The upper-class fop is on the run from a government conspiracy run by wacky but innocent football players. [Lash].

 

The rare good member of an otherwise irredeemably violent race somehow manages to be a superhero. [Agent Orange]

 

The morally ambiguous brilliant scientist is driven insane by their strange powers and needs a friendly alien to find meaning. [Jacob Mallow]

 

The wacky yet emotionally detached chemist who is given superhuman powers in an illegal scientific experiment and is just this side of crazy [Dr. Berkeley/Catastrophe]

 

The philosopher is a secret horror in the shadows of society that works as an assassin against The Man. [Gigas]

 

The loveable cop meddles in things Man was not meant to know. [Agent Black]

 

The gung-ho military officer is forced by a government conspiracy to only pretend to be incompetent. [Captain Carnage]

 

The beautiful nerd girl no one notices because she has glasses who is a softy at heart and whose scientific endeavors have guided the heroes on their quest with weapons of mass destruction. [Dr. Darpa]

 

 

The friendly bureaucrat acts as an assassin against the forces of darkness. [Nope. But I'm thinking about it now.]

 

No responses yet

Jan 20 2008

Common Superpower Problems

If you’re writing a superhero story, don’t let your superpowers fall into these traps.

1. The hero’s powers can’t be used creatively. Readers really want to be surprised, so it’s very important that the powers be versatile. If your character is only superstrong, you can only surprise them by using different things as weapons.  That gets tedious fast. (Watch a Superman or Dragon Ball Z fight scene). Test your superhero against some of these situations. Can he get through them in an unexpected way?

  • Distracting a guard.  (Cliche:  mental control, illusions and possibly telekinesis).
  • Nonviolently subduing a guard or cop (cliche:  mental control and/or hypnosis).
  • Preventing a building from falling (cliche:  superstrength, telekinesis).
  • Getting past a locked door (cliche:  teleportation, phasing, lockpicks, blowing open the wall).
  • Finding a password (cliche: anything electronic or electrical, beating it out of a bad guy).

2. The character’s limits are hard to grasp. In Heroes, a head wound will permanently kill the regenerating heroes, but a nuclear explosion won’t.  Huh?

3. The character’s strength fluctuates arbitrarily. Most Superman cartoons feature two battles. Superman will lose the first bout (to raise the stakes) but he’ll win the second.  He hasn’t gotten any stronger, so why does he wins the second time? That usually feels unsatisfying.

4. The superpowers are hard to understand. Ideally, you can explain each hero’s powers in a brief sentence.  “He has spider-powers, like slinging webs and climbing and sensing danger” is OK.  “She can control the weather” is even better.  Please stay away from heroes that have many unrelated superpowers.  What’s the connection between eye-beams, cold breath, flight, superstrength and x-ray vision?  It sort of works for Superman because readers are exposed to him, but it is likely to ruin a superhero story that is completely new to its readers.

5. He’s overpowered. Superman is the best example of this. He can only have interesting fights with supervillains. (Theoretically, he could fight thugs armed with kryptonite, but Superman limping around isn’t much of a fight). If your character is completely immune to bullets and other common weapons, it will be hard for you to challenge him.  Also, humans are vulnerable and we relate more to (somewhat) vulnerable heroes.

6. The hero’s superpowers ruin the drama. In particular, time travel, reading minds, erasing memories, and resurrection are particularly bad here.

  • Time travel:  if your hero can undo anything bad that happens, nothing will ever be dramatic.  “Why doesn’t he just go back in time?”
  • Reading minds: surprise, suspicion and uncertainty are all dramatic.  A story about a psychic is all-but-unable to use any of them.  (To some extent, lie-detection suffers from a similar problem).
  • Erasing memories:  this is probably the lamest way to protect a secret identity.  It will also confuse readers because we can’t keep track of who actually remembers what.
  • Resurrection:  if someone can bring people back from the dead, death will become banal and the action will suffer.  “He died, big deal.  Why don’t they just bring him back?”  This is almost as serious as time-travel.

Did you like this article? If so, please do me a favor and share it on Stumble.

125 responses so far

Jan 10 2008

Quote of the Day (1/10/08)

Agent Orange:  At the Office of Special Investigations, “Chariots of Fire” isn’t just a classic
film.  It’s also the name of our driving school.

No responses yet

Jan 08 2008

Superhero Nation: The Movie

It’ll have ridiculously confusing time travel, wholly implausible use of a space station as a doomsday device, and more national landmarks than you can shake a standard-issue NASA laser pistol at. But Hollywood will want a name that can appeal to a global market. I’ll call it… Planet of the Capes.

No responses yet

Dec 31 2007

Quote of the Day: Mike-Catastrophe Part 4

Mike: You’re positive you’re not an alien?

Catastrophe: Do aliens frequently speak fluent English?

Mike: Decryption programs applied to radio transmissions can do surprising things.

Catastrophe: I was checking football club rankings when you found me. Unless aliens are frequently interested in football…

Mike: You’d be surprised. You follow football?

Catastrophe: Sometimes. There aren’t any good teams around here.

Mike: Name three.

Catastrophe: Good teams? Arsenal, Man U and Newcastle.

Mike: Please. If you ever need to make up sports teams in the future, I recommend going with animal names, not randomly selected adjectives and nouns. “New castle?” “Man you?” That doesn’t even make sense!

Catastrophe: …

Catastrophe: You don’t get out much, do you?

This is the final part of a four part series. You can see part 1 here.

No responses yet

Dec 29 2007

Conversation of the Day: Mike-Catastrophe Part 2

Mike: We have a non-optional orientation program for aliens. This is very simple. If anyone asks, say that you’re not an alien.

Catastrophe: I’m a cartoon character.

Mike: That was easy, wasn’t it?

Catastrophe: …

Catastrophe: Wait. There are aliens on Earth?

Mike: Uhh… no?

 

This is part II of a four part conversation. You can see part 1 here or part 3 here.

No responses yet

Dec 28 2007

Amusing Links

Agent Orange presents his link of the day and a related public service announcement for crocodile-Americans.

The Annals of Crocodile Failures, 94th Edition

Lions, buffaloes and crocodiles do battle for control of a Kenyan wildlife refuge. This film is rated PG… Pretty Gruesome. The crocodiles make their inglorious appearance at 3:30, but they’re so ineffective that the (mammalian) commentators only notice them at 3:38. Unless you enjoy watching lions play two crocodiles silly, I recommend skipping ahead to 4:30, which is when things get rowdy on the land. “They’ve got ‘em surrounded” (5:45). I also enjoyed the sudden appearance of Superlion– he flies– at 5:45.
6:30 is outlandish and further indicates how completely pathetic the crocodiles were in their brief appearance. Any creature that is unable to cripple a baby buffalo is hereby banished from the reptile class. Experts at Palomar University, one of the world’s leading reptological institutions, have found that:

The class Reptilia [Reptiles*] includes turtles, snakes, lizards, alligators**, and other large reptiles…

Let’s face it, crocodiles: even turtles and snakes*** count as reptiles. But not you*. (Don’t snicker too hard, mammals… the lions did not make a persuasive case for your phylum).

Not to fear, crocodiles: although you are no longer reptiles, you may technically qualify as amphibians****. However, both mammals and reptiles will remain ashamed to share a subphylum with you.

Tailnotes

*clarified for the benefit of crocodiles. Not that I think it will help.

**Unsurprisingly, saving the best for last. Incidentally, 99 % of reptologists agree that alligators > lizards > snakes > amoeba > crocodiles. As for the last 1%, if you are ever so horrifically unfortunate to find one of them, escape quickly. (Even if you’re a mammal—it’s not worth finding out if it can spread across species). Say whatever you need to. “I need to sharpen my claws (fingernails)” or “my scales (skin) require polishing.”

***Crocodile sympathizers may dispute that snakes are more worthy of the reptilian name than crocodiles. And we can speculate about the psychological disorders that might prod them to do so. But the fact remains that snakes can eat hippos (not for the squeamish). And, furthermore, snakes have their own baseball team, with which I am not familiar, and dominate a city with which I am.

****Assuming they’ll have you. Don’t hold your breath.

No responses yet

Dec 15 2007

Black Ops

TO:  HUMAN RESOURCES

FROM:  RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The viability of meeting federal diversity requirements with inorganic means

Situation recap: Staffing issues unique to the Office of Special Investigations, like a strong base of nonhuman applicants, render it difficult to meet congressional standards on (human) minority employment.

Furthermore, it displeases Congress greatly that recruiters (apparently regardless of their race) appear to pass over African-American candidates. The Civil Rights Commission guidelines has ruled that avoiding life insurance claims is not a valid reason to discriminate on the basis of race…

In the 1980s, Research and Development had been working on PROJECT ROBOT, a series of combat-androids. We discontinued the program after field tests in Nicaragua revealed that our prototype was a sociopathic Sandinista that had been plotting to escape for years, but we have resolved that bug. As a temporary solution to contemporary issues, we can resume production of the androids with several specs relevant to HR’s goals.

  1. Variant skin-tones
  2. Variant dialects– including “Will Smith” and “Bernie Mac” (However, OSHA regulations have forced us to suspend testing of “Chris Tucker”).

I present to you PROJECT BROBOT. Let me suggest a few guidelines about using the androids.

  1. We hosted several European scientists last week. One of the prototypes heard several of them speaking in Spanish. He became very… odd. I would highly recommend not putting them in a Spanish-heavy environment. In fact, I would recommend not letting them out of the office at all.
  2. Leaving them within easy access of scissors or staplers could be problematic. (Or coffee-pots. They are remarkably resourceful).
  3. If at all possible, I would recommend giving each robot a bodyguard unit, ideally armed with electromagnetic weaponry (in case other robots attack?).

Additionally, we have noticed that Brobots have a considerably shorter lifespan than the control group. Researchers on the floor above us are conducting acoustical research. We learned that when their piano crashed through the ceiling, discontinuing work on Prototype 7-B. In another incident, a guard adjusted his belt and accidentally knocked off his holster, causing his pistol to hit the ground and discharge a bullet. Prototype 4-C will be missed.

No responses yet

Dec 10 2007

E-Mail of the Day

FROM: AgentOrange@osi.hr.gov

TO: OfficeofSpecialInvestigationsListServ@osi. gov

SUBJ: I’m in reptile hell, wish you were here! And a cheerful December 25 to you, too!

Our idiotic legislative branch has seen fit to direct federal Human Resources branches to “take measures this December to promote diversity through awareness of the cultural practices of diverse cultures practicing December sentiment.*”

Investigation has revealed that OSI agents culturally practice such diverse days as Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Pancha Ganapati, and the Winter Solstice Festival of The Arrival of The Dark Lord Xanthu*. If you are interested in learning about these festivals, get your ass to a library.

If you are reading this, your ass is not in a library because agency e-mail accounts are not for public use and because the consequences for violating operational security are swift, severe and sharp.

Because you do not have access to a library, allow me to enlighten you about the December beliefs of certain tribes of a certain kingdom** contained within Florida in an area that is caught between four nuclear power plants that make Chernobyl look appealing have deflated local property values. “Seminoles?” you ask.***

I’m speaking about a tribe virtually identical to Seminoles in every respect but a few: 1) scales 2) foot-long-teeth 3) a total absence of anything approaching culture or intelligence. We are, of course, speaking about the dwellers creatures of the Jurassic Arc. They are known by many names: manimals, crackodiles, mutated wastes of oxygen. As far as anyone can tell, their main purpose is to serve as the best argument against nuclear power.

Congress recently suggested that, “the government is undertaking a cultural excursion to the crocodiles of the ‘Jurassic Arc.’ Given the dearth of reptile-American federal employees, it is suggested that you partake of said excursion. It is noted that the Office of Special Investigation’s budgetary request is pending.”  

The Jurassic Arc is a fine place to spend a hellish week experiencing the filthy bottom hygienic diversity of the reptile world. National Geographic recently described the radioactive weedarium marsh as “an epic opportunity to explore a self-contained biome that closely resembles the conditions of the late Jurassic.” That all is true, insofar as the late Jurassic had 1) reptiles so vilely repulsive that other species felt the need to flee from or attack them 2) mosquitoes the size of Seminoles (helicopters, not Indians) and 3) a conspicuous lack of deodorant.

Earlier today I met a moonsuited researcher-mammal from the Environmental Protection Agency. He was positively giddy about the “sociological value” of the find here. He asserts that some fraction of the creatures here have quasi-human intelligence. Either his nose is completely dysfunctional or, more likely, the DEA should investigate whatever he’s buying from the crackodiles.

Speaking of “sociological value,” I think that it would be worthwhile to document some conversations to prepare my legal defense.

ORANGE: Hello. I’m Agent Orange.

CRACKODILE 1: Oarings!

CRACKODILE 2: Awwings!

CRACKODILE 3: What’s a agent?

CRACKODILE 2: Aging!

CRACODILE 1: Eh-gint!

ORANGE: Sort of like a primordial lizard, except that I have a higher threshold to wanton slaughter and am much more effective at it.

CRACKODILE 3: What’s a threshold?

ORANGE: Getting lower by the moment.

The following conversation occurs after the three crackodiles have apparently stalked me in the wilderness to discover where I make camp each night.

ORANGE: …you woke me up.

CRACKODILE 1, 2: Hullo!

ORANGE: What are you doing here?

CRACKODILE 3: They wanted to know what your box does.

ORANGE: My computer? It’s a machine that protects my sanity by connecting me to intelligent life.

CRACKODILE 1: Compooder!

ORANGE: GAH! Slowly, put that down… or I will put you down.

CRACKODILE 2: Food!

ORANGE: NO!

ORANGE: …

ORANGE: I WILL END YOU!

Fortunately for the continuation of the crackodile species, the EPA agent happily surrendered offered his computer to me. On day four of our cultural excursion, the EPA man made the egregious mistake of bringing up Christmas. Crackodile 3 then attempted to demonstrate his tribe’s own religious gift-bringing ceremonies. The details are still unclear to me—and I hope they always will be—but the EPA agent woke up the next morning to find what is apparently the severed head of a leopluridon at his feet. The EPA agent attempted to explain to me that night that the ritual rearranging of the leopluridon’s brain tissue is meant to bring good luck.

Other Findings

  1. The next mammal to call me a “peer” of the crackodiles is going to have an unfortunate accident falling down the stairs. Onto a food processor.
  2. The next time someone wants religious diversity, they’re getting a decapitated leopluridon.


Tail-notes

*Mammals!

**NON-MAMMALS!

***Assuming you’re an idiot.

****BECAUSE CLAWS ARE SCARIER, DAMMIT.

 

Appendix

Here is a series of completely unrelated thoughts.

  1. I am on “an excursion to the [crackodiles] of the Jurassic Arc,” which suggests that my obligation is predicated on the presence of crackodiles.
  2. I laughed so hard during the scene in Aberration when the broad rigs her house to explode and then lures the crocodiles inside.
  3. The crackodiles live in something like a communal hut.
  4. Eglin Air Force Base is an hour’s flight away.
  5. Captain Crash can restation himself and his F-99 to EAFB at his leisure.
  6. EAFB has occasionally had issues with ordnance control. They really need to be more careful.
  7. Captain Crash’s F-99 holds three tons of bunker-busting explosives.
  8. The crackodiles have expressed an interest in flying mammals.
  9. Captain Crash is, in a matter of speaking, a flying mammal.
  10. If any crackodiles are alive by the time Congress allows me to escape, a flying mammal will be restationed to the Jurassic Arc.

2 responses so far

Dec 10 2007

Preliminary Search Engine Optimization Results

10 days ago, I changed the title of one of my most popular articles from “Helping Girls Write Guys” toWriting Male Characters(I explained my reasoning here). I think that it’ll take 20 or so more days until I have conclusive information, but so far the article has tripled in unique hits over the past ~9.5 days compared to the 10 days before the change. I had anticipated some change, because my target audience is much more likely to use words like male/writing/characters than helping/girls/guys, but the magnitude of the leap surprised me.

Additionally, the article has become more effective. I suspect that the new title retains readers that click the Google link more effectively. “Writing Male Characters” is very straight-forward and serious; “Helping Girls Write Guys” doesn’t sound nearly as helpful.

  1. Before, the article bounced an unacceptably high ~60% of readers. That has dropped to 35%. My preliminary conclusion is that strong titles are critical to retaining readers.
  2. Including readers that bounce after a very short amount of time, the average time spent on the article has increased from two minutes to three. Excluding relatively unpopular articles that are skewed by a few devoted readers (three people spent an average of 30 minutes on one of mine), only my review of Soon I Will Be Invincible and my article on naming characters retain readers longer. And my SIWBI review is 4000 words long.
  3. With the exception of the main site at www.superheronation.com, more readers enter my site through this article than any other.

 

One response so far

Dec 09 2007

Quote of the Day: Dec. 9

Agent Orange: Contrary to popular belief, the New York Times is not actually the most anti-American news outlet. CSPAN is far more dangerous, and not just because it is more accurate than the average comic book. You couldn’t design anti-American propaganda more effective than around-the-clock Congressional coverage.

No responses yet

Dec 08 2007

Quote of the Day

“You don’t change the world by whispering.” — NY Governor Eliot Spitzer

“Only a New Yorker could think that volume can change the world.”– Jacob Mallow

One response so far

Dec 07 2007

Quote of the Day

FROM: AgentOrange@osi.hr.gov

TO: OfficeofSpecialInvestigationsListServ@osi.gov

SUBJ: December Morale Issues

As you receive your duty schedules this December, please think of the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

What happened in the Rudolph case study

  1. Team-members pulling together to complete an important task
  2. Division of labor

What didn’t happen in the Rudolph case study

  1. Reindeer complaining about “hazard pay” or “life insurance premiums”
  2. Reindeer demanding to be at home on Dec. 24 or 25.
  3. Threats of congressional investigations into Reindeer Resources practices and relevant reindeer being kicked into a food processor

Ho, ho, ho! Have a cheerfully nondenominationally cheerful December season!

–Human Resources

No responses yet

Dec 07 2007

Quote of the Day

I reject the cynical view that politics is a dirty business.”– Richard Nixon

Sorry, I can’t think of any way to make that any funnier.

No responses yet

Dec 05 2007

Quote of the Day

“I’m a conservative, but I’m not a nut about it.”– George H.W. Bush

“And that is why you and I are different.”– Dr. Lizard, webmaster of the Lizard Lounge.

“Poor Darrell Hammond. What’s he going to do when I leave office?”– Bill Clinton

“Probably enjoy his internship more.”– Dr. Lizard

No responses yet

Nov 07 2007

Quote of the Day: Wednesday

Captain Carnage: “We have a Department of Defense. We need a Department of Offense.”

No responses yet