Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Jul 15 2011

Minor medical setback…

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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 probably won’t be doing much work for the next 2-3 days, sorry.

9 responses so far

Jun 14 2011

Google Searches: June 1 – June 14

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Can you use real guns if you’re writing a book? I’m not a lawyer, but I would intuit that this is acceptable–novels and comic books can legally use brand names except in a defamatory fashion.  I can’t think of any reason guns would be different. However, I wonder if implying that criminals favor a particular type of gun may be defamatory. The Kalashnikov Concern has rights, too! 🙂

 

Comic book publishers that accept writing only submissions – The only one that’s coming to me right now is Dark Horse.  Pretty much everybody else that accepts unsolicited manuscripts expects illustrated sample pages alongside the script.

 

how to right a sperhero story – Don’t quit your day job.

 

Worst election slogan: “Vote for B. Mac: He puts the man in manuscript.”  I also put the man in The Taxman Must Die, although the (tax)man in question gets beaten up at various points by a hogtied alligator, a Nobel laureate that isn’t Henry Kissinger, a Nobel laureate that is, a training robot mischievously set to “Matrix” mode, a C-SPAN cameraman (by accident), a Baltimore cab-driver (on purpose), a Norwegian crime lord, a Domino’s delivery boy working for Mossad* and a Marine armed with a paintbrush.  *Mossad thought through every part of its Domino’s Pizza front operation besides plausibility.  Have you ever heard of someone actually ordering Domino’s?  “Get the door, it’s Mossad.”

 

Which day jobs are best for writers? A lot of companies have communications positions, like copywriting/marketing and the like.  The publishing industry is not doing tremendously well right now, but you might be able to find an opening in editing, sales, marketing or another field.  Likewise, try literary agencies.  Alternately, you can teach (up to high school) English with a bachelor’s degree.  If my background check clears on time, I’m teaching high school English abroad this year.

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6 responses so far

May 31 2011

Google Searches: May 17-May 31

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  • How many words should a superhero novel have? For an adult superhero novel, I’d generally recommend 80,000-100,000 words.  If you’re writing for kids or young adults, please see these length guidelines instead
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  • Hilarious Secret Service stories. I swear I’m not making this up.
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  • the most commonly used comic book font–I’m not sure, but I doubt it’d be commercially available.  Marvel and DC have their own fonts in-house (e.g. the fonts of Chris Eliopoulos and Ken Lopez). If you’re submitting sample pages to a publisher, I’d recommend using a font publicly available on Blambots as a placeholder.  If the publisher wants to work with you, it will provide a letterer.
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  • What makes a good superhero novel? Two things stand out to me.  The first is characters that are interesting outside of action scenes. (Seriously, most superhero novels spend more than 75% of their length on nonaction scenes!  If the only aspect you have developed about your main character is what he can do in a fight, I can pretty much guarantee that the manuscript is dead on arrival).  The second is a premise more appealing than “A banal character gets superpowers through an unlikely accident and decides to become a superhero.”  Please stand out from the pack.  For example, how is your main character(s) different from the last 20 main characters the editor passed over?

 

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3 responses so far

Dec 15 2010

Sweet victory–my inbox is empty!

I’ve responded to all of the review requests, comments and e-mails in my inbox.  If you are still waiting on a response, please re-post the comment or re-send your e-mail (to superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com).  Thanks!

10 responses so far

Oct 14 2010

Update: If you haven’t received a response yet, please remind me

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I’ve responded to all of the e-mails and comments in my in-box.  So, if you e-mailed me at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com or left a comment and are still waiting on a response, please resubmit.  In other news, midterms went pretty well, except for an English class in which I had to illustrate several characters in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I now have even more respect for artists that are actually good.  (When I get the assignment back, I’ll upload it, but I’m almost as bad as the average 10 year old SheezyArt user).

19 responses so far

Sep 24 2010

An unexpected similarity between Toy Story 3 and Nightmare on Elm Street

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I watched Toy Story 3 and the original Nightmare on Elm Street today.  The Toy Story films and the original Nightmare on Elm Street are the only suburban-set movies I’ve encountered that avoid overused themes about conformity and/or hypocrisy (unlike American Beauty, Stepford Wives, Little Children, etc).   I found it refreshing that neither Toy Story nor Nightmare had a desperate love affair by a repressed housewife or a completely dysfunctional family trying to keep up appearances or other such suburban cliches.

Suburban (and rural) settings don’t come up all that often in superhero stories. I think urban settings make for easier action because there are more high-profile targets, more criminals, more people to save, etc. However, unless your story is all action all the time, that might not be a huge problem. For example, much of The Incredibles used a suburban setting, which was pretty effective in a story where one of the central decisions was whether to accept a safe, mundane existence or to be extraordinary. (It’s hardly the first story to take a somewhat condescending attitude to suburbia, but I thought the “we urbanites are more enlightened than you” implication was much softer than in, say, American Beauty).

7 responses so far

May 07 2010

Notable queries this week

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  • how to submit a comic book script.  Each publisher has its own submission guidelines.  Here’s a list of publishers accepting unsolicited submissions.  I’d recommend submitting your work to a few publishers that work with stories similar to yours.
  • how to write like star wars books.  Suck.
  • “agent orange”, lizard, sunglasses.  Please see the Agent Orange category.
  • 25 genetic facts about the superhero spawn.  WTF?
  • Superhero police procedurals.  I liked DC’s Gotham Central and Marvel’s District X.  I’m not aware of any others and those two didn’t sell particularly well.  The people that like police procedurals generally don’t read comics, and vice versa.  Also, the comic book medium doesn’t lend itself well to procedurals, I feel.  Police investigations are generally quite complicated  (which usually takes more space to convey than a comic book series has) and might suffer from a lack of epic visuals.
  • do comic writers need literary agents? No.  There are a few agents that represent comic book writers, but it’s definitely not as prevalent as in novels.  (Nowadays, something like 70% of first-time novelists break into the industry with an agent).
  • what are some good weapons for superheroes? It depends on your target audience and medium, I think–it’s easier to get away with blood-shedding weapons like swords and guns if you’re writing a comic book for adults or a novel.  Besides that, I’d recommend looking at weapons that don’t draw blood (such as bludgeoning/blunt or lassos/whips/belts-used-as-whips).  Alternately, I think you can usually make weapons seem less nasty by setting the character against non-human opponents (such as machines or uncuddly animals).
  • what did the Fahrenheit 451 book have that the movie lacked? Fluent English, among other things.  The movie was written by Jean-Louis Ricard and Francois Truffaut and something got mangled in the translation.

No responses yet

Apr 14 2010

Query Call

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Here’s some of the Google queries I got yesterday…
  • what do good superhero stories have?  Usually, some combination of interesting characters, unusual-feeling plots, suspense, sharp dialog and/or intense action.  Main character(s) that are likable and relatable don’t hurt, either.
  • Memorable phrases for killtacular people. Off the top of my head, “he’s dropped more bodies than an epileptic pallbearer.”  The Wire used “he’s got more bodies on him than a Chinese cemetery.”
  • common questions when designing a superhero character.  Please see this.
  • Can I decapitate somebody in a YA novel? F*** no.
  • how to copy write a superhero charictor.  Good news: Your work is protected by US copyright laws as soon as it is written.  Bad news: No one will want to steal your writing until you’re good enough to figure out how to spell “character.”

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3 responses so far

Aug 18 2009

Roundup

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4 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

I hate the phrase “given the opportunity.”

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Don’t wait to be given an opportunity. Make your own.

22 responses so far

Mar 29 2009

I’ve discovered the worst fanfiction in the world

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I know that’s a bold claim, but I dare you to top this.

22 responses so far

Feb 28 2009

A minor tweak…

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A few weeks ago, I revised the first two pages of Twilight to show how editors rip into even the manuscripts that are good enough to publish.  Anyway, I redid the editing so now that will be easier to read.  (You can see the original review here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you).

I also added the Twilight page to our series of reviews that draw lessons for writers from published works such as Eragon, Soon I Will Be Invincible, and Empire of Ivory.

No responses yet

Jan 25 2009

Test Post

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Blogarella link.
Humor Blogs link.

No responses yet

Jan 12 2009

Test Post

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No responses yet

Nov 28 2008

Writing Tip: Give Your Characters Urgent Goals, Not Joy Rides

Giving your characters urgent goals will help make your story dramatic and interesting.  For example, let’s say John wants to go to prom, but his parents won’t let him unless he does well on a chemistry test.  Will he actually go to prom?  That’s a dramatic question.

Unfortunately, many manuscripts introduce the character without a goal, hoping that readers will trudge along until the character actually has something to do.  Don’t trap yourself into something like this.

CADET DAVIS:  In this first chapter, your hero doesn’t do very much except for walking across town and chatting with another character.  What’s the point?  What’s he trying to accomplish?

AUTHOR:  He’s introducing himself and the setting.

CADET DAVIS:  That’s what you’re trying to accomplish.  What’s his goal?  What’s at stake for this character?

AUTHOR:  Well, nothing, not yet anyway.  In a few chapters, he’ll find out that he has to realize his destiny by going on a quest to stop the villain.

CADET DAVIS:  If nothing’s at stake now, why will readers find this chapter interesting?

AUTHOR:  *silence*

Unfortunately, if publishers or readers find your manuscript’s first few pages boring, they will not keep reading.  From the earliest part of your story, your main character needs to have a goal.

So what do you do if your hero doesn’t know what his main goal is yet?  For example, at the start of Harry Potter, Harry doesn’t know that his primary goal is to “go to Hogwarts and thwart Voldemort.”  He doesn’t even know that he’s a wizard.  J.K. Rowling used temporary goals to tide us over.  For example, “read the letter that Uncle Vernon is trying to hide from you.”  Those goals made him interesting even though we didn’t know anything about his magical destiny.

What sort of temporary goals work? Anything that has high-stakes for the character.  It doesn’t have to be life or death, of course. (Harry Potter only needed to obtain a letter!)

What sort of temporary goals don’t work?  Joy rides.  If a character is trying something just for kicks, or to have a good time or just because he’s curious, the stakes are probably not high enough for him for us to care.  One main exception to the rule against joy rides is that sometimes, deep into a superhero story, you can briefly show the character trying out his new superpowers.  That will stall the plot, but that’s mostly OK because we need to know what the hero is capable of.  Also, by that point of the story, you better have convinced readers that you have a plot or you are screwed anyway.

34 responses so far

Nov 11 2008

This music haunts my dreams

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This is the music that plays on the insanely hard Battletoads bike level.  If you’ve never played this game, let me offer a taste of how ridiculously impossible it was.

One response so far

Oct 17 2008

Music for Writing: Danse Macabre

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No responses yet

Sep 27 2008

A widget I’d really like to have: a word-counter

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The widget would count the words of all articles tagged with the category in question and then display that for readers.  “B. Mac has written 12,500 words on ‘Characterization.'”  “B. Mac has written 30,000 words on ‘The Superhero Nation Novel.'”  If you want to get really fancy (or sadistic, depending on how much you procrastinate), you could add a feature where the word-counter breaks down results by month.  “B. Mac has written 0 words on ‘The Superhero Nation Novel’ in September 2008.”

One response so far

Sep 11 2008

Spore was a savage disappointment

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Currently, at Amazon, Spore has been ranked at one star by over 90% of its 2000+ reviewers.

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4 responses so far

Aug 21 2008

Please Don’t Write This Badly

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Some editors can rewrite an absolutely mediocre story into a masterpiece, but please give yours more to work with than this…

From the New York Times: “Few want a handout, but fewer want government to abandon them. A simmering hurt suffuses their words, a sense that neither hard work nor their unions could save them.”

It’s hard to tell which part of this passage was the worst, but it probably wasn’t “a simmering hurt suffuses their words.” I found “fewer want government to abandon them” more painful. The author really struggled to create a parallel structure with the previous clause. I would recommend rephrasing that sentence as “When polled, residents were uneasy about government handouts but enthusiastic about vocational education programs,” or another form of government assistance that came up frequently.

No responses yet

Jun 22 2008

Reading Survey

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Andrew Burt, one of the leaders of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, is offering a survey on reading habits.  Please do writers a favor and give us 5-10 minutes of your time.  Thanks!

No responses yet

Jun 02 2008

Featured: A brief comparison of crime in two US cities…

Published by under Comedy,Uncategorized

“In New York City, criminals chase the dragon. In Surf City, the dragon chases back.”

No responses yet

Jan 06 2008

“I DEMAND COMEDY”

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Earlier today, I added a I DEMAND COMEDY button to the sidebar (under New Here?)  That will make it easier for the comically minded to find what they crave, rather than be bogged down with articles on writing or Campaign 2008.

  1. I’m also trying to identify which of my articles are the most popular and highest quality.  I’m moving these articles to categories marked Reader Favorites.  For example, Reader Favorites:  Comedy is a collection of my top comic work.  So far I think I’ve listed 5 of those.  In a day or two, I’ll have sifted through my ~600 posts for the best 15-30.
  2. I’m also working on a Reader Favorites: Writing Advice.  I haven’t started this yet.  That’s clearly less of a priority because most of my writing articles are relatively easy to find on the sidebar.
  3. I may add another category or two.
  4. You can see all of the Reader Favorites at the aptly named Reader Favorites:  All Categories.  That won’t make much of a difference until I start adding entries to Reader Favorites:  Writing Advice.
  5. I’m trying to clean up my category headers to be more precise.  Postings that are listed as Comedy are now only those that are primarily meant to be funny and not, say, writing articles that occasionally are funny.

No responses yet

Jan 02 2008

New Category: Writing About Superheroes

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I recently added a category, Writing About Superheroes. So far, I have some articles devoted to character design (like the Superhero Questionnaire and Superpower List). Additionally, novelists and other writers that are trying to adapt somewhat niche material to a mainstream audience might appreciate Making Your Story Less “Weird” and More Novel and the Transformation/Nonhuman Questionnaire.

No responses yet

Dec 29 2007

On Bhutto’s Assassination

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I don’t have anything substantive to add, but my father met Ms. Bhutto during their time at Oxford.

One response so far

Dec 25 2007

Joke of the day

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This is based on what a friend in the Peace Corps claims is a true story.  

The presidents of two African countries—let’s say Togo and Nigeria—meet in Nigeria.  The Tongan is surprised by how nice the Nigerian’s house is. 

“Nigeria is so poor,” the Tongan said.  “How can you afford this estate?”

The Nigerian points out the window to a bridge spanning a river. 

“See that bridge?  The World Bank give us a huge amount of aid to build it, but not all of the money was spent on the bridge.” 

The Tongan thought about his shabby home and nodded.  “That seems like a really great idea,” he said. 

The next year, the Nigerian was visiting the Tongan and was astonished to learn that Togo had an absolutely luxurious palace.  He asked the Tongan how he had improved his house so much in a year.

The Tongan pointed out the window to a barren desert, rolling as far as the eye could see.  “See that bridge?”

2 responses so far

Dec 24 2007

Defeated by Google, Pt. 2

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I’m still doing pretty well in the Google searches that I’m specifically optimizing for– queries like superhero story, superhero novel, superhero parody, superhero satire, etc.  Here are a few of the searches where I’m doing surprisingly badly.

  1. #3 for “Superhero Nation.”  DAMN YOU TIME.
  2. #3 for alligator superhero — I wish I were making this up.  Fortunately, the search is pretty insignificant (only two so far).  Relatedly, I’m at #4 for mammal superhero and– not surprisingly– #1 for mammals superhero*.
  3. Not in the top 50 for government superhero
  4. #14 for agent superhero

*If I ever get published, I’m virtually positive that Amazon will use “mammals” as one of Superhero Nation’s statistically improbable phrases.  By my count, the first half uses it six times (it’s Agent Orange’s tagline).

No responses yet

Dec 19 2007

Reality–Time Nexus

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Times named the Youtube Snowman one of 2007’s People That Mattered, alongside such real winners like a man that jumped into a subway track to save a guy going into epileptic shock.   This is what Time had to say of the Snowman…

Everyone knows that technology is changing politics—from the raising of money to the framing of messages to the distribution of attack ads. Nothing drives it home, though, like presidential candidates tackling a question about global warming posed by…a snowman. Undignified, Mitt Romney called the mini-movie creation of two unemployed Minneapolis brothers. But a better name might be ‘democracy.’

Actually, a better name might be “stupidity.” People like the Snowman have created a political climate where it is advantageous to attack the questioner rather than address what may very well be a meaningful topic (global warming).  Another political distraction… exactly what the country needed.

Time’s Man of the Year Award went to Vladimir Putin.  Runners-up included General Petraeus, JK Rowling, Hu Jintao, and Al Gore.  I find the Putin selection a bit puzzling.  The rationale is that he’s been consolidating power in Russia for some time now, undoing what what was left of democracy, etc.  But, unlike Hu Jintao, in the long term what his government does (or does not do) will probably matter very little.

I’m a huge fan of Rowling’s work– I frequently cite Harry Potter to illustrate principles of solid writing– and I’m familiar with Jintao’s work as well.  But I think there’s no question that the only one of these figures that will be discussed a generation from now is General Petraeus.  If we have, in fact, reached the point where a Western army can defeat a (remotely) nationalist insurgency, that would probably be the most significant change in warfare since at least the atomic bomb.  General Petraeus is like a one-man Manhattan Project.

Not to slight culture!  but Harry Potter just isn’t that important.

I think that a feat in global warming akin to what Petraeus appears to have pulled off– or is at least appearing to pull off– would be to convince some significant number of Western government to actually meet their Kyoto obligations.  Talk is cheap but, like most policy goals, environmental reform is not.  In the absence of any tangible progress along that front, I think that the Gore selection should have been postponed.

Did you know that I won Time’s Man of the Year in 2006?  I put it on my resume… it was great for a laugh.  🙂

No responses yet

Dec 18 2007

Upcoming Post: The Dragon and the George Review

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Luke of Edmonton asks: your reviews are pretty harsh. Which books do you like?

Good question. In fantasy and science fiction, I really liked The George and the Dragon, which is close enough to the other books I’ve reviewed that I’ll probably be able to justify a review of it. I’ll try to get that up at some point.

No responses yet

Dec 17 2007

Remember, you heard it here first…

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Miami will beat the Patriots next week.

This week, the Patriots played the League’s second-worst Jets and came up with only a 20-10 victory.  For Tom Brady, New England winter is like victory kryptonite.   Brady had 140 yards, 1 interception and no touchdowns.

AND… Miami pulled off its first win of the season!  They are now 1-13.  Good job, guys, but don’t get satisfied yet…  New England is next week.

No responses yet

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