Archive for the 'Concept Creation' Category

Nov 02 2012

What to Do When You Discover That Your Story Is No Longer Original

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.

Did Hollywood or a well-known author just ruin your day by releasing a story that looks strikingly similar to something you’ve been independently developing for years? Here are some ways you can develop your story in a different direction.


1. Focus on unusual character traits. There have been a LOT of superheroes that are brilliant scientists, but Iron Man’s protagonist has a very unusual combination of traits. Whereas most scientist characters struggle with something like shyness, Tony Stark is hyper-charismatic and his main flaw is impulsiveness/recklessness.


2. Give the main characters unusual goals and/or motivations, preferably which tie into unusual decisions. For example, in most national security thrillers, if a character gets framed for a major crime, the character’s quest will center on proving his innocence and/or getting revenge on the people that have framed him. In contrast, Point of Impact’s protagonist is a backwoods hermit who responds to a framing in a very unusual way. His first move is to break into an FBI-guarded morgue to recover the corpse of his dog (who was killed at his house when the criminals were planting evidence against him). The protagonist’s sense of honor causes him to jeopardize his chances of succeeding at the main plot over a point of honor that wouldn’t matter much to most protagonists.

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Jun 08 2010

Bullies as protagonists? A writing exercise

Bullies are a very common, almost ubiquitous obstacle for young protagonists.  More often than not, I feel they’re stale, one-dimensionally malicious characters with incredibly thin motivations. (Hell, even Galactus has a better reason for consuming the Earth, and he’s apparently a cosmic dust cloud now).

If you’d like to use a bully, one alternative I’ve never seen would be to do a bully as a protagonist. I’ve never seen that before. You may be thinking something like “of course, because such a character would be so unlikable, you dumb ****.” Granted, likability would be a challenge.  However, if Kickass’s tween serial killer and adult serial killers like Sylar or Dexter can be likable, and I think they are, a likable bully is feasible. (However, making the bully likable might be harder, because it’s harder to give a bully good intentions, whereas you can have the serial killer prey on bad guys). So our writing exercise today is to come up with as many possible story hooks for a bully protagonist, preferably one the audience likes even if they don’t want him to succeed as a bully.

Here’s what I came up with…

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May 05 2009

How to lay out a proposal: sell the strengths, address the weaknesses

Your proposal needs to accomplish two main goals:  1) show that there are readers out there and 2) show that you are well-poised to grab them.  First, sell your strengths, the factors that make your concept more likely to succeed.  Second, cover your weaknesses.  There probably will be some, particularly if you’re a first-time author.

To get you started, I’ll run you through how I would go about planning a proposal for a nonfiction book about how to write fan-fiction. (If you’d like to write such a book, go for it).

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