Monday, December 12, 2011

A CHAMPION CITY COMICS TUTORIAL: WRITING TIPS FOR WEBCOMICS AND COMICS (AKA A FINE LINE BETWEEN STUPID AND CLEVER)

This is the first installment of a series of tutorials on writing your comic or webcomic.This series will provide helpful tips for writers of all levels and is merely advice from someone who has experience.   

I will start off this post with a brief bio because you might be wondering, "What does this guy know about writing?" I have seven years experience of writing scripts for comics and webcomics and those stories fall under the following genres: crime noir, war stories, superhero tales, humor, and sci-fi. Overall, I have developed twelve titles for Champion City Comics and you can review my work by clicking here. Also, I HIGHLY recommend that you find a copy of Alan Moore's Writing for Comics Volume One. It helped me and it might be of use to you.

Are you interested in developing a webcomic or comic? Great! Every story begins as an idea and this first post will give some helpful writing tips on developing your story. When it comes to developing a story, I would like for you to click on the YouTube clip below to hear some priceless advice from This is Spinal Tap.





There definitely is a fine line between stupid and clever. As owner and editor at Champion City Comics, I receive scripts from writers on a monthly basis. Some scripts are good, but a majority of scripts are not that great because of numerous issues. The first issue I come across is a poorly devised story.

If you want to write a comic or a webcomic then you should have an idea of what type of story you want to develop. Let's go through the process step by step so that you can avoid some common writing problems.

I want to write but I can't think of an idea for a story.

Don't worry because this is common. You're inspired but don't know what you want to do at this point. First, you should always develop an idea or write when you feel inspired. Forcing yourself to write is not productive so wait until the time is right.

When that moment hits, think of your favorite comics, novels, movies, and television shows. Does something stand out as a source of inspiration? If you love Star Wars then would you be willing to develop a comic that's a space fantasy tale? Do you enjoy titles from Vertigo? Would you want to develop something gritty like 100 Bullets? Once you find your genre then you're on the right path.

I have a story, but will people like my story?

Are you writing to please the world or are you writing from your heart? In my opinion, someone who develops a story that is 100% fueled by their desire to please the world is foolish. Some people will like your story and some people will hate your story. Deal with it. What's important is that you love your story, plus you'll find others that really like your story.

When I develop a story for a comic book or webcomic, the first thing I think to myself is, "Would I purchase this title?" Take that into consideration when you start your project and everything will fall into place.

My idea involves zombies and/or vampires. Is that bad?

Because something is trendy does not necessarily make it a bad idea for a story. There are great zombie and vampire stories out there like The Walking Dead and what you need to do is bring something fun/creative to the table. Superhero stories have been around for over half a century and people still write excellent superhero stories.

We've developed a couple of vampire and zombie tales at Champion City Comics. Dr Death vs The Vampire is a story by Aaron Schutz and A. Kaviraj where an "almost a superhero" type of character named Doctor Death encounters a vampire on a trip across the Oregon desert. The vampire in this story is a psychic vampire that feeds off the pain and suffering of an individual. The vampire is not the Bram Stoker or Anne Rice variety, but it is still a fascinating villain that's a mathematical type of predator and is completely creepy.

The sequel to Dr Death vs The Vampire is Dr Death vs The Zombie which was written by myself and features the artwork of A. Kaviraj. In this story, we do not use the typical George A. Romero zombie, but the old West African variety that was blended with Tor Johnson's character from Plan 9 from Outer Space. Kaviraj and I were pleased with the take and have enjoyed working on this project because we took a fun twist on a zombie story.

I want to write and I have my story developed.

Great! Now when you say your story is developed, have you written out a summary or a complete version of the plot? Have you written brief or detailed descriptions of your characters? If you've answered no to one of these questions then stick around because we'll need to address a common error I refer to as "script improv".

Has anyone reviewed your idea? It's good to pitch your idea to someone that will give you their honest answer. They'll find plot holes and ask you address them to clarify a plot issue. I do that all the time with my stories. I pitch them to the artist and they'll have questions like, "What's the goal of the villain?" or "Why does he agree to help the main character?" Sometimes I get annoyed with those questions, but in the end I know they want the script to be solid. 

Writing out a plot summary is very helpful as it provides a blueprint for success. It shows the beginning, middle, and end of your story. However, you should give yourself some creative space for allowing certain secondary characters to flourish, etc. I've had some secondary characters steal the show and have gone back to my plot summary and have made changes to give them the opportunity to shine.

Do you have any other tips?

When I come up with a story, I will write down a summary in a notebook  or type it out on a Word document. I walk away from the idea for a day or two, sometimes a week. When I'm ready, I'll go back and read what I wrote down to see if it still sounds like a good idea for a story. If so, then I'll start working on the setting, the characters, plot, and other aspects of the story to make it great. If it doesn't sound so great then I will either improve upon the story or put it on the back burner for the time being. Perhaps I could use an aspect of that story and blend it with another story I have on the back burner to create another story.

As I mentioned earlier, write when you feel inspired. You'll be pleased with our creative output and forcing yourself to write is counterproductive because you'll more than likely go back and edit nearly all of your work. Why waste time? Write when it's right.

It's an old standard but write what you know. Were you born and raised in Montana? You'd be very comfortable setting your story in the Big Sky State than a place you've never visited like Florida. If you studied physics then use physics in your story. We're you a bartender? Add it to your story if possible. If you have no experience with an occupation then do some serious research because writers make too many basic errors when writing about doctors, lawyers, and detectives. That is an article I'm going to develop because writers take too many liberties with those professions.

You must be motivated. This is a very competitive world and there are writers out there improving their skills daily and are making contacts in the industry. Get motivated, get moving, and stop making excuses. 

It might take you a week, month, or even a year to get your story to a point where it is ready for prime time. Be patient and make sure that your story is solid because readers want to be entertained and not bored. Frustration and writers block is common. It'll pass and you'll be back on track soon.



This is a good place to end today's post. Next time, I will write about pages. How many do you need for your comic or webcomic? How long is this story going to be from start to finish? Take care and write!


TonyDoug Wright is the owner and editor of Champion City Comics. His webcomics include Dr Death vs The Zombie, The End of Paradise, and Day 165.


   

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