Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category
Every blue moon there’s a comic that really speaks to modern culture. Atomic Robo (written by Brian Clevinger and art by Scott Wegener) fills that gap for me at the moment. I mean, Nikola Tesla invents an immortal AI robot who grows up to kick ass with Carl Sagan (on one particular adventure). But the real kicker for me is in Vol 4, Revenge of the Vampire Dimension, with the introduction of Dr. Dinosaur (AKA Lord Raptor) who explains how he will dismantle Atomic Robo:
This is the three-act character arc & story structure that I’ve been using, boiled down from many online sources. It is now packaged in my template for creating new scripts, stored under the handy research folder in Scrivener–but I figured I’d share it here for posterity. Please comment with any notes, or suggestions for alterations.
This is a pretty standard formula. If you run through any major Hollywood movie, you can map it pretty much directly to this set:
- ACT 1 – Introduction, contentment
- Introduce protagonist who will resist change (inner conflict), being perfectly content—or at least having no reason or will to change
- Plot Point 1 – Event that throws the character’s life off balance.
- Surprise shifts the story in a new direction
- Reveals the protagonist’s life will never again be the same
- Introduces an obstacle, which forces the protagonist to deal with something he/she would normally avoid
- ACT 2 – Emotional Journey
- Challenges — the protagonist struggles toward the goal/McGuffin
- Conflict! – Each conflict appears and resolves to move the story forward
- Inner and Outer conflicts, working together, alternating between hope and despair/disappointment
- External conflicts seem solvable then insurmountable, then solvable.
- Get into trouble. Raise the stakes. The character will make bad decisions.
- Ends with the hero’s dark moment—utterly beaten, abandoned, all hope of achieving the goal is lost
- Plot Point 2 – Throw the story in an unexpected direction, allowing the goal to be reachable
- Rally the troops, head for the goal
- Act 3 – Resolution
- Draw upon new strengths, realized by lessons learned in overcoming Act 2 conflicts
- Obtain the McGuffin / Achieve the goal.
- Wrap it up
- Show the character’s change
I’ve now been trying to get inZomnia finished for a while (as a 12 issue volume) and I’ve been rolling this other idea around in the back of my head for almost as long. I’m not really putting off inZomnia but I have to admit it is an ambitious first entry into the comics space. This other idea is much simpler and allows me to create a single issue to introduce the world without worrying that later issues might need to revise the first.
Something about the comics industry that I find so strange is that writers don’t usually have the full story mapped out. They might have the current arc fully bulleted (hopefully) but they typically write an issue, it goes to the artist, they write another issue, and so on. Usually this only happens with ongoing series like The Walking Dead, DMZ, The Boys etc, which are three series that have been really disappointing to me lately–I find that any series pushing past 60 issues is just going on too long. But imagine writing a novel where you write the first chapter, polished and complete, ship it off to press and then start writing the second chapter, knowing that you have no ability to revise character interactions, manners of speech, plot devices, etc in previous chapters–those are set in stone. The really minor things are what get me. Since I’ve been writing inZomnia, I’ve revised the first issue script 3 times–and they are very different versions. Perhaps it’s just an issue with having all the characters and story fully mapped–something I’m still working on–but I keep thinking of subtle things that I issue #10 or #11 will have that need a little foreshadowing earlier on. It would be a pity to press those and not have the ability to include that. So, since I’m new to this, I’m not just outlining–I’m going to at least write a prose page for each issue, fully flushing out the details before I go back to revise the actual scripts again.
In the meantime, as advised by my virtual mentor Antony Johnston in his fantastic articles on writing comics, it’s good to step back and work on something else to give your brain time to come back with a fresh perspective.
If you are unfamiliar with Antony’s work, he is currently writing Wasteland and the following articles on his site are required reading for anyone wanting to write comics (or even if you are just into writing anything at all, the first article is for you):
- Getting Things Written
- Antony Johnston’s Process
- Scrivening Comics (I highly recommend Scrivener as well–it’s a beautiful writing tool for writers of all kinds–and I get no money for saying that).
So, as I was saying, I took a little break today and created a 3 act outline for a 1-shot comic called “Asher Evans isn’t Real.” Of course, it’s a 1-shot that sets the stage to grow into an ongoing series or, as I prefer all media to be, a more flushed out and conclusive graphic novel. Asher Evans has a twitter account if you are interested in following the progress of a fictional character living a fictional life within his own fictional world: http://twitter.com/AsherEvans
Next steps with this one-shot are:
- Writing a prose summary for the issue
- Converting the prose summary into 3×5 cards (using scrivener to create 22 cards that also double as script pages)
- Expand those cards into scripted format
- Find an artist to do some character sketches
Well, I’m still here, more or less.
It’s been a tough year so far in terms of finding writing time–I know everyone makes excuses so I won’t bother to drop them here. On the other hand, I’ve found a good amount of time to think about writing–and specifically think and dream about character and plot development, back-stories, panel layouts and specific sequences within my story, etc… and I’m pretty happy with what’s coming out.
Currently, I’m putting off the actual script writing to spend time developing my Pitch, which includes way more details than would go into a real pitch–it’s mostly a guide for me to organize the characters, tone, audience, plot arcs, issue spines and the like. Eventually, this is what I’ll be showing to an artist who might want to join up with me to produce inZomnia. Yeah, you read it right, I won’t be drawing this graphic novel (most likely). My drawing hand is not at the place I want it to be for the look and feel of this story and I’d really like to work with an artist who has comics experience. Besides, writing comes first and it’s going to take me long enough to get that where I want it.
I do terribly miss having time to myself and anyone out there who has broken into the comics scene with full-time job and a family (and specifically a 2.5 year-old), I welcome your enlightened suggestions.
So, on to a brief diversion wherein I actually talk about the topic of this post:
In The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, Dennis O’Neil talks about the Levitz Paradigm, which strikes me as a simple way to organize and track multiple plots and their development within a series. Basically, as I understand it, you create a table with plots on the left (rows) and issues on the top (columns). Then you simple write out the plot spines as they develop within the issues, staggering in new plot arcs (be they subplots, major plots or diversions) as others fade away, keeping about 3-4 live plots running at any given time. By the way, I’m quite shocked that Wikipedia doesn’t have an article on the Levitz Paradigm but I’m not going to write a page for it–I’ve got enough procrastination projects.
Since I sadly, did not pursue and English, Literature, Creative Writing or any related degree in college, I hadn’t given much analytical thought to the development of serial TV, comics or other forms of fiction. O’Neil’s book talks a bit about soap operas and how they keep viewers interested and I noticed that many of the TV shows on at any given moment use the same techniques–generally something that looks like the Levitz Paradigm. The core of the idea is that you can end a plot, satisfying the audience with its completion but by having other plot lines flowing unfinished, you keep them interested in whatever comes out next.
Now, I’m really not into long, unending serials. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed with The Walking Dead, which I thought hit its peak of interest a dozen or so issues ago. When I started reading it, I didn’t expect it to go to 80 issues and beyond–and I don’t see any reason they would ever stop (it could go to hundreds of issues). I like stories that end. Endings are dear to me. But I like the idea of using the Levitz Paradigm to help me get through 12 issues (I think) of inZomnia, allowing the plots to trickle into closure toward the end.
It occurred to me today that I could start writing a blog called ‘Code to Comics’ but then I realized that if I spent the time needed to truly blogument the process I’m going through, I wouldn’t have any time to write, which is already a problem. So, I’ll leave that blog title for someone else. Really, take it. I’m going to keep this name just in case I need to experiment with sleep again (fairly likely).
So, I’ll leave you with a simple list of the bedside reading I’ve been enjoying for the past several weeks–and then I’ll get my ass over to writing.
- The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics’ by Dennis O’Neil
- ‘Come In Alone’ by Warren Ellis
- ‘Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Vol. 1’ by Mark Salisbury