Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

A Three-Act Ouline

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.
  • Denouement
    • Wrap it up
    • Show the character’s change
More »

Writing for Comics Update + Asher Evans

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):

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:

Next steps with this one-shot are:

  1. Writing a prose summary for the issue
  2. Converting the prose summary into 3×5 cards (using scrivener to create 22 cards that also double as script pages)
  3. Expand those cards into scripted format
  4. Find an artist to do some character sketches
More »

Writing for Comics: Multi-Plot Levitz Paradigm

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.

More »

Comic Book Status + New Desktop

Just wanted to drop a line to say I’m not dead–and though I haven’t been drawing every day, I’ve been doing a little bit. I’m focusing all my spare time now writing the scripts for inZomnia, the Graphic Novel–and I even just created a Facebook page for it:

In the meantime, I was going to write during my lunch break today but I got distracted by David Lanham’s awesome new Steampunk Icon Pack–so I was forced to revamp my GeekTool widgets to work with the feel of the metal desktop wallpaper:

My Latest OSX Desktop

More »

Daily Drawing: Manga Boy (3/4 and Up Views)

Boy, weekends are killer. I’m trying to ramp up my training a bit more and dive into other things besides the Chris Hart Manga book. I’ve got a ton of books to get through but I also want to get cozy with drawing in Illustrator CS5–so I’m going through everything I can find on that. Plus, since I have a Graphic Novel story in progress, I’ve been trying to spend some time reformatting what I have currently in novel format into Antony Johnston’s standard comic book script format using Scrivener (awesome app)–and, of course, finishing the complete draft of the whole damn story. Ah, good times. It actually is really fun to start thinking about the story in terms of comic panels–it brings a whole new feel to it, more cinematic.

Well, anyway, with all that going on I probably won’t be posting a drawing every day but eventually, you should see some sketches relating to my graphic novel, which I won’t name publicly just yet.

Up View:
Manga Boy's Face (Up View) - Final Sketch

3/4 View:
Manga Boy's Face (3/4 View)

More »

Flying Cthulhu Robot Monster

So I’m taking a walk through the desert last night. It’s warm. Most nights are a bit on the warm side in Albuquerque during the summer. I like this. It brings out the insects. Wherever you go, the air is thick with the chirps of cicadas and the ground is swarming with beetles, ants and all kinds of other things I can’t identify.

The sun sinks away, leaving behind a sunset that lasts for hours. I swear, it’s almost midnight and the sky is still a little blue.

Now, I’m looking at the moon, which is unusually bright tonight, when this thing comes swirling out of a gap of light that just sort of appears in the middle of the sky. I’m not sure if it’s a robot or a suit of armor for some kind of intergalactic octopus but it comes up toward me, followed by a little hovering ball that keeps bleeping and flashing little fuzzy plasma lit signals.


This is when the big one speaks in a deep gargled metallic tone, telling me that Cthulu’s army is being manufactured in a nearby layer of this space-fabric-thingy and that I should prepare for the oncoming horde that will enslave all of my kind. I don’t reply right away–more like I just stare at it–which seems to cause confusion amongst my visitors. While the robot monster is looking back and forth between me and it’s little floaty ball friend, I make the loudest cicada call I can muster.

The desert rises up like a tidal wave and descends.

You can hear them, but until you see the swarms of desert insects combine into Optimus Megabug, you have no freaking clue how many are really out there. The exposed tentacles dangling below the hovering robot armor go first, chewed away and replaced by countless flapping wings. Flames spew out of the exhaust-pipe-looking-things on the robot’s shoulders. I don’t think they are supposed to do that. The little flying ball is totally losing it’s shit. It’s zipping around, apparently weaponless. Must just be a scout or something. It zooms back toward the horizon and vanishes into a wisp of light that peels back the sky. I don’t know if it’s going to warn the others not to come or fetch reinforcements but it’s gone now.

With the octopus beast eaten, all that remains is the robot shell. It’s a pretty cool piece of machinery so I cover it up in the sand, marking the position for later retrieval. Bring it on Cthulhu. Send your beasts. We’ve got insects.

More »

Write for 10: It’s a Part of You

This is a write for ten minutes practice session:

It’s a part of you, this thing they’ve implanted. What is it made of, some polymer clay, iron, ore, something wicked or new, who knows. They put these things inside, hoping to gain insight. imagine what they could glean from a clean specimen. Men with no connection, nothing to lose, nothing to gain.

Back in the dark, again, they’ve got this thing wired to your head. If you think straight, the lights go out. What can that be for? If there’s a reason, they wouldn’t tell you. That’s part of the experiment, the data collection, the reason.

But you do this to pay for school. It’s all you can do, that or sell parts. It’s better to gain a little implant than lose a little kidney or push your plasma on the street. At least these guys are professional. Or so they seem. How could you tell if this was legit or something sinister? It’s so easy to make things. The suits, the badges, the equipment. It looks like it would have been expensive before you could just make things. But now, these guys could be broke, selling off your data to the personality cloners, pushing our your identity to the over-net, leaking out your dreams to the pay-per-view audiences in distant places.

You wonder for a minute if this is your fifteen minutes of fame. Could it be? Could this be all there is to show? You’ve got this tube of gelatinous metal in your ribcage. Are you the first to try it? Probably. You try bending and find it’s sore. You jump, push, pull, drop and roll. There in a half turnpipe spin, you find bliss. This new ribcage of yours just splits open to reveal a tentacle mesh of neotechnic hands, reaching out for perch against the walls, rocketing you back and forth. You close your eyes. They carry you, these arms, walking for you, bounding through the hallway of the artificial medical unit. There at the end, you see a woman in white standing next to a hover-tray. It’s giving her in injection. She faints. Move along. Nothing to see here. Nothing but images as you float by, out into the streets.

There’s a place in the park where all the old men go to die. They play games with their past selves, screaming banter at bankers, bidding on winners and pranksters. Eventually, it all caves in. The pieces fall. The trees sag and drop their leaves.

More »

Write For 10: Day #3 – Music that Breathes

I want music that breathes–not just pumps and jams but takes in the air and exhales in a waltz. Speak to me in french, Portuguese, Russian. Drum in a dead language. They don’t hear you anyway. It’s all just noise to the self obsessed, photographing themselves and tuning out to the tweet noise, awaiting only replies. The news says there’s nothing new but I can hear the “bump, ba dump ba dump” of the accordion, breathing a dance into the air.

The cafe is dark, connected, sulfur smelling under the guise of the peppermint oil that lights the lamp. Someone throws a beer bottle on stage, thumping into the leg of a twelve year old who is reinventing music as a living organism. He doesn’t stop–he doesn’t even look up, entranced in the moment. This kid is God.

“Hey, play Freebird!” This from the peanut gallery minus a beer.

The kid plays on, a pattern of breath inside the beat that just sings.

“Deaf boy!” The man starts again, but by this time I’m right behind him. He hears the sweetest melody of his life in the last seconds before he hits the table, unconscious, breathing. Still breathing. He’s finally in tune.

The music continues. The darkness lightens. The ether turns milky, borealis, a ghostly succubus, luring in wayward coffee drinkers and beer connoisseurs.

We hear the siren’s call. This savant messenger speaks well. He carries the tune and we tune in, leaving our egos by the side.

More »

Write For 10: Day #2 – Motorcraves

All I see is a metallic shimmer, blue, green, swipes of sudden chaos into view.

The cruisers are smashing down the mainway, ricocheting off the walls with malice and gusto. Benny doesn’t care if he scratches the paint; it’s new but everything is these days. He can roll another out the maker box in half a breath.

The other cats apparently aren’t so wealthy as Benny. They curse and rant in hi-def subliminal microwave, neon vector raves pulsing from the decks of their cars, flashes of red and black, blipping abuse at the other motorcraves. One in particular, this jocky puck who sports a flyboy mohawk and a thread leather seatback throttles it forward next to Benny, giving him the bird with his telehand. Benny is thrown for a sec by the florescent intrusion. The projection threatens the sky with epileptic seizures. Cars screech and skitter around the blaze of light.

Benny sucks it up; he’s taken the piss before from ingrate halflings who haven’t been on the track longer than the day. This punkbag doesn’t have the verbal skills to make Benny flinch. And with that, a kiss-off glance and a for-real finger in the air, Benny rips the box a new one. There’s something to be said for the finesse of a seasoned motorcrave, but you have to be there to witness it for yourself.

The causeway is clear now; the light is gone. Motorcraves are in a new city by now. I’ve got a headache.

More »

Write For 10: Day #1

I’ve started writing 10 minutes a day on

Here’s day 1:

Full of hope and something bittersweet. This is the dream of a new reality. Sometimes I think I see someone sweet; it’s never a known quantity. This feeling will pass. Who needs it anyway. A feeling of broken ambition and it’s all it takes to go down.

Back in the bar she sits sipping sapphire gin, looking up from the glass only to flirt with the bartender. He’s too old for her, or so thinks the boy on the other side of the counter. He’s been a bar-back for 3 days but that’s long enough to know the type that sits alone, drinking like a fish and pining for the older gents. She could do better, he thinks. She could do him.

There’s this place back east. It’s a festival that goes on all year. Sometimes I dream about it, full of people running around all the time, splashing each other with their drinks, joyously, celebrating whatever it is they wish, without fears or regrets. I don’t remember the name, hope it’s the same.

Wet washed and wiped out, drowning in peptides. I can feel this fuzzy fissure in my scalp, running down my neck. It’s like it’s been engineered to tickle my melancholy. I can’t remember the last time I had this emotion. It’s like swimming in the ocean at 10, or maybe I was 8. I stayed up late, ran out to the edge, found a fish that was swimming on sand, gasping for breath. I could tell it was in a bad place. There’s no disgrace in gasping for breath when there isn’t anything to breath. At least he’s trying. At least his heart is in it. Pull through little tyke. Suck it up, there’s water right there. Just a nudge, a flick, a wet kiss.

I’m feeling more alone than ever now.

More »