Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Feel like it’s perhaps time to drop some knowledge–or what passes for it at any rate–to young writers. I’ve run into a couple of moments this week where I’d swear, you guys don’t quite understand what your job as storytellers is.
Tom Rule #1: Know what your story is about. Not what the plot is, but what the point is. Why you’re telling it beyond collecting a check. If you can swap out your leads for other characters and it changes nothing meaningful, you story does not work. It’s all about characters.
Tom Rule #2: Do not try to impress me or others with Byzantine structures or pseudo-clever narrative devices. These tools all have their place, but they don’t in the slightest make up for not making me care about the characters. When in doubt, simpler is better. Start at start, as much as possible. Take the time to make me give a damn about these people.
While they’ve become industry standard, devices like “Dueling Narrators”, where two characters have a back-and-forth conversation over barely-related visuals is inherently confusing and pulls people out of the story. Clarity is your friend, and your job. Impress me with the conflicts your characters face, and the choices that they make. Don’t be overblown for it’s own sake.
Also, dropping a lot of references to old stories isn’t the same thing as making me care about people. By itself, it’s lazy, counting on good will and interest in the characters created by your predecessors. Your job is to make me care every issue. Emotional Truth!
Your mission is to tell your story directly, and well. In general, novices love technique, pros love content. Don’t confuse them. Remember, you’re asking readers to drop at least three bucks and twenty minutes of their lives for this experience. Earn it.
I will remember a story that touched me or moved me far longer than one that was over-clever in its execution. It is in no way passé or uncool to be direct.
Also, watch any episode of any television show and count how many times characters are named. Tell me your cast’s damn names! Every issue!
Alan Moore is incredibly talented. He can break the rules, because he knows how. You are not Alan Moore. Not yet. Walk first, then run. There are a million ways to write a comic book, but nobody enjoys being baffled, or uninvolved, or just plain bored.
And that’s one to grow on.
–Marvel Senior VP-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, in an epic Twitter “rant” (his word, not mine — this is way too reasonable to constitute ranting) last week. Who says you have to be “stupid and provocative” to get on Robot 6, Tom? (Although the tweets did apparently trigger a miniature stampede of creators concerned Brevoort was talking about them…)