Robot 6

John Rozum explains how to kill your darlings

Rozum had to rework Midnight, Mass in some harsh ways in order to adjust for story constrictions outside his control

Another post for the process junkies; this time about writing. On his blog, John Rozum answers a reader’s question about trimming fat and killing darlings in comics scripts. It’s one of the basic rules of writing, but Rozum relates it specifically to the pre-determined page counts of single-issue comics stories.

Generally, if it’s an action oriented comic book, I will cut out some of the action. My feeling is that with over 75 years of super hero comics behind us, everyone reading them has seen two people in garish outfits hitting each other frequently enough that they can fill in the blanks and get the sense that a hefty battle is being waged even if I cut out a page of someone getting beaten with a parking meter or having a bus thrown at them. This seems like something easier to do away with and without the same impact that cutting a scene that strengthens the bond between two characters through their interaction over dinner.

Cutting action pages out of an action comic is an interesting choice, but Rozum is clear about his personal priorities in story construction. ” I usually put the characters first and plot serves as a supporting function to develop the characters,” he writes, “whether that’s something long term like Xombi, or even a 2-issue Batman story.” The implication is that writers should identify their own priorities in storytelling and make edits accordingly.

Rozum also talks about what happens when he does have to cut character moments and when outside forces like suddenly reduced page counts and truncated series get in the way of his original plans. There are lots of real-life examples from Xombi, Midnight Mass, and The X-Files and also stuff about how much freedom artists should have in developing pacing. Even though there’s a lot there, it’s not a long post. Very worth the time of new writers.

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Comments

3 Comments

I agree that the plot grows from characters but I absolutely cannot get behind cutting out the action from an action comic. There are a million and one ways to write creative, engaging fight scenes that aren’t derivative and dull and if you think that there aren’t, maybe superhero comics isn’t really the right avenue for your talents.

Andrew Collins

April 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Chris,
I didn’t get that Rozum found action scenes dull at all. What I gathered from his comments is that he much preferred taking a few extra pages/panels to show personal interaction and give you more depth to the characters than wasting extraneous pages on action. That way, when an action scene DOES occur, you feel more for the characters and their motivations than just yawning and saying to yourself, “Oh, another fight scene…”

On a seperate note, that sucks that Midnight, Mass was intended to be an ongoing and got truncated. I really enjoyed both mini-series and have been hoping to see Rozum do more with the characters…

You’re right, I should have read it a little more closely. Still, if it’s a GOOD fight scene I’ll have no reason to yawn at it to begin with :)

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