Last year around 140 creators participated in The 30 Characters Challenge, where they attempted to create a brand-new character every day in November. They’re doing it again this year, and already they have more than 350 creators signed up. But there’s still room for more — today’s the last day to sign up, so head over to their registration page if you think you’ve got what it takes to create 30 new characters over the next month.
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…)
Today kicked off the month-long 30 Characters Challenge, where more than 150 writers and artists are attempting to each create a brand-new character for each day in November. And just a few hours into it, the world has already been introduced to Mike Gallagher’s Roadkill Santa, Red by Tyler James, Daniel Govar’s Chondra Flicker (above) and Captain Cavity by Jess Kirby, among many others.
This will be a fun one to watch all month.
Jim Munroe, writer of the graphic novel Sword of My Mouth, kept track of the time he and artist Shannon Gerard put into the project. Not surprisingly, the scales don’t balance:
So here’s a breakdown of how much time we each spent working on the book.
Jim’s hours: 283.8 (writing: 23%, revisions and editing: 16%, publicity: 20%, publishing business: 38%)
Shannon’s hours: 1000+ (drawing)
So basically, Shannon put in 80% of the time even considering I took on publicity and publishing roles. (If I was just doing the writing, it would have been closer to a 90/10% split.)
We’re dividing the money we make 80/20%, but it still feels weird. I mean, I knew it took a long time to draw, but it really takes a long time to draw. This wonky division of labour is something to keep in mind when if you’re ever approaching someone to draw a comic. Even if you’re a slow writer and they’re a fast drawer, you’re still asking them to spend much more time realizing something than you spent creating it. What are you bringing to the project beyond amazing ideas and sparkling prose?