THE TYRANNY OF THIRD PERSON

I'm now using a different Wordpress theme for my website. It still needs a little tweaking here and there. I'm also taking this opportunity to update the copy on some pages. Basically, I'm redeveloping the whole site to solicit more freelance work outside of comics. That's the goal. For anyone who has ever had to write their own bio, you know the egocentric challenge of writing in third person. Third person can sound arrogant. "David Hopkins does this" and "David Hopkins likes that," "David Hopkins has a dog and wants you to know about it," you all realize that it's me writing every word, yes? However, first person feels limiting too. I don't want every sentence to begin with I. It's tricky. My current strategy is for the blog to be in first person. That makes sense. And all the pages (published work, about, contact, press), I keep in third person.

Fellow bloggers and freelancers with a personal website, what are your thoughts on first person vs. third person? I found this article, this one and also this one.

No doubt about it, I need to rewrite my bio. It's rather boring.

David Hopkins is a regular contributor to D Magazine, Quick, and Smart Pop. He has written comic books and graphic novels in a variety of genres. David produces Fanboy Radio’s Indie Show. For the past twelve years, he’s taught English and Creative Writing at Martin High School. David lives in Arlington, Texas with his wife April, daughter Kennedy, and his dog Berkeley.

SIMPLICITY

I'm the coach for our UIL Ready Writing team. I get to work with some very talented students and prepare them for area writing competitions. Last Saturday, our team did very well. We were the only school to have all four students make it to the second round. All of my students finished in the top third of the 43 submissions -- one student got third place. We're in position to have a great year. I meet with them in the library on Fridays. We might start reading A Writer's Coach. If anyone else wants to grab the book, you're more than welcome to read along with us. The Ready Writing coaches also act as the judges in area competitions. (For district and beyond, they hire outside judges.) As a result, I read a lot of student essays. It's painful to read essays that are trying so hard to impress. The writers become needlessly wordy. I get tired of such overused phrases: "today's society," "everyday life," and "throughout history." Students love these phrases and will not miss a opportunity to write about today's society or everyday life or ponder something that happened throughout history.

This past Saturday, I found a sentence that should win a cash prize for awkward construction: "The idea was thought to be of stupidity." If this were my student, I would say to her: "Just say it was stupid." This concept is thought to be of simplicity.

ONE WORD AFTER ANOTHER

"You put one word after another like putting brick onto a wall. And sooner or later, you look and you've managed to build the palace of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria... out of matchsticks." Neil Gaiman

GOOD TWEETIN' ADVICE

I talked with my writing students today about making a living as a creative professional. As part of my lecture, I solicited advice from freelancer friends (i.e. friends who freelance, not freelancers who I pay to be my friends) on Twitter -- and shared what they had to say. I edited Jake's advice because he used the f-word.

From @costa_kout -- "Always remember that 'time off'/vacation time means sacrifice. Whether time in doing work to cover for it...(cont'd) ...but also in income that's missed from the work you don't work on and do."

From @jakeekiss -- "Remember, you're allowed to fire clients. Contracts are a good thing, and pretty much everything from 'fuck you, pay me'." (this video)

From @TreyGarrison -- "Have a day job."

From @skleefeld -- "Would 'OHDEARGODDONTDOITRUNAWAYRUNAWAY!!!!!' be too cynical? :)"

From @amboy00 -- "Serious clients will pay you."

From @VinhLuanLuu -- "Get paid in stages: either a deposit with rest on delivery or broken up into payments per draft/revision." "Be prompt and communicate; any industry is smaller than you think and word gets around pretty quick."

From @carissa -- "Be fair and friendly to everyone. You never know who your clients will turn out to be. Keep $ books organized."

From @kenlowery -- "Meet your deadlines. Be polite and available. Keep your invoices filed meticulously and DO NOT be afraid to follow up on them." "No one ever wants to pay out money, so it's highly likely they WON'T pay until you DO bug them about it. But: politely."

From @warlick -- "Always have a contract. Always get a deposit up front. Have a kill fee. Have a late fee. You CAN fire clients. Be polite."

From @markwalters74 -- "never sell yourself short on freelance jobs, or you'll set a precedent that's almost impossible to break."

From @ryancody -- "Try to get paid up front. If possible."

BUFFY SCHOOL OF WRITING

I was cleaning out the office closet, and I came across one of my spiral notebooks from a few years ago (circa 2004). It was filled with notes from while I was watching BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER -- anything that as a writer, I could use. Yes, I took notes while watching TV. Here were some of my observations:

* Create stand-alone stories that work in an arc. * There's always room for humor. * Establish the character, then create a situation where they act out-of-character. * Good dialogue covers a multitude of sins. * Start off with a "mini-action moment." * Dating relationships are fun to destroy. * Create impossible challenges.

And class dismissed.

SCREENWRITING MASTER CLASS

Robert Turnage, the PR Director for the Dallas Screenwriters Association (official site | Facebook group), sent me the following information:

I wanted to let you know about a screenwriting master class we are having in February with Jim Hart, screenwriter of such films as Contact, Hook, and Muppet Treasure Island. His master class is titled “Deconstructing Dracula.” During this presentation, he will present the film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (of which he wrote the screenplay) and chart scene-by-scene the story and character arcs. By going through the presentation, he hopes to help writers have a deeper meaning of story structure and character development.If you or anyone you know is interested in screenwriting, story structure or character development, feel free to share this workshop information with them.

The master class is:

Saturday, February 19 Southern Methodist University O'Donnell Lecture/Recital Hall Owen Arts Center 6101 Bishop Blvd, Dallas, TX 75205 Time: 9:30 am - 6:00 p.m. (Lunch on your own)

Prices are $75 for Dallas Screenwriter Association Members, $95 for non-members, and $45 for students.

You can purchase tickets from the DSA website here: http://www.dallasscreenwriters.com/jim_hart_workshop.html

I might attend. (UPDATE 02/09: I'm attending.) I'm finally recovering from my writing lethargy, and a workshop would be good. I need to see if I'm able to coordinate it with my daughter's schedule. Family first.

If anyone else is planning to attend, please post in the comments.

STAY IN SCHOOL, DON'T DO DRUGS

Recently, I was the "celebrity judge" in the Knowhat2do comic book contest. I had the pleasure of reading through the submissions, giving feedback, and selecting my favorite. The winner of the competition sent me an email, thanking me for the feedback. He told me he wants to be a professional comic book writer/artist and asked for advice.

Thank you for your kind email. No worries. I'm not surprised you haven't heard of my work. While I'm a published comic book writer, my comics haven't been widely distributed. However, some of the local shops should have a copy of EMILY EDISON, KARMA INCORPORATED, or ASTRONAUT DAD laying around somewhere. This last year, I've been writing mostly for magazines and alt-weekly newspapers. Good luck in your aspirations to be a professional writer and artist. There are people who make a living at it. It's certainly a reasonable goal, if you work hard towards that end.

My advice is fairly simple. I don't know if it will be anything revolutionary. You need to pay attention in school and do well in your English and Art classes. I know too many writers who lack the basic ability to form sentences. Grammar is important, because it allows us to better craft sentences and thus organize our ideas. Writing is all about control. English class will improve your ability to express yourself clearly and effectively. I also know a lot of artists who cannot draw correctly in regards to anatomy and perspective. These skills are absolutely a must. All artists can draw their characters, but they avoid backgrounds. You should set yourself apart by being better than everyone else in drawing environments (backgrounds). If you can do this, your odds improve.

If it's possible, I'd also recommend attending college. Almost any university will offer writing and art classes. You will have the chance to further develop your talents. I would also recommend taking some business or entrepreneurial classes. The comic book is an art form, but it's also a business. In order to get your work out, many people need to self publish first. And in many instances, they find it is more profitable. If you take some business classes, you will be better prepared.

MAKING COMICS by Scott McCloud is required reading.

One last bit of advice, put together a good portfolio of your work. Take your work to comic book conventions, and ask editors and other artists for their honest feedback. Listen to them, and thank them for their help.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

So, what advice would you give? Feel free to post it in the comments section. Then, whenever we get the question, we can just direct them to this link. Genius!

JUST SAY "I DO." DAMMIT!

Here's my routine: When I'm not teaching, I'm writing. When I'm not writing, I'm teaching. It's Spring Break, so I'm writing. I did have a day off to go to the Dallas Zoo with Kennedy and April. I also watched A FISH CALLED WANDA (wonderful movie). I was hoping to take today and rest a little bit, maybe play computer chess? However, I'm still not quite done with my big project for this week. Another hour, and I should be finished. Right now, I'm procrastinating by blogging.

This week, I've been working on the message for my friend's wedding. Wim and Brenda are getting married on Saturday, and this will be the fourth wedding I've officiated. I love weddings, but officiating them can be tricky. Every single  word needs to be perfect. It's just 1,600 words -- and I've scrutinized it into the ground. I have notes such as:

"Sweeten up this opening section. Don’t make it sounds like it's coming from a divorced man." "Need a better transition here." "Don't use the word 'die'." "Word repetition. Something besides 'change'." And so on.

Once everything is finished, I'll read through it about ten times -- and then write everything into a smaller notebook. Then, it's just a matter of wearing a suit and reading my script.

The hope is that my words can be a gift to my friend and his wife-to-be. It's an opportunity to be part of a significant moment in their relationship.  I'm honored, and I don't take this stuff lightly. Okay, time to stop procrastinating. Go team.

WE ARE 1976

There's a new design shop in Dallas called We Are 1976. It's on North Henderson Avenue across the street from Barcadia. They're now carrying copies of KARMA INCORPORATED: POOR MR. WILSON (112 page graphic novel) and ONE NIGHT STAND (32 page mini-comic anthology). Thank you, We Are 1976! If you haven't visited one of the many local comic book shops and would still like to pick up my books, this store is a new option. I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship with We Are 1976. (Although, technically, I'm 1977.) They intend to help develop our creative community, offering workshops and gallery events. So, like all the best stores, they are much more than a store. If they ever want/need someone to talk about writing comic books, I'll be there. Speaking of, I've noticed a lot of people are teaching university classes on comics and graphic novels. Bendis is teaching at Portland State University (click here). Paul Hornschemeier is teaching at the University of Chicago (click here). And Nunzio DeFilippis taught "Writing For Sequential Art" at UCLA. There are more people I'm forgetting.

I need to find out how I can start something in my area. SMU? UTD? UTA? I'm available in the evenings and during the summer.

And I will work for money. It's true.

I have 10 years teaching experience in the public schools, English and Creative Writing. I'm the coach for our UIL Ready Writing team. I led a full day workshop at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. I've spoken at events hosted by the Dallas Museum of Art, ArtLoveMagic, and The Writer's Garrett. I may not have Bendis's portfolio, but my brain is action-packed with script writing knowledge.

Who knows? Maybe I need to get a few more things in print before I start worrying about this stuff, but I enjoy Creative Writing and it'd be nice to have a few more opportunities -- and maybe someday make the transition from high school to college.

DAILY WRITER, STRIVING FOR ORIGINALITY

Striving for originality (p. 23). Take a typical setting for a horror or fantasy novel and jot down ideas for atypical characters and situations that might take place in that typical setting.

Location: an old haunted house in the middle of nowhere

Instead of young good-looking people as our protagonists, how about casting an elderly couple? Grandpa is feeble, which increases the potential conflicts. Plus, Grandpa must reconcile his stubborn religious beliefs with the supernatural once he encounters it. Maybe they retired to this old house as the culmination of a life-long dream?

Ghosts and monsters of all kinds have been done. Animated puppets and toys have been done. Is there a monster that hasn't been explored? Internal and external. Shifting perspectives. It's all been done. This is tricky. I like the idea that there is no monster. The paranoia consumes the victims, but yes, I'm sure that's been done. If it gets too atypical, it would be absurd. Attack of the killer coffee beans? Attack of the killer air conditioning unit? Attack of the killing extremities? The character's ears detach from his head and attempt to kill him by jumping down the victim's throat.

One of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen was David Lynch's ERASERHEAD. When absurdities are taken seriously and left unexplained, the audiences doesn't know what to do with that.

An atypical situation might be to explore an idea besides claustrophobia. Many horror stories have the character's trapped within their setting. Even if they are abandoned at sea, they are still in a setting they can't escape. The SIXTH SENSE and EXORCIST were interesting variations, because no matter where they went, they couldn't escape the horror -- because it was within them. SIXTH SENSE offered a fascinating resolution. The boy learned to live with his situation.

A house lends itself to a confinement story. What if the house followed the couple wherever they moved? They would move into a new house, and it would transform into their old house, but no one else in the town would ever notice. It's always been that way. Even if they moved into a condo or apartment, entire communities of people would just disappear -- replaced by the house?

DAILY WRITER, ON MOTIVATION

For my Creative Writing class, I picked up a copy of THE DAILY WRITER by Fred White. It's a collection of meditations and exercises to help establish a regular writing routine. I assign a page for each day in class. I thought it might be good for me to write along with my students. If nothing else, it gives me something else to post on my blog. I will try to keep these writings down to a brief 10 minutes. After all, this is a starter activity -- if I spend too long on it, that defeats the purpose of the activity. I tend to pause too much for rewriting and editing. If I'm so brave and willing to ignore the backspace key, you'll get a mostly stream of conscious response.

On Motivation (p. 22). Begin a journal entry with the words: "The real reason I want to be a writer is as follows..."

The real reason I want to be a writer is as follows: I love stories. It's not that I especially love telling stories. Although, I do. It's the story itself. I love stories in all formats, media, and genre. I could bury myself in a movie, a television show, a comic book, a novel, an audiobook, an episode of This American Life, and I would be perfectly content. I think when you love stories, when you get as hungry as I do for them, you have to start creating your own.

Originally, this contemplation of the "real reason" stressed me out. I couldn't objectively evaluate my motivation. What if it's just because I wanted to be good at something, anything, so I figured I would stubbornly push forward in this direction? Regardless of a lack of natural talent. What if it's merely the desire to call myself a "writer". Admittedly, this reason gave me pause. Sometimes, I hate telling people I'm a teacher. It's not that I hate teaching, but I hate the immediate reactions. You tell someone you're a teacher and they go into their theories on how to fix public education, or they offer sympathy for my career path. If you want to know my thoughts, I really don't think that public education is as bad as we think it is. It's better to tell people you're a writer, because they have no instant talking point. They probably don't believe you when you say you're a writer, but whatever. As I pondered this prompt, I wanted my reason to be something noble: I have a passion for the written word or I want to transform society with my insights. Nah. I'm a big nerd for good stories. I obsess over them, and sometimes it's more permissible to obsess over something you're working on than an episode of The Office. (I mean, how many years have I been working on ASTRONAUT DAD?)

There you go, first entry. More to follow. Maybe.

WORD TO THE GENIUS

I finished listening to the audiobook for ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk and White. I've read ELEMENTS a few times (and I teach from it in my Creative Writing class), but it was nice to have Frank McCourt's narration. He added some humor I never noticed before in a few of the lines.

For any writer, I consider it required reading. Seriously. I'm a full blown disciple of this little book and E.B. White's reminders on style. This section is especially comforting:

"What," an imaginary student asks Mr. White, "if it comes natural to me to experiment rather than conform? What if I am a pioneer or even a genius?"

And Mr. White answers:

"Then be one. But do not forget that what may seem like pioneering may be merely evasion, or laziness--the disinclination to submit to discipline. Writing good standard English is no cinch, and before you have managed it you will have encountered enough rough country to satisfy even the most adventurous spirit."

I've never considered myself a genius or experimental, but I keep feeling if I can't be one (a genius) or at least fake it -- then there will be no room for me among the career writers. I love E.B. White's dismissive tone. He has no patience for the genius. He's addressing the writers who sweat each line and every word. Which means, he's talking to me.

NEW MANTRA

When I write, I always keep this quote by Alan Moore at the forefront of my mind:

"Don't be afraid to use your own ideas."

Some people never have a problem. They are fiercely independent. However, by nature, I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy and happy with me. Often, I get into the terrible habit of adapting to people's own preferences. You lose your identity pretty quickly. For anyone pursuing a creative interest, this can be the kiss of death. You have your ideas for a reason. They are meant to be used and explored. You have to be a bastard (of sorts) about your ideas. You sit in front of Microsoft Word, and you say to yourself: "No one is going to get it. Who cares? Move forward and let it be." This reminder from Alan Moore helps me turn off the internal censor.

Now, I'm reaching a new stage in my writing. New challenges. And I turn to this quote by Neil Gaiman about persistence (YouTube link):

"You put one word after another like putting brick onto a wall. And sooner or later, you look and you've managed to build the palace of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria... out of matchsticks."

I've learned how to stand my ground and trust my ideas, but now I need to get more ambitious.

After visiting the Hearst Castle, I learned quite a bit about William Randolph Hearst. The man was simply incapable of thinking small. Great writers and artists seem to have this one unifying trait. They are ambitious. All people are born ambitious (my daughter told me she wants to marry Joe Jonas and have a house the size of a mall), but many people have tamed it in exchange for smaller goals. That's not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it's the reality of life. It's easy to think big, when your dad is George Hearst. Still. It's important to reclaim ambition for the things you truly love. And you build: one word after another.

MY GENIUS IS KINDA LAME

Scott Kurtz posted this video, and I wanted to pass it along. "A must watch for anyone who struggles with being creative on a regular basis." A few months ago, April and I saw Elizabeth Gilbert as part of the Arts & Letters Live program hosted by the Dallas Museum of Art. She is a true inspiration and a teacher to this generation of writers and artists.


I watched the video last night, and the timing couldn't have been better.

RULE #1: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE NOVEL

I have a superstition. I believe that the more you talk about a book (before it's finished) the less likely it will happen. If I go on and on, it jinxes the book. I have evidence to support this claim. Think of all those friends who told you they were writing a novel.

Now, where is that novel?

So, it is with great fear that I tell everyone: this week, I'm starting my novel. Yes, an actual novel.

I spent the summer finishing KARMA INCORPORATED: VICE & VIRTUE and HOW TO LOSE BIG in order to clear some room in my schedule. With the exception of an occasional short story or Souvenir of Dallas comic, I plan to focus solely on the novel. Before any of you recommend NaNoWriMo as a solution to getting my novel done... no. This isn't an experiment or a dare. This novel is a thoughtful and passionate endeavor. In that regard, it's no different from any other story I've written. At the same time, it's a frickin' novel. I haven't written one of those before.

I have the synopsis more or less finished. I've decided to no longer pursue BOLIVAR as a graphic novel. I've changed the title, re-worked the plot, and trying it as literary prose. I feel good about it. The story was too big as a graphic novel. I kept taking short cuts to reduce the page count for the artist. Now, the only one I'm punishing is myself.

This novel is three stories in one -- a mythic journey into the spirit world, a family's experience during World War II, and a glimpse into the ghosts of Galveston's tragic history. It's an American fantasy. Folklore, mythology, religion, and fairy tales all mix together. Think Carnivale, Bayou, Pan's Labyrinth, and American Gods.

"I never go back to the Island without sensing the ghosts. I can't think of a place where they run thicker." - Gary Cartwright, Galveston: A History of The Island

There you go. I'm going to shut up now. Hopefully to avoid the jinx.

MY EDITING PROCESS

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of HOW TO LOSE BIG. It was a good feeling. I've worked on a lot of proposals lately, but many were just a synopsis, chapter one script, and some art. I decided to script this one from beginning to end, to stay sharp as a writer. I'm glad I did so.

Now comes the next stage, which is editing. However, it's important to clarify that the editing process begins the moment I start writing. I can't really separate the two. Some writers have a more polished first draft than others, then everything after that is fine tuning. Some writers have a loose first draft and then slave away during the second and third re-writes. Anytime you add, delete, or modify something you wrote, you're editing. Thus, the adage: "editing is writing." The creative process is as much about the pencil point as it is about the eraser on the other end. Creative choice involves mental editing before you type the words on the keyboard.

All the same, one hopes that at the beginning you focus most of your energy on production and move gradually into a focus of refinement. It would be hard to make refinement your priority on day one.

My first draft. For me, it's hard to write with a blind eye to changes that could be made to something I wrote a paragraph before. I constantly re-read while I'm writing. It's bad and slows down everything. If you had control over your process, I wouldn't recommend doing it this way. Like an injury that never healed, I've learned how to function normally with it. What am I looking for? Clarity of thought, of course. Would someone understand what I'm trying to say? I look for a logical progression of ideas. I look for stupid mistakes (missing words, misspellings, etc). I try to delete needless propositions attached to the end of verbs, dead adverbs and adjectives. Also, word repetition bugs the hell out of me. Some repetition is to establish a particular cadence (notice earlier in this paragraph I began two consecutive sentences with "I look"). Otherwise, it's annoying. It's one of those writing curses I feel particularly afflicted by. After I stumble through a first draft, I use the Streamline plugin on my Screenwriter program. I'm not all that concerned with making the script a few lines shorter, but Streamline can give some basic suggestions for removing clutter.

Removal of clutter equals increased clarity and readability, which is all I care about. Maybe this is why I'm worried about starting my novel? I've never fixated too much on pretty prose or clever compositions (notice my ironic attempt at alliteration?). I only want the story to shine through.

After Streamline, I use that glorious Find function available on any word processor. I search for these words: "that" "so" "just" "very" "however" "stuff" and the phrase "it is," and attempt to eliminate them as much as possible. Why? These are the overused words that sneak into my writing and weigh it down. I'm sure there are other words to add to the list. For instance, my dependency on be verbs worries me a bit. I come from the William Zinsser school of writing. ON WRITING WELL is required reading in my Creative Writing class.

My second draft. I print the script, put it in a binder, and ignore it for a month or so. I need to approach my second draft with a fresh pair of eyes, time helps and so does moving it from the screen to the printed page. I'm not ready for someone else to edit it, unless they are the artist. They get to see everything throughout. With this draft, I grab a pencil and mark the script with notes. What am I looking for? Everything. However, I give special attention to improving overall narrative flow, character voice, tone, important visuals, and trying to keep the theme as subtle and nuanced as possible. (I'll admit HOW TO LOSE BIG feels too heavy handed in its message. That won't last.) Theme should only be for the smart readers who pay attention. I mean, it's there, but if the author's message or agenda is too obvious -- your bones are showing. It can feel preachy and spoil a good story. Anyone remember Star Wars Episode III? George Lucas, we get it. Once finished, I take my binder and commit the notes to my original script file on the computer.

My third draft. I pass the script to a writer I trust for another perspective. Bribery and favors are sometimes employed to get them to read it. I cannot stress how important is is to get a writer I trust. Editing is not only about accepting feedback, but also knowing whose feedback to take. Some writers pass their script to other people too early in the process. I want to get story as good as possible before I let others tell me what needs to be changed. At his point, I'm not expecting major changes. If so, I missed something in my second draft. I'm testing to see what worked and what didn't -- and I come with specific questions.

Production. The last stage in editing is while the artist illustrates the comic. Sometimes, things that worked in the script don't work on the page like we expected. Other times, an artist makes some discovers that we want to further develop. The dialogue might be redundant if the visuals communicate better without a word balloon crowding the panel. This collaborative aspect of comics can be the most fun, if you're working with a good artist.

Any creative act (and editing is a creative act) involves knowing when to stop. I limit my fussing to these four steps. It's then time to move on and write something else.

THE SOUND OF ONE KNIFE STABBING

Today, I was scripting the final segment of PRINCESSES VS. UNICORNS. (Speaking of which, I got some page layouts and a character design from Alison Acton. The art looks awesome!) I'm now on page 119 of HOW TO LOSE BIG. According to my writing program, there are 16,783 words in the script. 5,190 of the words were in dialogue. Not bad. However, one word was eluding me: the sfx of a knife stabbing someone. It needed to sound gross. I'll admit my use of onomatopoeia is fairly boring. I use "blam" or "bang" for gun shots. I use "snap" for a variety of things breaking. "Crash" if it is really breaking. And so on. But what is the sound of a stabbing? The action is contained within one panel. So to show the character is being stabbed repeatedly, the repetition of the onomatopoeia is essential. "Stab! Stab! Stab!" Isn't this a lovely topic?

In times of trouble, Twitter is a useful way to get quick feedback. I posed the question, and got some interesting responses. I thought I'd share them. There are a few repeats.

Sqwelp! Shunk! Plorkk! Sphhhlt! Schunk! Glurnk! Shluk! Sshhluck! Thwump! Penetrated! Shluk! Klshuk! Shnk! Schloook! Chut! Shik! Fffftt! Shank! Splitch! Pkkkhht! Pllkkkcchhhh! Plik! Shplort! Slice! Bleed! Shhhhhunk! Glish! Shhtaab!

Contributors: otisframpton, thegeoff, artgantuan, Cosmosis, spreadsheeticus, astrokitty75, grantalter, BradMilyo, warlick, phillipginn, superleezard, faufman, thoughtbrain, BEEow, Justin3000

[tweet "Fun with onomatopoeia: What is the sound of a stabbing?"]

TWITTER ADVICE COMPILED

I love Raven Gregory. He's a sweet guy and a very talented writer. I follow him on twitter. His most interesting comments usually occur at odd hours. These 27 "tweets" (still don't like that word) occurred four hours ago, which would place them at around 4 AM Central Standard Time. The beauty of copy and paste, I arranged everything in correct order.

All in all, great advice.

Now for the tech shit. 1. Write. Write a lot. Write and read a fucking LOT. Look at this career as if you were studying to be a doctor

because that's how long it usually takes. I starting writing THE GIFT (from Image Comics go buy that shit) back in 2000

published in 2003 and made it to Image in 2005. Didn't start making a living off comics until I got fired from my day job in 2007 and had

two babies and a wife to feed. Talk about putting afire under my ass.

2. Get to conventions. As many as you can. If you want to work in this business you need to meet the people who can give you a job or

produce your books. Networking is key. Be likable. Don't be a dick. And never make excuses because at your level no one gives a fuck

at my level no one gives a fuck....only when you are at an A-lister level will anyone give a fuck about your excuse...

3. Self publish. Go out and show that you can make a comic. Better yet...make a comic I like. If you can do that...I might give you a job

but know that you still have to go through three other people besides me before you can even be approached to get a gig.

4. Buy me drinks. Yes, it's petty and low but being a likable guy or gal in this business goes a long way. Talent will take you far.

Being liked will take you the rest of the way.

Be professional. Don't get drunk and wear a shirt for pants because that will do nothing to advance your career. Just take my word on it

5. NEVER and I MEAN FUCKING NEVER BAD TALK ANYONE. THis industry is small and shit does get back to people. I have loved some writers

work but because they were a dick to my boy I will never give them a gig.

6. Write from the heart and give it your all. I don't care if you are being paid a G for a couple hours work, or working for free, you

better put your all into it as you never know what someone will read and dig that will lead to a job opportunity.

7. Get the fuck out of your own way. Seriously, porn, video games, TV, clubbing, none of this shit will get you to the end of the rainbow

any faster. Focus. Get tunnel vision. You can make this shit real but only if you are willing to put in the time and the work.

8. READ. Yes, I know I said this before but you should be seeing everything you can that works and doesn't work. It's all goes into the

pool of who you are and who you will become. Nothing comes from a void so get to putting shit in your head and write your ass off

9. Believe in yourself. Many years ago me and my mom were talking. And somehow we got on the subject of Stephen King and I made the

comment that the reason "something" worked is because it was SK and there's only one SK. My mom, love her to death, responded...

"There's only one Raven Gregory" Remember that...there's only one you. Only you can do what you do. Now go out and show the world who U R

10. Booze is your friend, never take advice from a drinker, and anal is not all it's cracked up to be. Instead of writing I give you this

Hope it helps and if it does...in a couple years...make sure you pay that shit forward as no one gets anywhere in this biz without the words

(two hours later)

And last but certainly not least. Be fierce. No one is going to come to you and give you the keys to the kingdom. You are going to have

to out there and prove that you deserve the shot.

IF YOU HAD A SEMESTER OF MY WRITING CLASS

I'm working on my curriculum for next year's Creative Writing class. It's one semester spread out over three six-week periods. Since I started teaching this class, I've been able to do whatever I want. Thank god, no state-mandated text book. Someday, I'd like to develop my approach into a college course or a writing seminar.

Here's what I have so far. Please excuse any errors or awkward wording. First draft.

PART I: THE CHARACTER AND THE PLOT

“Your characters move the story along.”

Lesson 1: Creativity
Purpose: To explore creativity as something innate in all people. Creativity is an act of synthesis. Creativity can be examined in three areas: influences, ideas, and experiences. A writer must immerse himself/herself with literary and artistic influences. A writer should understand that in order to come up with one great idea, they may need to first develop a hundred decent ideas and narrow it down. A writer finds ideas within their own experience and from the experiences of other people. A writer is an observer of the world.

Lesson 2. Premise
Purpose: To create good ideas that can be used to initiate a story. It may begin as a question, an intriguing image, an odd character, or a dramatic situation. A writer should learn to identify which ideas will work best.

Lesson 3. Characters
Purpose: To understand how writers craft a character-centered story. All stories connect with the human experience. The human experience is rooted in desire. A standard protagonist, or main character, desires greatly and takes risks. The writer needs to understand the role of a protagonist (passive or active) in his/her story. A story can have multiple protagonists or one that functions as an antihero.

Lesson 4. Characterization
Purpose: To develop traits in characters that enhances the overall authenticity and quality of the narrative. Characterization is not just a collection of revealed traits. It is a cohesive sense for who they are, and why they do what they do. A writer needs a workable system for how to get inside the head of their own creations.

Lesson 5. Archetypes
Purpose: To understand the function of various characters within a story. However, characters should not be simply tools to push the plot forward. They should be integrated into a believable world the writer has created.

Lesson 6. Contrasts
Purpose: To humanize a character by analyzing the contrasts within their nature or situation. Contrasts can exist as paradoxical traits, a relationship (odd couple), an environment (fish-out-of-water story), or an ironic event. A writer can create fascinating complex stories through skillful use of contrasts.

Lesson 7. Dialogue, part 1
Purpose: To see dialogue as an extension of the character. Dialogue is not only what they say. It is a window into who they are. The writer needs to fully know the character in order to find his/her unique voice.

Lesson 8. Dialogue, part 2
Purpose: To see dialogue as a way to negotiate desire. Dialogue in conversation is used for many purposes: establish rapport, persuade, and manipulate. Even in its most innocent form, dialogue is a game of power exchange.

Lesson 9. Conflict
Purpose: To use conflict as a way to reveal character. A story should take the protagonist and place him/her at the “end of the world” as they know it. Under such distress, the audience discovers what the character is all about. The writer should use conflict not only as an obstacle to be solved or fixed, but also as a way to further invest the audience in the life of the character.

Lesson 10. Arc
Purpose: To evaluate the purpose of a character arc. Some characters change during the course of the story as a direct result of the conflict (dynamic), while some remain unchanged (static) from beginning to end. In either instance, this arc may bring about fortune or ruin for the character. They may change into the person they need to be to overcome the obstacle, or their change may mark a downward spiral. The static character may be precisely the type of person needed to solve the conflict, revealed to the audience over time – or their stubbornness to adapt could lead to destruction. The writer speaks to the human experience through character arcs.

Lesson 11. Plot, part 1
Purpose: To use meaningful plot points as a way to further the action of the story. The plot may consist of an inciting incident, progressive complications, turning points, a climax, and resolution. Each point presents a choice to the protagonist. The writer must find unique ways to integrate these points into the story without the structure being overbearing or formulaic in presentation.

Lesson 12. Plot, part 2
Purpose: To understand the necessary aspects of a beginning, middle, and end. It may be helpful to begin with the end in mind. How might a twist ending or having the story come full circle be best set up? What can the writer do to move the story along and transition between acts?

Lesson 13. Subplot
Purpose: To integrate additional plot lines into a story. A subplot may be used to develop characters, add thematic depth, a new tone (complimentary or counter), and enrich the setting. The writer should examine the worth of any subplot to see if it benefits the overall narrative.

PART II. THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT AND CONTROL
“Your style will emerge naturally as you become comfortable with the writing process.”

Lesson 1. Reveals
Purpose: To choose what is revealed to the audience for maximum impact. The reader may know more than the characters (dramatic irony), the reader may know less than the characters (mystery), or the reader may know only what the character knows (empathy). All three levels of reveal may be used in a story. The writer controls a reader’s reaction to the story through what knowledge is revealed and when.

Lesson 2. Subtext
Purpose: To utilize the underlying meaning of any action or dialogue for greater impact. Subtext is a way to speak to the audience without saying anything. It can be also used to mislead. A writer adds layers by how the action or dialogue is presented.

Lesson 3. Tone
Purpose: To create a tone built on empathy, instead of cheap emotional clichés. Empathy is built when the audience is allowed to emotionally participate in the life of the characters. Audiences tend to like variations on familiar stories. These stories create expectations, which the writer can then control for intended effect.

Lesson 4. Genres, part 1
Purpose: To know the purpose of a genre and the numerous genres available. A story falls in a particular genre, because of similar settings, plots, tones, themes, and motifs. The genre allows for boundaries that can be explored and tested. It offers the occasional guilty pleasure, which may be worth pursuing. The writer does not need to stick to one genre, but an understanding of how they operate is beneficial.

Lesson 5. Genres, part 2
Purpose: To gain greater flexibility by mixing and reinventing genres. Genres are not fixed in stone, but are continually redefined. The writer should learn how to experiment in the genres to create new and fresh takes on timeless themes.

Lesson 6. Impact, part 1
Purpose: To learn how to scare reader. Fear and horror are powerful emotions that require deep psychological understanding. Many readers enjoy the catharsis that a good scare can bring. Even outside of the horror genre, a fearful moment can add interest to a writer’s story.

Lesson 7. Impact, part 2
Purpose: To learn how to make the reader laugh. Humor is difficult to do well, and many argue that such skills cannot be taught, i.e. funny people are born funny. However, there are basic principles behind physical, situational, and linguistic comedy. Even in the most serious stories, a writer should be open to honest and funny moments.

Lesson 8. Impact, part 3
Purpose: To learn how to make the reader cry. Dramatic scenes are tricky, because they can easily fall into melodrama. Learning how to be subtle and forceful, and finding the range between the two, is a fine art. Drama cannot be simply inserted into a scene; it needs to grow over the course of the story.

Lesson 9. Impact, part 4
Purpose: To learn how to inspire the reader. Stories that seek to celebrate the goodness of the human spirit and triumph over adversity can fall into formulaic patterns. An astute audience wants to be challenged, and such stories are more difficult than the writer might assume.

Lesson 10. Oddity
Purpose: To learn how to write “weird”. Many people enjoy stories that take a bizarre turn, that use inconsistent realities and flirt with coincidence. The distinction between quirky, absurd, and disturbing is the level of honesty a writer is willing to bring to the situation.

Lesson 11. Imagery
Purpose: To use image systems to enhance the narrative. A skilled writer can approach a story with a strategy of motifs, embedded imagery, and extended metaphors.

Lesson 12. Exposition
Purpose: To integrate necessary information into the story without it feeling forced. Exposition conveys or explains aspects of the plot. It can slow down the story in unwanted ways. The writer should learn how to “show not tell” to maintain the interest of his/her audience.

Lesson 13. Devices
Purpose: To understand various plot devices such as Chekhov's gun, deus ex machina, and the Mac Guffin. If skillfully used, the reader will not notice the device is a construction of the author. If poorly used, the reader will have trouble maintaining the suspension of disbelief.


PART III. THE REWRITE AND THE BUSINESS

“Your ideas are only as good as how you present them.”

Lesson 1. Editing, part 1
Purpose: To objectively read a writer's own work. This is the first step in learning how to effectively edit. It can be difficult to read a story with a fresh and unhindered perspective, but editing requires good and sensible judgment.

Lesson 2. Editing, part 2
Purpose: To improve a story by adding necessary scenes and beats. Sometimes, a story can be missing an important moment for impact. The writer should not inflate their prose with needless additions, nor should they take short cuts that leave the story flat.

Lesson 3. Editing, part 3
Purpose: To improve a story by removing unnecessary scenes and beats. Editing is also a process of trimming the excess. Even a good scene can hurt the story if it’s inclusion cannot be justified.

Lesson 4. Editing, part 4
Purpose: To improve a story by changing scenes and beats to better suit their intended purpose. Editing sometimes involves re-structuring the order of events, finding new emphasis, or combining scenes.

Lesson 5. Editing, part 5
Purpose: To improve a story through line editing and fine tuning. Editing is both a telescope and microscope. As a story nears completion, the writer needs to go line by line to correct grammar and mechanics errors. They need to ensure every word is the best word for that sentence. All this fine tuning is to make the reading experience as seamless as possible.

Lesson 6. Editing, part 6
Purpose: To improve a story by realizing when to stop editing. A story can be ruined, when a writer picks it to death. The task of any artist is to determine when the work is complete.

Lesson 7. Presentation
Purpose: To effectively explain a completed story to others. A writer must learn how to sell his/her ideas, to summarize the work in one or two sentences and make it as appealing as possible.

Lesson 8. Allies
Purpose: To learn the appropriate channels for networking. The writer needs to know how to find agents, managers, consultants, and writing peers, to write a query letter, and maintain a professional attitude.

Lesson 9. Publishing
Purpose: To increase a writer’s audience through publishing. Opportunities are available, but it requires understanding on how to best approach a publisher. Writers should also search other outlets for finding an audience.

Lesson 10. Career
Purpose: To explore the practical aspects of a writing career. The writer should know about intellectual property rights, fair use, public domain, and how to make ends meet.

Lesson 11. Confidence
Purpose: To gain assurance that there are many ways to be successful. Each path is different. Every voice is unique. In the end, a writer has to let his/her work speak for itself.