Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Superior writing: plotting and planning

Steve Ditko's final issue of Dr. Strange is also the
character's first time taking the cover spot alone.
Like his other work with Stan & company,
it was produced using the "Marvel style."
I've never been one to deal a ton with the concept of process in writing. It's probably because I spent so much time second guessing my own writing style for years. Every book on the subject of writing I read for the first 25 years of my life insisted full outlines and clear step by step plotting ahead of time was the only way to work.

I was pushing thirty by the time I said "screw it" and started to just write.

Over the years, I've bounced between plotting as I write and working from a (very) rough outline. I've joked before that I regularly write prose in the "Marvel style."

When Stan Lee wrote eight Marvel titles a month, he didn't have time to do the full scripts most comics worked on at the time (and these days as well). Instead he trusted his talented artists to do some of the heavy lifting. So he would write just a couple paragraphs that described the events he wanted to have happen in the story. His artists produced ten or twenty pages out of those paragraphs. Then Stan would come back and add dialogue to the pages.

Obviously I don't add all my dialogue at the very end, but I often build stories from just a starting point and a finish. This allows me to add and subtracts bits and pieces, flesh out subplots and throw in interesting bits and pieces as I go. Every chapter of Lightweight has been built with this system, though I sometimes pull out tighter plots for the end chapters of each story.

That's not the only comic concept I've used in my writing however. I'm also quite a fan of the Levitz Paradigm.

Paul Levitz designed the structure for his work writing Legion of Super-Heroes for years and years. Dennis O'Neil might have named it though as he covered it in the DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics. Here's his synopsis:
Basically, the procedure is this: The writer has two, three, or even four plots going at once. The main plot – call it Plot A – occupies most of the pages and the characters’ energies. The secondary plot – Plot B – functions as a subplot. Plot C and Plot D, if any, are given minimum space and attention – a few panels. As Plot A concludes, Plot B is “promoted”; it becomes Plot A, and Plot C becomes Plot B, and so forth. Thus, there is a constant upward plot progression; each plot develops in interest and complexity as the year’s issues appear.
So each issue (or chapter) would cover three to four plots generally. One dominates the chapter, one gets a few pages of space and the last one or two rarely take up more than a page or half page. Here's a sample of Levitz's paradigm from his run.

I used the Levitz Paradigm to design every individual chapter of Epsilon. If (more like when) I return to those characters, I will bring the Paradigm back to work. It found its way into F.O.R.C.E. as well and will likely influence upcoming Quadrant stories as well. So never let it be in doubt that it isn't a useful tool in prose as well, especially when you're building on multiple characters to juggle.

So there's a few hints on how I build on what I write from month to month and story to story. Feel free to share your own thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Great art: X-Men and Fantastic Four by Mike Mignola

I'm fairly sure this is related to the Days of Future Present stories through the Marvel Annuals in the early 90s, but I'm not sure where exactly this piece of art by Mike Mignola was ever published. But dang, it's some fine work on characters he rarely drew.

And did I mention everyone has pouches! Woo!

As always, you can check out a lot more Great Art over on the Tumblr. And after you're done admiring some great art here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from me this week!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Cosplay Friday: Freakazoid

Didn't have a lot of time to do a bunch of thinking about a cosplay this week. So I decided to choose a hero that doesn't seem like he's always thinking either! LaydiexSkull brings Freakazoid to glorious life here!

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff on Super Powered Fiction this week!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer writing boot camp

Sorry that it's been a bit quiet here. Been a bit busy working on projects. Here's a little bit on why: 

I'm a big advocate for the entire concept behind NaNoWriMo, so it should come as no surprise that I'm also a fan of its twice annual spinoff campaign Camp NaNoWriMo. While the original in November is set for a distinct 50,000 word novel, the camp version is far more freeform. Writers choose their project type, from novel to short stories to poetry to scripts. Additionally, they can pick from a variety of goals. The most basic is the return of the word goal, but that goal can be altered up and down by the project creator. But words aren't the only goal option. Writers can also choose to measure hours, minutes, lines or pages. It opens up a wide variety of projects to anyone that wants to participate.

Just like the last camp in April, my focus is on short stories. I wrapped Project Independence early in the month. I'm now splitting my time between another chapter of Lightweight and Quadrant. They will be the main focus of my writing for the rest of the year, as in 2019 I plan a large push for both. That doesn't mean I won't continue to produce side projects over the next couple years however. I still have Walking Shadows to finish, the local hero project I plan to launch sometime next year, three or four other projects in various states of completion and the final edits and production of two books before the end of the year.

I've been having a lot of fun with both tales as they take both my solo hero and my premiere team into new settings and introducing new villains and heroes. I don't plan on slowing down either. My current plans are to focus most of my work on both projects for the rest of the summer and early fall, but I'll cover more on that in early August in a new WIP Wednesday.

For now, I just want to encourage everyone to check out and support both NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo. Both are great nonprofit projects with a worthy creative cause.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Great Art: Warrior Nun Areala and Glory by Ben Dunn

We close out the week with art by the supremely talented Ben Dunn, founder of Antarctic Comics and creator of Ninja High School and... Warrior Nun Areala! Here's a great patriotic picture from the cover of Areala's crossover with Rob Liefeld's Glory! Can't think of a better way to close off this Independence Day week.

As always, you can check out a lot more Great Art over on the Tumblr. And after you're done admiring some great art here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff on the site this week!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Quadrant Handbook 5: The American Arsenal

Art by John Davies.

Real Name: Simon Carter

Occupation: Crime Destroyer

Marital Status: Unknown

Known Relatives: None

Group Affiliation: None

Base of Operations: Mobile in the continental United States

History: Simon Carter was a young American that always dreamed of being a patriot. His parents assisted he finish high school before enlisting in the United States Army. Unfortunately, just weeks before his enlistment he came down with a meningitis infection. After nearly dying from the disease, he was left with long term muscle damage in his arm. The Army refused his enlistment on medical grounds. 

He felt like his dream was dead. He worked one dead end job after another, but found some solace in body-building. By his twentieth birthday, he put over fifty pounds of muscle onto his frame. While many of his fellow body builders in the late seventies used anabolic steroids, he avoided the drugs out of fear it could do more damage to his body.

A CIA black box operation took notice of his renewed strength and his patriotic fervor. They recruited Carter out of the gym he regularly worked and offered him a chance to become the military man he always wished to be.

What followed remains cloaked in shadows. It is known Carter received intensive military training as well as an experimental medical procedure to activate his latent metagene. It also involved hundreds of hours of psychological work, as the military programmed him into a focused war machine. This included a backdoor into his mind, his handlers called a reboot, which would wipe much of his short term memory to restore him to a battle ready state.

How he became known as the American Arsenal remains unknown. He worked across much of the United States during the 1980s, frequently battling gunrunners, drug dealers and domestic terrorists. As he continued into the last few years of the decade, he faced far more superhuman threats. These threats tested his abilities to the limits. His government handlers kept close tabs on him, often using the reboot function in stressful situations.

The handlers didn't take into account the stress the reboot put on the Arsenal's brain. Over time he became more and more detached from reality, often shouting incoherent statements as he fought. During an encounter with the druglord known as The Second Coming, his mind finally fractured completely. The Second Coming had connections inside the CIA and used them to uncover the true identity of The American Arsenal. When he confronted Arsenal with his true identity, he hoped it would cripple the government agent once and for all. Instead it focused him even more on his mission to destroy the corruption inside the United States. He killed Second Coming before disappearing into the Memphis night. His mental connection with his handlers gone, he added the men that used him for their own purpose to his list and promised they would soon feel his wrath.

The whereabouts of American Arsenal post-1989 remain unknown.

Height: 6' 3"

Weight: 247 lbs.

Eyes: Hazel

Hair: Blonde

Strength level: His enhanced physique allows the American Arsenal to life well above any normal man. His super-dense musculature allows him to lift (bench) up to two tons.

Known superhuman abilities: The American Arsenal possesses the ability to transform his limbs into multiple forms. While the full extent of this ability has never been revealed, he has never used this ability to form anything but offensive weapons or defensive shields.

A regular configuration is a rifle like weapon. He hurls projectiles made from his own hardened bones. While his body naturally regenerates the bullets, frequent use of the weapon can leave him feeling weakened and depleted.

His ability extends far enough to develop a working flamethrower as well, transmuting his blood into propellant for the weapon.

His entire body possesses some natural level of malleability as well. He can absorb far more damage than a baseline human. His body also rapidly heals. Major flesh wounds will seal in a matter of minutes. It is unknown whether this enhanced regeneration can restore limbs should they be destroyed.

Other abilities: The American Arsenal possesses advanced military personal combat training. He is trained to fight and kill in close combat as well as with ranged weapons.

Read the stories in: 

American Arsenal

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day from the King of Comics!

I'm not sure when Jack Kirby drew this great picture (I assume it's somewhere in his 70s Cap run), but it seems a fitting way to ring in the Fourth of July this year.

Speaking of the King, remember to check out his creations over at the Newer Gods blog, as this week we conclude our look at Secret Society of Super-Villains! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Getting ready for the 4th with American Arsenal!

Cover art by John Davies.
One of the characters I might talk about the least on this blog is American Arsenal. I have created a few different patriotic heroes over my time, most notably Freedom Patton, but the American Arsenal is easily the most explosive of them!

He's a character that had his origins in the early 2000s, fostered by a re-watch of old WWE tapes. I saw the Ultimate Warrior run to the ring and rant and rave. And my mind went to, "what if a superhero was this crazy?"

The idea existed as a couple paragraphs about mixing the lost sense of Rambo in First Blood with the ranting, manic energy of Warrior. When Warrior passed in April of 2014, my mind returned to the American Arsenal. I knew I had to bring the character to life and form.

The short story was published late in 2014 and I immediately dedicated half of its profits to Connor's Cure, a charity created by WWE and supported by the Warrior's widow Dana. Connor's Cure is named after the late wrestling fan Connor Michalek who died of pediatric cancer. The charity continues to raise money to help treat pediatric cancer, a cause no right minded human could ever be against.

As Independence Day looms, I wanted to remind everyone of the existence of American Arsenal. The story is still only 99 cents on Amazon and Smashwords, a steal by any stretch of the imagination. I want to get more readers to check it out and more people to raise money for Connor's Cure. To make this happen I pledge 100% of all profits for the book in the month of July to the charity, foregoing any profit I might make for this push. For every person that adds a review after reading it in the next two months, I'll also match their contribution.

If you feel like giving directly to the charity, that's cool too. Email me a copy of your receipt to nick{at}superpoweredfiction{dot}com and I'll make sure you get a copy of the book.

So let's all have a great Fourth of July tomorrow, and let's celebrate by reading a fun story and supporting a great cause!