How I learned to write comics Part 3 – The idea

So we’ve covered what comics are and what they have the potential to be here and you’re still here so you now want to write comics but your not sure of the idea of what your comic could be about or worse still, you think your idea is cliched or rubbish.

Remember when I told you about the first rule to not give up discussed at the welcome page? Well this is when it starts!

Ideas do not come from a vacuum. They are the combination of various stimuli’s that our conscious and unconscious minds process. They can strike you at odd times and places. I for one get many an idea as I’m lying in bed drifting off to sleep or having a shower. These mundane tasks put my brain into rest mode as it doesn’t need to think anymore. That’s not to say I wait for inspiration to hit me, far from it. I love taking photos of random stuff I find interesting or trying to create connections between the most random of things but it is the meditative process of not thinking that helps my mind start making these connections clear. I can’t speak for how other creators get their sparks but I will share with you how I gain my initial idea. Like most things in these blog posts I’ll stick with Resurrection Men as it is a series I’ve finished and know something about.

In this instance, I had seen an advert for an exhibition at a train station whilst getting off the train on my way to work.

The name stuck and it got me thinking about what a Resurrection Man was (apart from a DC comic that has nothing even remotely similar to Resurrection Men). And there it stayed. This was 2013. I wrote down the name and promptly forgot about it. I knew it might be useful title for a zombie idea but nothing was concrete.

Then one night I was watching a zombie flick or reading World War Z, I can’t remember which one but the idea of creating a zombie book stuck. I always wanted to do a zombie type story but not a traditional idea. But again the idea of a seed was there. FYI, Resurrection Men is not a zombie book though that’s how it started!

The final parts of the story resolved around the idea of touch. I remember reading that the average person touches their face several hundreds times a day and I thought to myself that we are actually a very tactile species. I started jotting down an idea of what would happen in a world we’re the slightest touch meant your death? This became the foundation of The Leftovers powers in Resurrection Men. I scripted out an opening scene about a mother dying at the touch of her newborn child and a shadowy government agency called The Collectors taking the child away and once again hit a stone wall. This was a couple of years ago and real life started taking over.

Then one day I was asking a few friends what they thought would be a more interesting idea for a story and I pitched Resurrection Men about people that could bring the dead back to life but in doing so lost a part of their own soul. It peaked the interest of my friends and then I started fleshing out the story. It was only till after the first issue was drawn that I actually released I had rushed my story into production without thinking about the characters and plot. I had a loose group of ideas with some dialogue that moved things along but it wasn’t a story yet. That would come later.

When asked what they would have like to have known when they started writing comic, a colleague said “events are not a story. How your characters REACT to events, each according to their own motivations, IS the story.”

I didn’t realise at the time when I first wrote Resurrection Men that I was writing events and not writing a story.

So for first comics that’s how I created Resurrection Men – a bunch of random ideas that I wanted to gel into a story. But you want to know how to get your own ideas don’t you? Read on!

No I literately mean it. Read everything you can. I said earlier that you may find your work cliched but that’s totally fine. You’re new to this and you’re developing your craft. But remember there is only one of YOU. You have a unique voice to tell these cliched stories in a new manner so write on!

Are you ready for some home learning? Good. Pick up a comic, film, in fact any form of creative medium and try and distill what the story is about in one sentence. I’ve given you a couple below but by the time you move to the next article you should be able to sum up at least one idea in a sentence or two like the examples below.

“What if you could bring the dead back to life with the touch of your hand?” – Resurrection Men

“What if a cynical, retired journalist is brought back to the city he hates to crack open the story of a lifetime?” – Transmetropolition

“What if a radioactive spider bit a young shy teenager and gave them the power to fight crime as a web slinging, wisecracking masked vigilante whilst juggling school?” – Spider-Man

“What if a billionaire orphan watches as his parents are killed before his eyes and grows up to fight crime as the worlds greatest detective?” – Batman

You could do this all day but the important thing to realise is that these are ideas and not stories! Now I have one more piece of work to give you, take something that’s happened in your life and sum it up in a sentence like above. For example, the following happened to me;

“A young mother goes into a complicated labour and is operated upon whilst her husband waits alone, scared.”

This was how my first child was born. By positioning the story like this I have already created tension. A reader will want to know what happened to my wife. What was the resolution? Did the wife turn out ok? How did the husband deal with the pressure? Did they baby arrive safely? Just so you know, everyone was fine and my son Nate was born healthy.

An idea will be subject to change.

Before we finish this article I asked some other indie creators friends of mine who have all run successful Kickstarters the question “where do you get your ideas from?” And here’s what they said.

“My ideas tend to stem from the social issues I value. I take a problem that our world faces, like mental health, economic inequality or crime, and twist it in a way that’s (hopefully) engaging to the reader in a way that the original topic on it’s own might not be.” – Evan Waterman, author of More Than Men

“My ideas simply come from this question: ‘What kind of story have I always wanted to read that I haven’t read yet?’ You should always write what you want to read.” – Conner Bartel, author of Grimwood Crossing

“Most of the influences for my stories come from the great epic-poems like The Divine Comedy or Beowulf. Mix that with the comedic fun of action and horror movies of the 80’s and 90’s. Only then will you have a certified B (maybe C) story by Chris ~Cliff~ Reichard.” – Chris Reichard, author of Angels of Hell

So you’ve got some home learning to do and I’ll see you next time.

All the best,

Nic

How I learned to write comics Part 2 – What are comics?

Comics are a unique art form that spans over a century but did you know humans have been using images to portray meaning for thousands of years? I won’t go into all the different histories of comics, instead I will send you off on your first piece of home learning.

Pick up a copy of Scott McCloud’s excellent “Understanding Comics” which you can see in the feature image. I would like you to read chapter one – Setting the Record Straight. It should take about ten minutes. You can pick up a copy on amazon here or find one at your local library. I found this a real eye opener when I first picked it up. I had already finished the script for Resurrection Men #1 when I read it and there was some sage wisdom I had read prior to writing my first story. It talks about the history of the comic as an medium of entertainment but also really starts to make you think of the potential the art form has.

McCloud’s book is seen as one of the corner stones for those wanting to learn more about the art of comics. What’s really great however is that he treats this book as one big comic. Each page is in the form of a comic book with a clean narrative which takes you by the hand and explores the world of comics.

So I’ll sum up what McCloud says that “our attempts to define comics are an ongoing process which won’t end anytime soon. A new generation will no doubt reject whatever this one decides to accept and try once more to re-invent comics.”

What are comics? Whatever the hell you like and don’t let anyone tell you differently!

All the best,

Nic

How I learned to write comics Part 1 – Introductions

Have you wanted to write a comic before but never gotten your initial idea anywhere past a daydream or a a scribble on a piece of paper? Then this series is for you! I started writing comics (with conviction) two years ago. I had dabbled in the past but never got anything concrete down. It was only after I decided to commit to the long haul of the creation process that I ended up with my first comic Resurrection Men which by the way if you would like a free copy of issue one click here or on the photo below.

There are tons of awesome resources on the net that already cover what I’m going to talk about over this series such as this, this or this. But what I want to cover is my experiences and share with you some lessons I learned in the process of creating the comic above. As a teacher in my real life role I always get frustrated when seeking information only to be denied because I don’t want to pay money. Why should you pay money for sharing knowledge. Oh I get why but it goes against my values to hide knowledge to only those who can pay for it.

I’m going to try and write an article each week about how I wrote my first comic series Resurrection Men and what things I learned on the way to making it a somewhat successful Kickstarter. I say once a week but I’m a father, husband, musician and teacher first. As my wife would say, this is my passion but it doesn’t pay the bills! My hope though is that these articles will help those that need guidance and I will periodically look back and update them as I learn more things in my journey being a writer of comics.

I am not an expert nor am I Brian K. Vaughan, Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder,Scott McCloud, Will Eisner, Dan Abnett, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Robert Kirkman, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Alan Moore or Warren Ellis. Those guys know their craft in and out but I have learned enough and spoke to enough people (yep even BMB there) to speak with some authority.

Since I am a teacher there will be some home learning. I’ll ask you to read books, comics, watch films, documentaries and read articles. I’ll even ask you to complete creative tasks. I’ll do everything I can think of to help you because you’re here to learn and that genuinely makes me happy. There is no failure if you try and never give up.

Before we begin I would ask you to bare in mind the following as you move forward;

  1. Never give up
  2. Be nice to everyone you meet
  3. Devour as much information from everywhere you can.

If you can do those three things you might not necessarily be the next big thing, but you’ll be an awesome comic writer with a passion that will inspire others and make people want to help and work with you!

So are you ready? Then let’s begin!

Nic

  1. Welcome
  2. What are comics?
  3. The idea