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

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