So, you’ve got your idea for your magnum opus and you’re sat at your typewriter (or, you know, something a little more contemporary) ready to unleash it onto the world.
WHOA THERE, BUDDY!!! Before you get started, there are probably some things you may need to think about. Here are some tips that I hope will help you along your path from inspired doodler to, possibly becoming the next Alan Moore (by the way, if you do become the next Alan Moore I will personally take all the glory and assume that ever iota of your ability came from reading this wee thread. If you actually ARE Alan Moore and you’re reading this, then I retroactively claim all credit for everything you’ve ever written since birth. Thank you.)
KNOW YOUR STORY
Before you begin to write your tale, firstly spend some time thinking about what’s going to actually happen in your story. An easy mistake is to think that an idea is a story. The idea is just the start and it is the detail that makes it into an actual, fully functioning story.
Make sure you organise your information; so you are revealing your details and plot points in a way that the reader can clearly understand. This kind of stuff can make the wheels fall off your story. Another thing to think about is HOW are you going to give the information to the reader? Will it be revealed in a letter? A flashback? A letter delivered? A conversation? The options are endless and may make the difference between an awkward plot point and smooth sailing. The best way around these kinds of logistical messes is to do a rough draft. Don’t worry about nailing it completely, just use your first draft as a rough guide and as a way of nutting out what happens and where.
The greatest danger when crafting a tale (or not crafting a tale) is writing yourself into a corner. We all know that when the Silver Surfer meets Thanos in your conclusion in chapter twelve it is going to be truly amazing, but how are you going to rectify all the remaining plot points when he’s sitting in a bar in Pittsburg at the end of chapter eleven?
These kinds of details can derail your whole epic yarn and leave you disillusioned and unable to finish. Be sure you don't write yourself into a corner.
SERVE THE STORY
The primary purpose of writing, especially fan fiction is to entertain. If you want to tell people what you think then set yourself up with your own youtube channel.Hubert Selby Jr, the amazing writer of the novel, Last Exit To Brooklyn said that the writer has no right to impose themselves between the reader and the character. Don’t like politicians? Writing an Archie comic? Keep your opinions to yourself. No one wants to hear them. A reader wants to read about the latest adventures of Hawkeye, not about your thoughts on euthanasia.
There are, of course exceptions to this rule, which still end in amazing stories (V For Vendetta, The Dark Knight, Preacher) yet these are generally by writers who have truly mastered their craft. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Serve the story, not yourself.
KNOW YOUR FORM
Present tense? Past tense? First person? Third person? The maid or the Justin Bieber sympathizer with the limp? These kinds of questions could make the difference between a great story and an average tale. Think of Marvels if it hadn’t been told from the perspective of Phil Sheldon? Would it be as effective a tale? Probably not. What if MAUS had been told from the perspective of a Nazi soldier? What if Crisis On Infinite Earths had been told in the form of a journal written by an albino hedgehog? They would be very different tales, wouldn’t they? Put some serious thought into what form, what angle you want to approach your story from. It could make all the difference and could also make the writing a lot more interesting for yourself.
KNOW YOUR CHARACTER
Whether you're writing fan fiction or spinning yarns with the epic scope of the Spot The Dog series, you need to know your characters. They serve as your voice, the instruments through which you tell your story. So who are they? Where do they come from? What do they want? What's their purpose? What are they struggling against? Even the most erratic of characters have consistency. Look at The Joker; as described in The Dark Knight, he is an "agent for chaos." Unpredictable, unhinged, prone to wild behaviour swings. Yet, when written properly, he is still consistent as a character. This is the benchmark for good writing; consistency of character.
Spider Man, as a general rule, doesn’t swear like Grandma on Thanksgiving. The Punisher is, generally speaking, not known as a first class joker. Superman doesn't kill. Iron Man is not a clumsy dork. Jesse Custer doesn't collect stamps. If your are consistent with the character you are writing, then the reader has something to grab onto, someone they can relate to and recognise. It also makes your job easier, as a character that you truly understand becomes a pleasure to write and will, essentially begin to write itself. Find out more about your character than you will ever use.
It will only benefit your story.
Don't let your story suffer just because you haven't hit the library (does anyone use the library these days?) Writing a cop story? Learn to write proper procedure. Want to write a military story? Learn to use the appropriate jargon and read about the hardware. Good writing creates a willing suspension of disbelief in the reader. You know the end of Jaws? When Brody ______'s the ______? (I censored the last bits so as not to ruin the end of Jaws for those who haven't seen it yet when Brody shoots the shark and blows it to... OH CRAP!). This ending is completely unrealistic and fabulously over the top but, as viewers... WE DON'T CARE! We have an absolute and willing suspension of disbelief because the movie has been written so well. We WANT to believe. Steven Spielberg stated that if viewers were still watching by that point, then he could do whatever he wanted with the audience. And he was right.
“Willing suspension of disbelief” is your best friend. Don’t break it by simply not learning more about your subject. If i'm reading and loving the latest issue of Daredevil and i suddenly read that ace attorney Matt Murdock spent his afternoon in 'the lawyer place' defending a 'murdering guy', then my willing suspension of disbelief goes out the window, shortly followed by my copy of Daredevil.
WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
There is a big difference between your average comic book reader (mid 30's and slightly embittered) and your average Sonic The Hedgehog comic book reader (mid teens, slightly embittered). Keep in mind who you are writing for, because if Archie drops the F-Bomb while down at the malt shop with Jughead, you're certainly going to hear about it. Consider the content of your story also. If writing a big, fun, cosmic Avengers story, then a The Boys style sex scene between Ultron and Jocasta probably isn't going to go down too well (and that's not as sordid as it sounds).
WORK TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Just because you have a strong comedic sense in your writing, doesn’t mean you can’t write a brilliant Punisher story. Look at Ennis’ first run on ‘Welcome Back, Frank.’ It was a brilliantly fitting Punisher story that had a thick streak of black humour running right through the middle of it. Good writing is good writing, so if you have a great sense of humour, or write in a bleakly humourless fashion, then use them. Peter David brings humour to everything he writes. Gerry Conway brings deathly drama to everything he writes. What they have in common is that they are both great writers with singular visions.
Don’t try to write like someone else. You are giving up the best quality your writing has; your unique and individual voice.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
People will very rarely give negative advice just to hurt you. Usually, you’ll find that criticism is given purely with the intention of helping you. Listen when you can. You can only improve, no matter what is said.
Put your ego aside and don't be afraid to learn.
This is not rocket science. It is an amazing and beautiful creative process if you allow it to be. So screw everything i just said and HAVE FUN DAMMIT!!!!
(A big shout out tofor putting this BRILLIANT thread together. A fantastic idea and fantastically put together. A doff of my hat to you, sir!)