PILOT Manga Presents: Writer's Logic by Frederick L. Jones
WRITERS LOGIC Part I.
This is my first post for our the Saturday AM PILOT Manga initiative and it's a subject both true to my heart as well as tied into questions that many of you have inquired about. I’ll be breaking this up in three parts to discuss the important elements one needs to truly master writing for consumption and of course, to write for Saturday AM, Afternoon Web-X and Saturday PLUS.
CONCEPT, PLOT and BACKSTORY
These three things are all very important factors towards a successful series but they also represent challenges that particularly affect first time writers (i.e. artists who write and individual writers). In my career, I've seen this afflict many creators across industries from comics to video games. The fact of the matter is that it is easy to create any of these three story requirements nowadays. Inspiration from video games, movies and more are providing people around the world with unique ideas that they can alter, massage and re-imagine within their own fresh perspectives.
On the other hand...these three things are very difficult to get right as they can expose a writer’s inexperience and fan tendencies.
We’ll explore each of those in this series.
PART 1: CONCEPT
One of the key areas that most webcomic/ amateur creators nail pretty quickly is concept.
Here is an example...
“My story idea is about people who get super powers from drinking Milk. Here’s the twist---the more rancid the milk or different flavoring can make them even stronger. Out hero named Tyrone Biggims has a problem tho...he is lactose intolerant!
I call my idea -- MILK MUSTACHE TYE.”
Okay--calm down...it’s not a real idea (although I’m rather proud of myself for cooking this up in the midst of a coffee binge) but it does illustrate just how concepts can come together.
This concept does have an angle though--powers via milk and then throws in a monkey wrench which can provide tension -- the hero is lactose intolerant. You can literally build hundreds of stories from just that simple idea (i.e. POPEYE is literally the same thing and he doesn’t even have the damn lactose intolerant angle).
Now---I highlight this first story requirement because concept is a powerful item that gets screwed in a couple of major ways.
Many amateurs think that the concept is ALL YOU NEED -- which is so not true.
SO VERY VERY VERY NOT TRUE!
Batman is an excellent concept but without characters, villains and back-story ---how in the hell would he have lasted 75 years?? Some of the letters I get from amateurs who wish to produce for Saturday AM literally end with a concept and then the words---”when can I start?” In fact, let me tell you---Saturday AM is not my first time working with amateurs and one thing I've always marveled at is how I get pitched things from novices who literally tell me a half idea and then stand there in a “Superman-Pose” (you know, fists on their hips, chest out and giant smile stretched across their face like a Cheshire cat).
Concept is important but if you broke a sweat writing it and didn't write a scene, dialogue or several issues worth of plot--then you literally have created nothing. In a given bar---you will hear many ‘concepts’ for people describing the pretty woman down at the other end of the table or of the handsome guy who is drinking with his boys. We concept all the time whether it’s over the real reason FIFA refused goal-line technology for so many years or for why our boss won’t give us a raise!
Everyone has an opinion and/ a theory. For creative folks however--that ‘theory’ translates to a concept.
Yes--some concepts are more novel than others but at the end of the day--a concept just proves you think a lot. It has no impact on your creative ability but presenting a concept without an actual story or written examples of your work does.
One of the biggest problems with concept is that it truly has become the staple or crutch of the fanboy/ fangirl.
Because Having ONLY a concept is typically the realm of fanfiction.
“What if GOKU has a Super-Saiyan Level 10!?!”
“What if Batman and Catwoman had a son who became the new Green Lantern?!?”
“What if Black Widow’s next assignment was to assassinate Dr. Doom?”
Now, the absolute worst aspect of CONCEPT is that it actually is quite useful for writers but most amateurs misunderstand why…
The PITCH is easily the most important part of having a strong concept and this is where understanding and perfecting a story’s other two requirements is VITAL!
A concept can be distilled easily into 4 to 6 words. In fact, if you want to SELL YOUR IDEA to a publisher like me or (DEFINITELY!!) to a CUSTOMER --then you’d better have a good understanding of your concept, plot and backstory.
And the tell-tale sign that you don’t is what you spend an hour on this to anyone...because that typically shows editors and fans that you have no idea what you are wanting to do. In fact, trying to explain EVERYTHING to me or a potential fan comes across as either not professional or (worse) desperate.
This is especially important with the BACKSTORY portion but for now---the main thing to remember is that CONCEPT IS KING FOR DELIVERING A PITCH.
Remember MILK MUSTACHE TYE?
My pitch for him would be “GHETTO VERSION of POPEYE Meets DRAGONBALL.”
You may not think that is impressive but the PITCH must express a CONCEPT that can easily translate in a few words what this idea has the POTENTIAL to be like! It also must HINT at what makes the idea itself so different.
Here are some others:
Robopacalypse - “Jurassic Park meets Robots”
Massively Multiplayer World of GHOSTS - “Harry Potter meets Naruto meets Tron”
Pacific Rim - “Transformers meets Godzilla”
It’s that simple.
This is how a larger number of Hollywood films, major comicbooks and game proposals are handled but more to the point--this is the ESSENCE and heart of your writing ability.
If you can’t explain the core thesis of your comic in a few words then you are more than likely exciting yourself only and have not actually written anything.
This isn't art, folks---if you intend to make a living with your work then you ABSOLUTELY MUST CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE.
If your concept makes you smile to yourself--that’s great (it should!) but if you cannot explain your concept in simple words and make it exciting then --- well--chances are you’ve only really made yourself happy and not reached out to the larger audience.
Bottom line -- your concept only really works when you’ve properly written characters and stories (whether they ever get illustrated or not) to justify the concept. If you’ve done so---not only will you know why your concept is great but you will know how to pitch it so that others may experience it as well.
What does that mean? Don’t think you’ve got it figured out when all you have is a pitch because you won’t get many times to impress audiences much less publishers...wanting to write and WRITING are two different things.
We’ll explore this more in PART 2: BACKSTORY
-Frederick L. Jones
Publisher, Saturday AM
Please continue the discussion in our FORUM.
(Yes, the picture is of comedic star Dave Chappelle playing an infamous crack-head character but I couldn’t find a good milk-moustache image ;)