Comic book writer Gail Simone has taken to Twitter to offer her top tips for aspiring comic book writers. According to Robert Hewitt Wolfe, writer of Elementary, her advice is also applicable to TV writing.
Simone is best known for critically acclaimed and popular runs on Deadpool, Birds of Prey, and Batgirl. By Simone's own admission, she hasn't had a great deal of time this year to read new comics. She's finally rectified that, and decided now is the time to pass on her top tips to aspiring creators.
Writing on Twitter, Simone shared her advice:
"First, for the love of god, remember that the reader does not know what is inside your head. That is your only job, to convey your message. Pro or newbie, shame on you if you don’t name your characters on panel if we are supposed to recognize them later. ... Second, learn what an establishing shot is, and what it accomplishes. Over and over, I was not told where the characters are. An establishing shot establishes not just location, but tone. ...
Third, when did we forget that it’s important to know what a character wants? I don’t need a characters D&D stats, I need to know what they NEED. What drives them. Over and over, I am seeing stories where a threat arises, attacks the hero, the hero fights back, bang, continued next issue. If I read your story and don’t know what the character’s motive is, that’s on the writer.
Additionally, learn what a reveal is. In almost any story worth a damn, someone’s keeping a secret, regardless of genre. Secrets are storytelling nitro. Finally, I am still reading comics where the characters all have a similar speech pattern, a sort of affected one-liner-spouting verbal malaise. It’s bad enough if TWO characters are indistinguishable in their speech... If all of them are, start over, you have hit a tree in the road."
It's crucial advice, and would-be comic book writers will find it fascinating. The point about establishing shots is a crucial one. A strong establishing shot has the potential to present characters in relation to one concern. Consider the airport scene in Captain America: Civil War, for example. The establishing shots show where exactly each character is in relation to the other heroes. It sets up just who will fight who, and which heroes can potential help one another out. It serves an essential purpose, and drives the narrative of the whole battle.
Simone's reference to character voices is also significant. In the wake of The Avengers, writers began to focus on wit and one-liners, rather than character voices. The reality is that every character will employ different patterns of speech, and dialogue should reflect this.
These principles don't just apply to comics. To Simone's delight, her tweet was shared by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, writer of Elementary. He made the point that all these lessons apply to TV writing as well. In truth, they go beyond even that. These apply to any visual medium, and should be taken on board by any potential writer.
Source: Gail Simone