Great Writing Advice from Gail Simone

On her tumblr, Gail Simone has some good advice for wannabe writers. It’s written for people who want to write comic books, but it can also apply to aspiring novelists, screenwriters, playwrights and authors of any medium.

I thought I would post a tip that might help a few people out there, who are aspiring writers in the comics industry.

Okay, I get a lot of mini-comics and comics and gns given to me at cons. I keep them all, I don’t throw them away, but I stack them and the stack is pretty large at this point. My goal is to read them all a few at a time.

One thing I see fairly often is what I want to mention here. It may seem a bit airy and ephemeral, but it is most definitely NOT.

I have read many, many of these first-time published efforts and often, even though some are absolutely at pro- levels of production, and have very costly printing and presentation, they lack a purpose, they merely emulate successful comics that already exist, ie., DC, Marvel, Walking Dead, Hellboy, whatever.

I can’t stress this enough. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.

I came into comics with one hidden agenda: I wanted to create some new female characters that would add to the universes I wrote for. I wanted the next generation of young girls to have more choices of character types to root for and identify with. I wanted to try to undo some damage from the Women in Refrigerators era. That was always in my mind.

To that end, I created Mary Zero, Black Alice, Misfit, Scandal Savage, Jeannette, Outlaw, and lots of other female characters to try to make that happen.

As I talked to more readers and learned to look a little wider than my own experience, my mission opened up, and I wanted to create more diversity in general, because that’s sorely lacking and the readers deserve it.

But there was a goal beyond just recreating other stuff. There was a POV. It changes a little from book to book, but there is a message. Whether it’s effective or not, that’s up to the readers, not the author. But there IS something to say.

I look at the best writers in the game, they also have a message. Brubaker, Morrison, Snyder, Lemire, Aaron, and so many others, you feel what they are doing in almost every book. They, in short, have something to say.

And that elevates their work. It makes their books resonate where so many other books are forgettable.

A cheap counterargument is that it’s enough to entertain, but I don’t think that’s true. There’s no shortage of entertainment available. To stand out as an author, you have to offer something different, and one thing that can distinguish a writer is the message, even if it’s to trust no one, including yourself. It’s the ideas that you’ve been waiting for someone else to tackle.

Simone’s comment led me to reflect on what I would like to do in my own writing. Themes I’d like to explore would include the need for better communication and understanding that comes with the realization that the things you hold to be most sacred others believe to be harmful and vice versa. If Simone wants more women in comics, I want characters some readers will disagree with, whom others will find enlightened. And I’d also like to have stories from the point of view of someone fighting for a horrific cause, just to remind the audience that the protagonist can be very, very wrong.

Others will have different passions and that’s fine. But it’s something that every writer should consider. What is there a surfeit of in fiction? What is it that no one else is saying about how the world works?

Simone’s comment was less obvious than another bit of advice she had offered.

DEAR ASPIRING CREATORS

If you actually are having visions of breaking into writing for DC and Marvel, probably it’s not the best idea to post a sick little fantasy of having their actual, real-life writers tortured.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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