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Wednesday Workshop: Leap of Faith

Guido (Nuis), Josh (K-sky) and I are, as far as I know, the remaining regular contributors at this space. A couple weeks ago, as part of one of my “Friday Afternoon Confessions”, I mentioned how I had largely dismantled what had been a pretty solid writing habit. Josh and Guido lamented their parallel issues with a lack of writing output (outside this space) and Guido came up with the suggestion of helping each other through whatever issues may be lodged in our respective brains. I agreed to contribute to such an exercise, and the consensus was whatever this exercise would become, it would happen on Wednesdays.

If I remember my “The Weblog” history correctly, this means we’ve had “Sunday Stories”, “Monday Movies”, “Tuesday Hatred”, “Wednesday Food”, now this, “Thursday Spoiler Alerts” (the most well-read series, I believe) and “Friday Afternoon Confessions”. I’m not certain whether I’m just forgetting a Saturday series or if we’ve decided to leave that day to its rightful owners: the Bay City Rollers.

Anyway, here we are. A new series of posts in which Guido and I (at least) have agreed to help each other “work out” our writing issues. The trick, of course, is I don’t believe anybody is quite sure how exactly we’re going to do that. I’ve struggled with my answer to that question. Do I keep my ideas and dilemmas vague to guard against thievery, or do I just lay it out there, thievery be damned?

In the end, I decided this exercise requires trust in the participants. To make it work as well as possible, I’m going to extend a tremendous amount of trust and go with the lay it out there approach.

So here it is. An idea I’ve had kicking around in my head is one I’ve discussed a number of times in this space. It’s a comic-book themed story. I’ll let the groans subside before I continue. The reason I’ve wanted to do a comic book, or superhero if you prefer, story is to try to address so many of what I consider shortfalls of superhero stories. The big one, the thing I expect to drive the overall story, is the impossibility of being a superhero.

Sure, Superman could be a superhero because he didn’t really need anything. Batman could be a superhero because Bruce Wayne was filthy rich. But in reality, people have to make money. To make money, you have to have a job. If you’re out at night fighting bad guys, a job is going to be difficult. I know comic books have covered this ground before, but something I haven’t seen addressed is the amount of time that would be required for a superhero to follow through on putting bad guys away.

If he were successful, wouldn’t he spend a lot of time in court as a witness? Wouldn’t that time in court make gainful employment terribly difficult? How in the hell could you have a secret identity if you had to testify in court?

“State your name.”
“Spiderman.”
“Um, your real name.”
“I can’t.”

I’m no lawyer, but I don’t think anonymous testimony would get too far. I think this is rich ground for the story, but every time I start to write I have trouble getting much further than these (I hope) clever hooks.
I can start the story and work toward showing a superhero’s life is impossible, but aren’t stories that work backward from a conclusion typically awful? Isn’t that kind of an accepted fact of storytelling? That leaves me looking for some extra meat for the story. One place to turn there is the origin, but people seem pretty tired of origin stories. Avoiding the origin is easy. “He was born that way.” But skipping the origin just leaves you needing to find other interesting bits of the story to tell.

I’ve considered exploring some classical, archetypal comic book scenarios and applying the kind of real-world logic discussed above, but I don’t know if that would provide enough of the “meat” I’m looking for.

So here we come to the purpose of the exercise I understand it. Thoughts from others. I think the popularity of blogs is owned to people writing about things they wanted to read but couldn’t find. So maybe we can apply that idea to this story idea. Are there places you’ve always wanted comic books or comic book movies to go where they so far haven’t? Does this line of storytelling seem like fertile ground you’d like to add to?

Now allow me to step outside the exercise for the moment. Before you criticize, allow me to state that I’m perfectly aware I’m probably the sole beneficiary of your input. Guilt over this fact is what made me so hesitant to start this exercise. But this idea has been kicking around in my head for three years or more and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I’m hoping some dialogue on its potential, and thoughts for where it might go, might give it the necessary kick in the butt. I’m hoping that helping toward that end might allow people to overcome any reticence in joining in on my creative process.

That and knowing that accepting this assistance is a sort of pact to throw in my two cents when it’s your turn to try to work through your own mental blocks. If you’re still reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts as we kick off this new feature within “The Weblog”.

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October 10, 2012 - Posted by | Wednesday Workshop

12 Comments

  1. maybe this is very off-topic, sorry, and i know it’s so very different cultures, and the american kids grow reading the comics with supermen, so it must be a very important part of their childhood reading, and not only americans, the whole world now reads them or at least watches movies i guess, just in my childhood we enjoyed more the fairy tales with the clever fools mostly, like russian ivanushka durachok or our bolzootun bor tolgoinu boldoggui bor ovgon (the not going to concede his points brown old man of the brown hill where people meet) or badarchin (a traveling monk) or japanese momotaro or the central asian hodja nasreddin, maybe every nationality has their own versions, so all those are very funny and clever, they win always by their wit, not by any kind of super powers or violence, maybe that is something like very old fashioned and nowadays kids wouldn’t enjoy those kinds of tales anymore, but it could be great if you would write an american version of those tales in comics or maybe there are such tales, i just don’t know, like brer rabbit etc
    i am not very familiar with the comics books of course, especially the japanese mangas i just can’t stand, too like toxic bright colors and so much violence and simply inappropriate content for kids, for teens and young audience maybe that is okay somehow but i think the only kind of books that could be burnt are those, mangas, though graphically some of them are pretty clever i admit
    so the american comics i also don’t know much, but it seems if grownup people, uni professors even, write blog posts on those, so must be it’s a serious genre, never can get their arguments in those posts though, it gets me wondering always like why it is important something, so i’ve found charlie brown to be funny, and a little sad, a bit resembling those my childhood fairy tales somehow, and there are many other funny webcomic strips just always have not much patience to follow them, though maybe those are different, not a whole separate book with a plot and everything
    good luck i mean

    Comment by read | October 10, 2012

  2. Matt, your first paragraph below the fold made me laugh so I’m definitely in (it also made me remember an old idea for a comic book about a sexy bee where the graphic artist abandoned me, maybe we can get to that one after this one).

    I need to think and come back to you but I would indeed not think it out from the end backwards. Best to push it along and see where it takes you. If you have multiple scenes in mind maybe through them out here so we’ll see where it leaves us.

    The thing that kind of caught me was “the rich & wealthy superheroes have the time” bit. It caught me because it is not only true of superheroes. Maybe there is an angle in seeing the competition between a real superhero and kind of a fluky superhero where the latter has money and time and the former has not. Put it in a kind of a competitive frame where some major mishap needs to be saved and fluke superhero is hyper-actively not in a position to do it whilst cool superhero is stuck making dinner for the children.

    Does that help some already?

    Comment by Guido Nius | October 11, 2012

  3. Guido, I like the idea of missing out on hero stuff because of mundane obligations. It kind of goes with the world I intended for this to take place in: our world. In other words, the hero would be unique in having superpowers. Another thing I thought would be funny would be to have him do his thing here in Toledo. Trying to be a superhero in a de-centralized, sprawling city would make another typical aspect of superherodom (bounding from rooftop to rooftop, looking for trouble) challenging.

    Another thing I like about the hero being the only superhero is it means his powers don’t have to be all that great to stand out. The superpower I had in mind was that he was literally twice as fast as a normal person. So, he’s basically a normal person. It just so happens his natural way of doing things takes him half the time. So if we were to just watch him in his apartment, it would look like he was in fast forward. Therefore, to “fit in” he’d need to concentrate on slowing down. On the plus side, super speed, super agility, more power in his punches, etc.

    I will try to do a little work to think of some classic comic situations. Since posting this, though, it’s dawned on me if I go that route, sticking to a classic comic storyline – with an origin – might be the way to go. What’s more important? Trimming out tiresome conventions from comic stories or mixing up the conventions from start to finish?

    read – I didn’t want it to seem like I was ignoring your post. But to be honest, the last thing I need is a new obstacle standing in the way of getting this written. Learning another culture’s fairy tales or legends and Americanizing them would be quite an undertaking and a fairly large obstacle. It’s probably something that should be a labor of love from an American who already has an appreciation for one of those stories.

    Comment by mattintoledo | October 11, 2012

  4. i didn’t mean of course to cause you any obstacles, maa, it’s better for me to not get involved in any of your projects and threads at the weblog, the more i try to interact the more confirmation of that i get as if like
    au sure revour, though must be i am or was your maybe even like last reader

    Comment by read | October 11, 2012

  5. Matt, not to worry. I’m still here. Hmmm, I don’t think running twice as hard is going to make it. I also think that it needs some kind of tension between the traditional superhero and the mundane superhero. Then again in not going for suits and flying fist out front is a good thing.

    Maybe you can just have the superpower of thinking ahead and figuring where to be to avoid the trigger for a bus hitting the school children. Then you could introduce slapstick with the mundane guy just standing in the way of the trigger & the traditional guy doing KaBoom and everything and creating a big mess in the process.

    I have no idea where I am taking this and whether it helps but if you don’t say stop I’ll come back to it. Now I’ll have to confess I need to return to doing a shit part of my job.

    Comment by Guido Nius | October 12, 2012

  6. Balls, I wrote a long response to this and now I see it hasn’t posted. Mostly my advice was about figuring out who the character is, and letting that show you the kind of action you should put him in. Two pairs of helpful questions about creating stories are What does he want vs What does he need? and What does he want and why can’t he get it? I think playing with that will open up whether you want to tell the origin story or not.

    Also, re superheroes dealing with the real world, see the comic book Powers and the movie The Specials. Neither is exactly what you’re doing (and you may prefer to avoid them), but may give you some sense of avenues you’d like to explore.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | October 14, 2012

  7. Trimming out tiresome conventions from comic stories or mixing up the conventions from start to finish?

    What’s more exciting to you?

    Comment by Josh K-sky | October 14, 2012

  8. I really appreciate this help and your thoughts, Guido and Josh. Guido, adding the second superhero, perhaps one that’s more powerful and more traditional is a good angle. I think there’s potential in showing the ways their abilities and maybe how traditional a superhero they are, affects how they’re accepted by the public. I’ll keep thinking of possible powers, but I’m still liking the “twice as fast” power for the :mundane superhero, precisely because it leaves the reader thinking, “that’s it?”

    Josh, thanks for the perspective with those questions. As a sometime fiction writer (though not for the last 10-15 years) schooled in Mathematics and City Planning, I’ve often felt there were theories and techniques that might help keep me on task when I’m writing that I’m just not privy to. Your suggestions send me in that direction, I think.

    Comment by mattintoledo | October 15, 2012

  9. As a sometime fiction writer (though not for the last 10-15 years) schooled in Mathematics and City Planning

    CALCULATE THE HIGHEST AND BEST USE OF YOUR PROTAGONIST

    :)

    Comment by Josh K-sky | October 15, 2012

  10. Josh is right, Matt, you are the mundane superhero with the superplanning power to calculate twice as fast.

    Looking forward to your next installment.

    Comment by Guido Nius | October 16, 2012

  11. Ahh! Next installment? I thought we’d be kind of passing the mic around. I’m not sure I’ll have more thoughts on this particular project for tomorrow. So if anybody else wants to have a go, feel free. If not, I might be able to solicit some thoughts on something else I’ve been thinking about.

    Let me know if you’ll have something. If not, I’ll throw something up tomorrow when I can.

    Comment by mattintoledo | October 16, 2012

  12. Someone who skips most of his weekly installments should be patient enough to wait for somebody else’s time to create an installment.

    I thought it would be cool if we could push this for a couple of weeks but of course not longer than you need or want it.

    As to taking my turn, yes I’ll do it but that won’t be in the next couple of weeks. Let me concentrate for now on not getting fired ;-)

    Comment by Guido Nius | October 17, 2012


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