If you follow the world of comics on social media, you’re probably familiar with Gail Simone. The writer most known for her acclaimed runs on characters like Batgirl and Wonder Woman is a mainstay on comics Twitter, with downright hilarious quips about fandom and life in general.
On Thursday morning, Gail Simone woke up with the next generation of comic writers on her mind, and shared several tips for aspiring writers.
You can read the full text of Simone’s thread below, and be sure to check Gail’s page as she’s soliciting and reposting valuable feedback from the comic industry at large.
I get asked for advice about writing/making comics all the time. Here are just a couple quick things I have been thinking about that you might find useful. This will be a little quick and dirty since I have a writer’s room in a bit.
Here we go.
First, you have to be your own marketing team. Most companies do not promote individual books in even a cursory way. This doesn’t have to mean social media, but make SOME kind of marketing part of your plan. An unpromoted book is an unread book.
If your characters are giving a speech, 99% of the time, you have gone down the wrong road somewhere. Make your point in the story, even people who agree with you don’t want to be preached at by Hawkman or Godzilla or whomever.
If you are writing a character you didn’t create, try to be respectful of their history and creators, but even more importantly, be respectful of the readership. Don’t sneer at what made the character successful, you didn’t make that. Do shading as you like, not smugness.
In the vast majority of cases, INTERESTING dialogue is vastly better than BELIEVABLE dialogue. Real people speech can be bland and even tedious. No one really wants to hear Iron Man talk like your cousin Kevin.
In that same vein, if your characters all sound the same, the problem is your technique, not the characters or the readers. Books live or die by the voices of the characters, and if you can’t get that engine to move, you need to re-assess your priorities.
Let your artist have room to breathe. Most writers are guilty of not doing this, I am no exception. Give them panels with little or no dialogue. Give them emotion to draw, and action and setting. It can’t all be a dialogue tennis match.
Don’t consider a gig as a ‘stepping stone’ to anything, not a higher profile book, not writing Batman, not doing screenplays. Do your best to bring SOMETHING sparkly to everything you do…some of the best comic stories ever told were short tales where the writer BROUGHT IT.
Let your editor help you. I used to think the editor was the speed bump in the road. I was a doof. The editor not only wants to help, they know what the publisher wants, and as a team, you will do much better work with much less frustration.
Find your voice, and be bold with it. I say this all the time, but there’s already a Bendis, a Morrison, a Kirkman, whatever. Comics needs more voices, not shadows of ones that already exist.
Bring what you can that they don’t have.
If you are assigned a character you don’t have feeling for, for god’s sake, suck it up and find something about them you want to write about. That is part of the job, part of what it means to be a professional. Find a thing to love/respect/explore.
Don’t be afraid to use your descriptive side. Comics want to keep everything as clean as possible, which usually means keeping dialogue and captions sparse.
It does NOT mean you can’t be elegant in your choice of words. A tree can be ‘lonely,’ a face can be ‘withdrawn.’
Above all, think of each piece as a complete little work, it’s not just an assignment. Bring what life you can to it, whether that life is light or dark.
A breathing story is a moving story.
That’s it for this morning, these points may not work for everyone, in which case, ignore them. But take chances, take some risks. You’ll mess up sometimes.
People learn from messing up.