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B&N Week 93: Become A Better Creator–Have Something To Say

| October 2, 2012

It’s Tuesday yet again! We’ve just stepped out of summer, and I’ll tell you something, it’s friggin’ humid! I thought it was supposed to be cooling off. I want you all to do something for me: drink plenty of fluids, and stay out of the heat as much as you can. It can be deadly. This message is brought to you by the letter P, the number three, and the color of blood…

Back to seriousness! This week, we’re still talking about being a better creator, and this time around, I want to talk about having something to say. Let’s get into the Bolts & Nuts of that, shall we?

Having something to say sounds kinda pretentious, I know, but there it is. I’m not talking about finding your voice, I’m not talking about how you tell your story, I’m talking about what your story is about. Some people may call this a theme, but I’m going to be informal, as always.

You have to have something to say in your stories. Your story has to have a point, and that point has to be relatable, or else, there’s no reason at all to tell the story.

You have to have something to say.

(But, Steven, I don’t even know what that means!)

Sure you do! You just don’t know it yet.

Let me give you an example.

I grew up wanting to be a magician. As a kid, magic was real, and that’s what I wanted to be. A real magician. My parents weren’t overly religious, so I didn’t go to church all that often. After elementary school, I went to a private middle school that was run by nuns, and then a private Roman Catholic high school. That left me with a lot of answers and even more questions about the Bible. Then, I joined the military, and was put on the Path of paganism, which answered a lot of questions about religion, but also left me with more.

So, I’ve got questions about religion. Good and evil, life and death, and the roles of multiple characters in religion. A lot of that comes through in my writing. I’m working through my questions, my own points of view, my own worldview, and unleashing that upon the world.

I’ve got a lot to say. My writing reflects this. I personally don’t have to dig deep in order to find something to say. Some of you do. Not everything sits at the surface, so you’ve got to dig. And that’s okay. Everyone is different, and different is good.

The best writing not only tells the story, but also challenges the reader in some way.

The worst thing your writing can do is not move the reader in some way. Indifference is a killer, and there is a lot of that going on in comics nowadays. Remember that words are extremely powerful. Extremely. People have fought and killed over them. They can stir up emotion as well as make you think. The adage that the pen is mightier than the sword? True. Then why is it that a good lot of you aren’t using the pen to its full potential?

I remember reading an interview with Mark Waid, about his time writing The Flash. He would tell very personal stories within the confines of Wally’s story, and to many, these were some of the best Flash stories told. Mark would use what was going on in his life, and reflect it in Wally’s. That’s having something to say. That’s being able to pull the reader in and making them feel things, think, and make them react.

Having something to say gives the stories you tell meaning. It is that meaning that will keep your readers coming back for more. If you don’t inject that meaning into your stories, then you might as well not even tell them.

You want to be a better creator? Have something to say. Explore emotions and situations. Ask big questions, and take your readers on a trip as you attempt to find answers to them. Make sure that each and every story you tell is about something.

With that being said, there should be some words said about superheroes.

Superheroes mean fighting, and while fighting is exciting with the action, tactics and strategies, the fighting that happens should be in context of a larger story. It shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of the story. The fight should be the obstacle that the hero has to overcome to achieve their objective. This is important. The fight has to be integral to the story. If it isn’t, then it’s fluff, and while nice, readers will call you on it.

Is this applicable just to superheroes? No, of course not. But superheroes are made for fighting, so that is why I’m saying this here and not somewhere else.

One more word, and then I’ll let you go.

Again, your stories have to be about something. Remember that, even though you may be writing stories you yourself may want to read, you’re still going to have to sell the stories. You want to get ahead? Don’t tell tales that are just supremely screwed up and depressing.

I’m guessing that a great many of you have seen The Dark Knight Rises by now. I saw it, and was severely underwhelmed. The reason being is that the movie was bleak. There was a lot of darkness, a lot of defeat, and not a whole lot of light. It was that small glimmer of light at the end that saved this movie from being completely screwed up and depressing.

Here in America, we like happy endings. I’m speaking in generalities. If you create a screwed up, depressing story that doesn’t do anything besides spread darkness, then, in general, it will not sell well. It will also have other ramifications. It would also be difficult to find work. You put a story such as that in your portfolio to show to editors, don’t be surprised if you don’t get any return phone calls or emails.

And that’s all I have. See you in seven!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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