View Full Version : B&N Week 184: Are You A Good Storyteller?

Steven Forbes
07-01-2014, 08:06 PM

Itís another Tuesday! Guess itís time for another Bolts & Nuts question!

Are you a good storyteller?

(What? Steven, come on! Of course I am.) Well, I know that you think that, but is it really true? Sometimes when looking at the work, itís hard to tell.

I guess the first question to ask is ďwho am I talking about?Ē The simple question is ďthe entire creative team.Ē The writer, obviously, but the penciler may not be so obvious. The inker, too, is less than obvious. The colorist has some input, but the letterer? Yes, they all have a part to play in storytelling, as does the editor. Letís take a look at each.

The writer should be asking themselves this question all the time. For the writer, it is all about story: character arc, theme, action, pathos, humor, and whatever else will further the story. If youíre a writer and you arenít asking yourself questions about the story, then you arenít doing it right.

Click here to read more. (http://www.comixtribe.com/2014/07/01/bn-week-184-are-you-a-good-storyteller/)

07-04-2014, 10:06 AM
a follow up question would be:

would you be able to tell if you are a good storyteller? its hard sometimes to step outside yourself and pass judgment on your own ability.

Steven Forbes
07-04-2014, 10:09 AM
True, Frank, but it's also a skill that needs developing. A good creator should also be their own first editor.

07-04-2014, 01:12 PM
would you be able to tell if you are a good storyteller?

Not necessarily. Furthermore, you could be a good writer, in some ways, but not in other ways. Plus, you have to factor in that not everyone likes the same thing, so what may seem good to some, will not necessarily seem good to others. The writer, of course finds himself or herself in the middle.

If you were to ask a hundred different people, what makes a writer a good writer, you might very well end up with a hundred different answers.

I don't write comic books, but from my standpoint, comic books are a form of what I call segment writing. It is writing in such a way that is writing in the abbreviated.

In a novel, for example, you can take the long, slow road to the reader's China. In a comic book, you don't have the luxury (usually) of that same narrative span. Just look at how few words are on a given comic book page, from pretty much any comic book that you want to use as an example.

Comic books don't enjoy much in the way of the luxury of boring people. There's just not much leeway in that area. A lot of comic books published by individuals are, in a nutshell, boring, when you get right down to it.

So, being able to write with precision can be useful. WHAT you are writing is invariably less critical than HOW you are writing it. It just is. Some writers can make virtually any subject matter or storyline seem interesting. Other writers don't seem to have a clue, as to how to craft written material that readers will find to be engaging.

Ideally, you want to connect with the reader early on, and then retain that interest - even grow the reader's interest, if and whenever possible.

If you were to take all of the text from the pages of a comic book, and copy and paste them onto paper, what you would end up with would most likely resemble either a very short story, or a single chapter from a typical book. For some comic books, you might not even be able to mine a single page of text.

Writing is like talking. What you are saying needs to flow. In essence, it needs to have good pacing. Writing a comic book is an exercise in free-form writing. It's not like writing most poetry. Poetry tends to be very structured. It has tight parameters, in most instances.

If I were to ask you to write your own version of a poem - or a popular song, you would likely be able to stay within the parameters fairly easily. Take Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, for example.

It's widely known. People can quote it or sing it by heart. If you wrote your own version of it, you would write within its established parameters with little more than a second thought, I suspect.

But, if set loose in total free form, there's no established parameters or structure. You're all alone. And, for many writers, that creates the very first obstacle that they must overcome - namely, the start.

Where to start? What to say? How to get the words flowing?

If you ask would-be comic book writers to pet a dog, they would do it, instinctively. I mean, how hard is it to pet a dog, huh? Yet, a dozen different individuals might pet that same dog twelve different ways. That dog (the reader) can be engaged more than one way. Their interest can be retained a multitude of different ways. No form of writing has more potential, as far as ways of potentially engaging the reader, than free-form. Why? Because, you have total leeway to craft the message.

To write effectively, you have to learn to let go of your inhibitions. Your inhibitions are obstacles. Doubt is an obstacle. Uncertainty in what to say is an obstacle. Lack of self-confidence in one's writing ability is not just an obstacle, to make matters even worse, it is arguably the greatest illusion, of all.

If you spend too long stuttering and stammering and hesitating, then you may not get to kiss the girl (the reader). If the reader adores you, already, then you don't have to win their attention or their affection. But, readers, much like women, like confidence. They recognize it, as soon as they see it. If you don't want the other comic books to get all of the readers, then have some confidence show through in your writing.

Everyone always wants shortcuts. Why? To save time and energy and headaches. Are there any shortcuts in writing? Actually, there are. There's lots of them. They're all over the place, and anyone who tells you that there's not is plain out lying to you.

Thinking that nobody wants to read what you want to write about is error. The human mind is a complex piece of equipment. Human curiosity is legendary. It killed the damned cat, for crying out loud!

The problem isn't the subject matter. Every topic is interesting. If you want to write comic books, then just don't be that boring ass professor who bores his students to tears.

You don't have to subject yourself to editorial pedicures, such as the ones that Steven Forbes performs for free with a chainsaw. That shit isn't mandatory. It's wholly optional.

But, don't complain, if and when you present a giant, nasty looking, foul smelling toenail of a comic book script to readers who then shun your handiwork as if it were the plague.

If you want to write a comic book script, but you don't know what you want to say, then you're not being entirely truthful with yourself. And, if you're not truthful with yourself, as a writer, then your readers will end up feeling lied to, and consequently, shortchanged.

Uncertainty is like a bull. Don't be scared of the bull. Most people aren't matadors, but we sure do consume one Hell of a lot of steak. Don't take the bull, and turn it into a sacred cow. The best thing to do with sacred cows is to make hamburger out of them.

The best way to tackle the bull of uncertainty is by grabbing it by the balls, and just hold on tight. The bull will then do the work for you, as it takes you on one Hell of a ride! Bumps and bruises gained along the way come at no extra expense to you, as a writer.

Being a fence straddler is not the same thing as riding that bull.

If you want to write the best comic book ever, then look for the biggest bull of uncertainty that you can find.

Of course, you may find this advice to be little more than bullshit. Others may even confirm it to be so. To make matters even worse, it emanates from someone who professes to not being a comic book writer.

Decide for yourself what makes sense. After all, you have to do that, anyway, in order to get your comic books written. Feel free to disregard this advice. The advice isn't what's important. Rather, what you write is what's important.

I've got to end this, here. Steven Forbes is glaring at me with those magic glasses of his, and my wife is wanting to eat lunch. Hmmm...what to have for lunch?

I think that I'll have steak, today! First, though, I need a bull.

Steven Forbes
07-04-2014, 01:42 PM
Glare? I don't glare. I just go get a cup of tea, a large sammich, put my feet up, get a comfy pillow, and then settle in to read.

07-06-2014, 11:16 AM
I've been making my way through your B&N articles. I'm up to 13 (I'm trying not to read more than a couple a day, otherwise I don't absorb all the information.) I noticed I broke some of your rules for a first script as a novice writer...

Anyway, I think you'll like script I'm writing for Proving Grounds. It will probably take me another week to be happy enough with it to send it in though. Writing dialogue from another time period is hard! Especially if you want it to be accessible and interesting to a modern crowd.

I think I'm going to watch the Kiera Knightley Pride and Prejudice again. They did a good job of amalgamating modern and old speech, so that an average person could watch it, but at the same time not notice the speech was a bit historically incorrect.

07-06-2014, 11:24 AM
Also. Psh, of course I'm a great storyteller. I'm a dungeon master, haha. ;)