I attended Reno Wizard World Comic Con November 20-22, 2015 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and left with pearls of story-telling wisdom from the people who have lived it. Among everything else — the panels, the celebrities, the shopping — it was the storytelling I found most valuable.
Michael Golden, a former writer for Marvel Comics, hosted a panel on what else? Storytelling! Specifically he spoke of commercial storytelling (so no memoirs here) but here was his advice:
There are two rules to be successful:
Rule #1: People are stupid. Sounds mean, but you must always assume the audience is ignorant to what you may be about to tell them in order to supply ample information. Don’t allow the audience to fill in the blanks, they may not always do so correctly.
Rule #2: Build the world. Do as you learned in elementary school and focus on your Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Introduce the premise, then the plot and the characters. Post-it notes are your best friends, use different colors for the different elements (characters, plot etc.) as it will help you visually see the holes in your writing.
This is not a rule, but awesome advice nonetheless, write the ending last. The climax is usually the ending, and the thing you are the most certain about, so write backward!
Looking to specifically burst into the comic writing scene? There is a panel for that! Jim Shooter, editor from Marvel, and Danny Fingeroth, better known for a long stint as group editor of the Spider-Man books at Marvel Comics had the wisdom you seek.
Both reminisced about what they called “Marvel Style” in which the plot is written before the art is created. This is not necessarily the case at other establishments. With a full script and story, the writer has better control of the story. Sometimes, writing after the art is a challenge, unless you’re a legend like Stan Lee.
“Stan Less could turn straw into gold,” Shooter said. “He could take any art and make it into a story.”
They warned, it is pretty standard for writers and artists to not get along, and the job of the editor was to be the final decision and keep the ball rolling.
Both are long-timers who have been in the comic business for a long time, so naturally they expressed the death of the heyday. Bursting into the scene was not as it used to be, and instead self-publishing holds more merit now than it used to. Now, publishing your own story can show the big comic companies just how successful you are, and make it more likely to snag their attentions.
This is actually advice Pypeline Editing has given a time or two as well!
Both panels, and many others, had so many interesting, funny and fantastical things to offer those willing to listen. Stay tuned for next year, we have over 300 days to go!