Soft-spoken Bill Wiley puts up with cruel jokes and pranks on a daily basis at work. When two co-workers see him at a restaurant with his family one of them makes the mistake of slapping Bill's wife on the butt as she walks by. Before they could even react, Bill had smashed one with a chair and put the other through a table.
Theme: Even the meekest of us will draw the line when it comes to our loved ones.
Last edited by TomAlexander; Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 06:54 PM.
2 and 3. I will do it this way from now on. I'm kind of in the same boat as Ron's Jesus meeting...I was thinking I'd go through my projects and use one of those and I found myself struggling over whether some of them had definite themes or not.
The part that made it easiest for me was when you mentioned it's taking something you believe in. I think drawing from your own set of core values and beliefs makes all the difference.
Thanks for that reply, Lee. It really had me understanding a few things I wouldn't have on my own.
When you mentioned intuitive writers... After reading a story, can you tell if the writer is intuitive or not? I was working my brain around some generalizations on writers, and when you brought up that term, it all kinda fell into place.
Some people, the way they do things, it just makes sense. Some people can nail everything on their first attempt. This is what I assume when you say intuitive? However, an intuitive writer can still be a not so good writer. When I think intuitive, I think it on it's best terms. Somebody who just, somehow, for whatever reason, before learning the rules, he just understands when to break and when to obey them. And after writing, editing, rewriting, and seeing a project succeed, he thinks, Oh right. Good point. That rules makes sense. The reasoning I had to break it also-- Shut up. I'm going to go write my next project now.
Is this somewhat true? I almost think Alan Moore when I think intuitive. Reading Watchmen, it almost seems as if he planned his scene transitions before he realized whether or not they'd work out. Frank Miller? In the first Sin City, he admitted himself that it was meant for something like 40 pages, but turned out to be 200. The character, Marv just took off on his own and wrote his own story. I read about when the characters seem to write the story for you, the writer. That seems like intuition to me right?
How often does intuitive writing work? How often does it not work? Or is intuitive almost such a vague term that you can toss it around onto anything that seems like it'd fit? I dunno...
Analyzing is hard for me, because when I plan my scene changes I plan them like Alan Moore. Focus on one thing (a rose, zoom in, the redness, change scenes to the redness of something else) and they seem so natural, so intuitive. So to think that I might have to jumble them all around because somebody (an editor, a publisher, whoever) says I should, seems hard to grasp. I guess that's the beauty of comics. If you have to change something you can. Focus on the blackness of this instead of the redness of that. But still...
Sometimes things seem so natural / intuitive that I find it hard to change / rewrite them. And that's the rut I'm in right now. Writing is easy. Rewriting is hard. Any advice? That goes for anybody, too, not just Lee. What works for you guys?
Well, since folks here seem to have gotten their fill of thematic storytelling, let's explore that question, at least for a couple days.
First, we each have some part of our process that's intuitive, so let's separate inspiration from the question.
We're all inspired, and often have no idea where the inspirations come from. One of my partners, Brian Augustyn, describes inspiration as "the blue," meaning that the ideas come out of the blue.
For me, at a scene-writing level, I have no idea where ideas come from; I just type (like now) until I start to make sense of stuff.
So, let's take inspiration off the plate and acknowledge we're each inspired.
It's what we DO with that inspiration that is important.
When I was art director at The Los Angeles Times Syndicate, I worked with this talented new cartoonist named Jim Smith. His feature was called "Bumgardner" (although I might've misspelled it; it's been a few decades).
Anyway, Jim was a very funny guy, but his batches were hit and miss.
The cartoon editor and I worked with him to try to improve the overall consistency, so they'd be at least 7s out of 10. Yep, we graded them.
Jim was sort of befuddled by this. We asked him what HE thought his consistency was. He said, "I think they're ALL tens."
THAT is intuitive.
He had a pretty low level of craft, but was incredibly talented, so talented he got syndicated, but had no process for sustaining.
Now, let's take Charles M. Schulz, otherwise known as Sparky to anybody he liked; I was lucky, and he insisted I call him Sparky.
Sparky wrote entirely for himself, had a really high level of craft...but didn't analyze, didn't know and couldn't explain WHY something worked or was funny.
Jim and Sparky are the two extremes of intuitive.
Then you get Bill Watterson and Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur). These guys are brilliant, are inspired, and can explain EXACTLY what they're doing and why.
Their perception of what they're crafting and why allows them to critique their own work and mold it into what they want it to be.
The intuitive creator can't do that.
I have a very dear and old friend with great story instincts. He's a wonderful writer, much better than me with a real knack for crafting language, but he hasn't a clue about why his stories do or don't work, not a clue in the world. He KNOWS stuff is what he wants and that he likes or doesn't like it, but cannot for the life of him explain why.
He's very intuitive.
As part of his work at Disney some years ago, he was sent to a John Truby lecture. He FINALLY understood what I've been praising...but didn't want to learn it. He felt it would somehow damage his writing, and maybe it would have.
On the other end of the spectrum is Alan Moore.
Alan Moore is NOT an intuitive writer, meaning he crafts his work with very specific intention and knows exactly why he does what he does. I've never seen a writer craft with MORE intention than Moore (pun sort of crafted with intention). Even his stuff that I find unreadable is so clearly exactly what he intended it to be; I'm sure he knew there were folks who wouldn't connect with his Promethia, for example, and why. Now, understanding EXACTLY who's NOT going to like something and why is the absolute epitome of crafting with intention.
Intuitive creators can't do this; they just do whatever it is that they do...and if they're brilliant like Sparky Schulz, they build careers on it, but if they don't have enough of something to hold the readers' attention, they disappear from the field like Jim Smith.
Crafting with intention requires a creator to look at something they did, determine whether or not it will be perceived the way they intend, and then, if it's not, to be able to go back and make whatever changes are necessary to achieve the goal.
For writers, "crafting with intention" is the underpinning of "writing is rewriting."
If you don't know how stuff will be perceived, how do you know what to revise?
THIS is the death of too many writing careers.
When an artist can't see how some aspect of his/her drawing is rendered/conceived from a different sensibility, it's the same thing.
Again, brilliant artists who don't analyze don't need to.
But artists who can't see the inconsistencies in their work are professionally doomed.
Now, back to your question, Roberts.
Tackle these assignments we've been working on...and don't stop just because you got through one.
When you get through one level, try something a LITTLE harder.
Read through the work of others, then come to your own conclusions before reading mine. Then, if I catch something you didn't, ask yourself WHY you didn't, then use a better microscope in making an evaluation.
It is easier for ANYBODY to critique somebody else's work before their own; this is true for me, too...and I do have people reading behind me to advise me about what they perceive.
One editor told me I didn't know anything about writing stories for children, and that shook me to my foundation. This was recent. So I called up another editor, a pal, and went through the entire process I'd gone through with the other guy. I told the story, and asked whether it made sense. He said "yes." I asked him if he'd be willing to read what I'd written, just in case I hadn't written it well enough, and he said, "yes."
My pal read it and liked it. He bought it. (Don't ask why I didn't send it to him in the first place.)
Like me, he was still curious about why the other editor had my described reaction, so he showed it to a colleague who was a children's book editor but didn't know comics...and this new person was completely confused.
And that's how we discovered the "problem": the first editor, a major player at a major publisher, a guy who oversaw a graphic novel line...didn't know how to read a comics script. He could look at a finished comic and understand whether it would work for his market, but his level of craft wasn't there to understand what he was reading.
So I needed to make changes in how I presented the material.
Do you folks see the difference between this process of looking for the flaw in MY presentation and me simply concluding that the first guy didn't know what he was talking about?
Looking for how I somehow failed made me a better writer, even if the failure wasn't in my story.
When you are more interested in what you do "wrong" than "others not understanding you," you've a better mindset for helping you improve, and stand a better chance of achieving your goals.
Hope this helps.
Last edited by LeeNordling; Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 09:21 PM.