Coming back after another long break. All of the bad news that hit comic book, wrestling, stand-up, and gaming Twitter finally came to the online writing community. I needed more time to reevaluate myself and who I respected, before promptly reminding myself, “Hey, either get better heroes or become your own hero.” So, here I am.
This was something I thought up and have done zero research on (Hey, I’m a new dad raising kids in the stupidest apocalypse ever, trying to think creatively when the world shows me up on a daily basis. I’m doing what I can.) so if you find someone who’s said it better than me, definitely listen to them, but if you want to listen to the ramblings of an exhausted dad trying to write a book, stick around.
We got cookies.
Sorry, I don’t have cookies. In fact, I dare say everyone on the internet that’s claimed to have cookies has never once had cookies. Again, zero research on this topic, so that’s what you’ll have to go with.
Today, I want to think about the writing hurdle of getting the words down onto the page. I don’t mean “writer’s block” or anything like that, where you’re stumped on ideas or cold sweats start pouring out of your pits and ears at the mere thought of picking up a pen, no. I’m talking about the passage of words from your head to your fingers and what happens.
There is a rough divide on that journey, isn’t there? We can spend all day in our heads, plotting out a story, imagining a hundred different interesting characters and scenarios, and we’ll feel excited to finally have a chance to sit and get to writing. The moment we do, though?
The words don’t hit the page like we imagined. Something’s gone missing on the way, like losing a barrel of fish oil on the Oregon trail that was meant to grease the axles of your wagon wheels.
I may not know enough about what was actually needed on the Oregon trail. I usually died on the first river crossing…
I had an odd realization: I think in comics.
Comic books were the first long-form stories I read. Not always the done-in-one issues of the 60s and 70s, no, the years and issues long storylines which were becoming popular in the late-70s and 80s. Stories by David Michelinie who showed me how Tony Stark could overcome alcoholism in Iron Man, or by John Byrne who united multiple personalities to create a family in Fantastic Four, or Peter David showcasing the highs and lows of anger in The Incredible Hulk in his epic 10+ year run on the book.
Comics are how I imagine stories in my mind.
Now, I don’t mean to say every story needs to be a comic (though there could be an argument that every story CAN be a comic, but that’s for another time). You can picture the story in your head however you want but the moment you sit down, have you ever noticed the words just vanish? Like, you had them just a moment ago, but you can’t find them. Like bringing a troll into the sunlight, they turn to statues, unable to be used for anything useful.
That’s because you’re not using your mental writing language. For me? Turns out it’s comic books.
If I imagine the novels or short stories or whatever I’m writing as a comic book, as a series of progressive panels focusing on one scene from a story, with details in the background and important information in the foreground, with a focal point, perspective, dialogue, then suddenly it becomes a lot easier to grasp. Once I’ve grasped it, I can wrangle it and put it down on the page.
I used to work in a comic book shop, and when I did it was my job to sell people on books. Duh, obviously. What I forgot I had to was also describe the book to people, and when I did, guess what? I used colorful language, expressive descriptions, and, most importantly, excitement. That energy transferred to the customer and sometimes they’d buy it.
But when I sit down to write my own books? Nothing. That same energy isn’t there.
I think we all want to be writers because, underneath all the inner bravado and outer nervousness, we love telling stories. Somehow, stories connected to us in a primal, biological way. Whatever that method was showcased the importance and beauty of capturing moments in time, passing them along to others, and proving that growth and change can happen.
Some people want to write stories in their movies, in their video games, in their picture books, in their art, or, like me, in their novels.
I think of stories like comic books. That’s my writing language.
What’s the way you think of stories? What’s your writing language?
Thanks for reading,