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Wizard World Con Report, Part II: More Writing Tips!

Two posts ago I gave a report of two panels that I attended at Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento. [link] I highlighted the fiction writing advice given at these panels. One of the panels was about the Satan myth in the dark fiction genre and the term for the genre itself. I said that author Richard Kadrey talked about his Satan character in the Lucifer comic book series and that he talked some more about it in his villain creation panel later that same day. That panel is included here in part two of the report of the writing panels I attended. I had also said that the report would be divided into three posts, but it looks like I can complete it in two, so this is the final part.

Three members of a disco band playing in a concert.
A "Disco Revolution" band that I watched before attending my first panel on Saturday, Day 2 of Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento. These guys are really heavy in keeping one of the earliest forms of electronica alive!
Photo Credit: the blogger

Day 2, Part II

So after the “Modern Mythology” panel, and getting lunch at the nearby 7-11 because I wasn’t going to pay nearly 10 bucks for one slice of pizza at the convention center, I attended the 2 P.M. panel entitled “Villains: Creating the Perfect Antagonist”. The panelists consisted of authors Genese Davis, Tricia Stirling (not sure if there’s any relation to Bruce Stirling), Maureen O’Leary, Eric Kieron Davis, and Richard Kadrey. This was a great discussion of what goes into a well-rounded villiain in fiction, whether prose, comic book, TV, Movies or games. One key suggestion that was given was when you create a villain for your story you should make them look natural and therefore realistic. Along with that idea, the villain should be hateful to the reader yet pitiful to some extent and so he or she should be made sympathetic to the reader.

Much of the talk about the complexity of a villainous character came when Genese asked Richard about his Lucifer character in his Lucifer comic book series. Richard’s response was that he didn’t consider Lucifer as a villain because he is a complex character. He pointed out examples of how the devil has shown good qualities (even though they may have been for evil ends) both in his comic series and in other depictions of him, including the Old Testament. In response to this, Ms. Stirling said that the more complex the villain is, the scarier he/she is. She said, “When they’ve lost everything, they have nothing to lose so they can do anything.” This means that the extent to which they do evil can be unpredictable and utmost destructive to others. Even so, as Genese said, the writer must give the villain’s side of the story (which to the villain him-/herself, they are not a villain). But going back to the good qualities the well-rounded villain has, you can see examples of how scary such a character can be. Look at Psycho, for example: the killer comes across as a very ordinary, hospitable young man. Yet when anger shows up even at a small scale when one of his guests asks about the insanity of his mother, we know something is not quite right with him.

Another great piece of advice the panelists gave was to think about the “villains” in our own lives while creating our antagonists. We’ve all encountered the “worst” of people in our lives such as unreasonable and unmerciful supervisors, corrupt cops or biased high school teachers. And so knowing the qualities of real-life people such as these can help us create the villains for our fiction. Erik Davis said that modern fears such as ones caused by war, disease, the vastness and mysteriousness of space, and overpopulation help to create a villain. Fears such as these often stem from the belief in a limitation of resources and from death and so leads to villains becoming obsessed with these fears.

The next writing panel I attended was at 4 PM and was called “Finding Time and Motivation to Write”. It was led by Genese Davis, Catherine Banks, Becky Chambers and Kelley York. They discussed how to make the time to write during our busy schedules. I got more notes from the motivation part of the panel than the time part. Some of the advice offered was breaking down your writing goal(s) into smaller or “sprint” goals (as one of the panelists called them). Doing this helps schedule your writing more easily as well as keeping on top of it.

One of the motivation techniques was one that concerned location. Genese suggested that to get yourself excited about your story you can write in a different location than you normally would. For example, if you normally write at home and feel like you’re losing the motivation to write, then work on your writing in a coffee shop on certain days. It was also mentioned that one cause of losing motivation to write is fear of the project not working out and what other people will think of it. It was discussed that this fear must be overcome or your going to lose interest in writing.

Other suggestions for motivation was to surround yourself with plenty of resources that would inspire you to write such as art or photos in your genre. With internet you can almost always find these. I commented on this by saying to everyone that what has helped me is reading bios or, better yet, autobiographies of authors or watching documentaries, interviews and talks by your favourite authors. You can find plenty of these on YouTube if you just put in the name of the author in the search box.

Another great motivator someone brought up was, what they called, an “award system”. It works something like this: set a goal to write so many words and then award yourself when you reach it. For a higher number of words, make the award bigger. For example, tell yourself if you write 500 words in one day then you’ll play ten minutes of your favourite video game; if you reach 1000 words in a day, you’ll spend a half hour playing that game, and so on.

But one of the most important motivators was stressed by Ms. Davis at the end of the panel and that was networking. Networking is an important motivator because it can be wearing and even discouraging to always handle our writing by ourselves. When we talk to each other either in person or online about our writing projects and give each other advice and ask for help, it takes the load off us a lot more than if we handled all aspects of our writing alone. It makes it much easier or at least manageable in handling our writing projects.

Also, I believe someone said that networking does include blogs. All writers, especially self-publishing ones like myself, should have a blog as well as visit other writers’ blogs and discuss what works for them and what doesn’t. Also leave comments on other writers’ blogs. So if you feel your lacking a writers network, you can start involving yourself in one right now and here! Leave a comment about the post. To help you get started, some questions you can answer are ones such as: of the above writing advice, which one do you find most helpful? What motivates you most to write? When you don’t feel motivated then what do you do to motivate yourself? Leave your answers in the box below.

Day 3

On Sunday of the con, I didn’t attend any writers panels, but I did attend a panel called “How to Build a Geek Brand”. However, I won’t go into it a lot because this was more of a marketing panel than a writing one but it helps in promoting your work. Just a couple of highlights were how to name your brand and how to finance it (which Patreon and Kickstarter were suggested platforms for)

The panels at Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento were mostly aimed at comic book writers and artists. But the above panels I mentioned can work both for prose fiction writers as well as comic book writers. That’s because both mediums are forms of storytelling and when writing is behind the storytelling the basic elements are all the same: clarity, connecting the writing to your readers, and keeping yourself motivated in your writing.

Next week, I’ll return to discussing the status of my seemingly never-ending writing projects.

Until then . . .


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