Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Okay, This Looks Bad.

I've been reading a lot of trade paperback comics lately, particularly Hawkeye stuff. Mostly Matt Fraction's. I have a shameless girl-crush on Kate Bishop. I mean, just look at this chick.

She's a great character and Fraction just writes her fantastically. But this isn't about Kate and awesome female characters, although I certainly could write a whole blog post on Marvel's recent leading ladies and how people can take notes as writers.

This is about things looking bad.

I've got three of the trades, a dozen issues combined, and mostly, they have one thing in common: at some point, sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, the Hawkeye who is the POV will say "This looks bad." It's the first line in the series (pictured to the right, here.)

Midway through the third trade, L.A. Woman, and playing a few more games of "Spot the 'This Looks Bad,'" I realized something.

"This looks bad" is practically the mantra of a story.

At some point, whether it's the beginning, middle, or at the peak of the climax, there should be at least one moment where everything just looks bad. The hero falls towards the ground from far above survivable. The heroine finds the bloody knife in her bedroom. The couple's bridge of trust is seconds from collapsing. The walls of the trash compactor are getting closer. The bomb has a minute left.

It's that moment of seeming hopelessness. When the actions of the next few seconds or minutes make or break the entire rest of the story. And it doesn't have to be the climax, although that is the moment we tend to associate with things being just that bad. At the beginning, it's a hook. It draws you in and makes you wonder how the characters are going to get out of this. In the middle, it's a promise of trouble to come, keeping the reader moving. And at the climax, well, it's the climax. Everything we've been working towards is about to come together or fall apart

It's got to look bad. Where's the fun if it doesn't? Where's the tension?

Take a look at your works in progress. Where are your moments when the leads can pause the moment, look around and think, "Okay, this looks bad"? If you can't find one, why not? It might be that that's what's missing to bring the whole tale together. Find your "this looks bad" moments, and if you can't find 'em, add 'em, cause if things look bad, it's probably gonna be good.

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