February Projects Update

Just getting it in before the month ends... That was cutting it close. Here goes!

Creating Comics! Class
  • Creating Comics! 6-8 is well underway. It's a small group of four very creative middle schoolers. I'll be showing some stuff from class here soon. I'm having a blast doing it.
  • Creating Comics! Scriptwriting for Comics and Graphic Novels will be offered again this Spring semester at the Newburyport Adult and Continuing Education Center. New course catalogs should go out soon.
Tears of the Dragon
  • A few updates to the Tears of the Dragon Production Website. More new content will be added soon.
  • Looks like it'll be another month before I'll know whether the first publisher I've submitted Tears to bites. Obviously, I hope they give it a chance. It's a story I'm dying to tell, and a publisher and a page rate makes that a whole lot easier. So fingers crossed, kids.

  • I've sent a killer submissions package to a publisher I think would be a great home for ICE: Interrogation Control Element. This weekend, I'm preparing packages for two more publishers who I believe would also be a good fit for ICE. So, it's the waiting game for now. However...
  • I just read How to Break a Terrorist by Matthew Alexander. It was a good, quick, and riveting read, that told the story of the interrogators who broke the prisoners in Iraq that directly lead to the killing of Zarqawi, Iraq's most dangerous terrorist. And, much like Trip Higgins in ICE, Matthew and his 'terps did it the right way. It will definitely further inform ICE as it develops.
Screenplay/Original Graphic Novel Project
  • This morning, I just started my third draft of my screenplay. I've had about 14 people read the script, and have received incredibly helpful feedback. I have a clear idea of where I need to take the script in this next draft, and I'm excited to remold it. This project has been an incredible journey. Regardless of what happens with it, on so many levels, it's been nothing but a blessing.
  • As I mentioned previously, rather than wait for some producer to "discover" my script from the haystack of 100,000+ screenplays written each year, I'm going to bring the script to life in the form of an original graphic novel...after I'm satisfied I've got the story right in screenplay form first. Since I'm still re-writing, I haven't done too much with the graphic novel side. However, I did do a bunch of character sheets. Here's a couple for you...
This is Gwen...It's my goal to make you absolutely love her. Haven't done it quite yet in the screenplay, but in this next re-write...that's when she comes into her own.

The boys...Love these characters. They lighten the tone of what begins as a rather dark comedy, and help define our protagonist.

Super Seed
  • The Blood Thinning storyline finishes up next week at the website. Don't miss it.

  • No word from iVerse Media on my submission package. According to their website, they say they reply within a week. That didn't happen, but I imagine they've been flooded with submissions.
  • I still need to finish my NYCC report! I have a bunch more pics and stuff to talk about from the show, but it's been a busy couple of weeks.
  • Looking to reserve table space at two shows in Boston...more details to come of course.

So, that's the wrap...and by the way, I just entered my THIRTIES. God that sounds weird to say. But you know what...I'm okay with today and looking forward to tomorrow, and as long as that's the case, what exactly does age matter?


Tears of the Dragon #15: Desktop Wallpaper

Just a heads up that some gorgeous Tears of the Dragon desktop wallpaper has been added to the Tears of the Dragon Production Blog. The direct link to the wallpaper is right here. Available in three screen sizes!

Art by Koko Amboro. Colors by Paul Little and Tyler James.


My Writing Process Part V: Structurally Sound

By now, we're practically BFFs. Look at all we've been through. We talked about The Great Idea, discussed how Research is Key, explored The Killer Pitch, and examined Characters That Make You Give A Damn. It's been a fun ride. Now it's time to start piecing this story together. Let's roll.

V. Structurally Sound

Last week I had a conversation with a friend who intends to write a novel. (I have no doubt that someday she certainly will.) I asked her how it was going. She told me she's gotten as far as creating the word document that will contain her prose, titled it, and saved it on her desktop. And that's as far as she's gotten. All she needs to do, she says, is force herself to sit down and write.

I told her that sitting down in front of that imposing, blank screen or sheet of paper (aka "The White Bull") is the last thing she needs to do if she truly wants to write that novel. You can't just sit down and turn keystrokes into gold. Hell, I can hardly write a birthday card without scratching out an outline of what I want to say and doing a first draft. To write a novel cold, without doing the other steps in the process that I've been writing about (developing your core idea, doing your research, working your pitch, fleshing out your characters) would surely lead to failure. Before you can start writing, you need to structure your story. Next week, I'll talk specifically about how I structure my stories. But first, what is structure?

McKee says "STRUCTURE is a selection of events from the characters' life stories that is composed into a strategic sequence to arouse specific emotions and to express a specific view of life." The key thing to take from McKee's definition is that you, as writer, need to be purposeful and deliberate about the events you choose to show in your story.

The basic model for story structure hasn't changed since the beginning of time. Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that all drama has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's all there is to the basic three act structure. Let's talk a little bit about each piece.

The Beginning

Beginnings are probably the easiest part of the whole screenplay. If you can't come up with an exciting opening scene or catchy premise to a story, you're probably going to have problems with the rest of the story. I mean, think of how many absolutely awful movies actually had decent opening scenes. (Want an example...Friday The 13th Part 9: Jason Goes to Hell. Netflix it for the first 5 minutes. Then throw it away. Great open, awful, awful movie.)

So, beginnings are easy, but don't be deceived. If you fail to nail a solid beginning, anything else you write will be a waste of time, because you're readers will put you down and turn on The Real World. Aristotle said beginnings should be about 25% of your story (and who am I to argue with him?) In that first 25%, you want to make sure you accomplish the following:
  • Establish the genre- It should be clear to the reader soon into your story just what kind of story this is. If it's a comedy, something funny better happen soon. If it's a horror, scare me early. Want a perfect example? SCREAM. The opening scene with Drew Barrymore is both funny and scary. Genre established and Wes Craven is once again "The Man."
  • Establish the situation- I need to know what this story is about, and I need to know it early. Make sure you cover your question words...show us who, what, when and where this story is all about. And do so in and interesting way. Otherwise, the reader will be scratching his head, wondering why he should care.
  • Really establish the main protagonist- You need to tell us who this story is about from the get go, and in almost all cases, there should only be one main protagonist. We already talked about creating strong characters. In the beginning, you need to let us know who he is, what is her status quo is, what he wants (and yes she needs to want something) and what's standing in his way (yes, there needs to be an obstacle to her goal.) Sorry if switching he pronouns in that last sentence made you dizzy.
  • Capture the readers attention- Oh, yeah, while you're setting all this stuff up, you also need to do it in an entertaining fashion that makes the reader want to keep turning the page. The best way to do this is to OPEN BIG. There's a reason that for years, every Marvel comic opened with a splash page. If the story was Spiderman vs. The Rhino, they'd be mid-fight on page one. Then they'd jump back in time to show you how they came to blows. But as soon as you open that comic book, it opens on action. Want another example...check out this opening scene of the movie Blade, starring Wesley Snipes. This entire scene happens in the first 5 pages of the screenplay. It sets the tone for the entire movie. (No surprise, it was the first Marvel movie to be a huge surprise box office hit.)

  • End the Beginning With a Turning Point- The beginning, middle and end really have nothing to do with page counts. Your beginning could be an issue, a few pages, or in some gag strips, a single panel. What's important is that there is a clearly definable moment in your story where it's no longer the beginning. Something happens to your character that shakes his or her status quo. Eliot finds E.T. Marty travels back in time. The beginning is over when a turning point takes place that throws your protagonists life out of whack. And yes, your story needs one of these.

The Middle

I said earlier that beginnings are easy, and I'm standing by it. The middle, this is where things can fall apart if you aren't careful. One of the best ways to think about the middle of your story is to picture a movie trailer...any movie trailer. Most of the scenes that you see in trailers are from the middle of the flick. When you're writing the middle of your story, make sure you're delivering on whatever promise you made in the trailer (even if the trailer is just in your head.) If you're writing an action story, the middle is where the asses are kicked and the stuff blows up. A romantic comedy? The middle is where most of the funny hijinx ensue and the couples face obstacle after obstacle in the way of their love.

The key to strong story middles, or second acts, lies in the conflict. "Nothing moves forward in a story accept through conflict," according to Robert McKee. Some things to keep in mind when writing your middles:
  • The Conflict Should Always Be Rising - You need to have a little sadist in you to be a good writer. Yes, you need to love your characters and spend the time to flesh them out and bring them to life. But then, you have to put your characters through the ringer. Whatever it is in the beginning of your story that shakes up your character's world and changes his or her status quo should only be the beginning of the obstacles he or she will face. Things need to get worse before they get better for your character...that's how you'll keep your audience interested.
  • Conflict Should Be On Multiple Levels - It's not enough these days for your character to want a MacGuffin and have to overcome obstacle A, B, C, and D before he gets it. Audiences and readers want more. Your character should be facing both external and internal conflict throughout your story's middle. Take Jerry McGuire, for instance. The movie puts Jerry on a dual quest to save both his career (external conflict) and allow himself to truly love and be intimate (internal conflict.) Either one of those stories on their own would not have been enough to capture the hearts of audiences.
  • Your Protagonist Needs to Act - A lot of things are going to happen in your story, many of which will be out of your protagonist's control. For example, Jack had nothing to do with the damn boat hitting the iceberg in Titanic. Still, he didn't just sit back and resign himself to sinking with the boat. No, he did everything possible to save Rose, up until the very end. As readers, we root for characters who take action. (This is usually because we admire them, being too much the chicken shit to ask out the hottie at the coffee shop or tell the boss exactly how we feel.) Make sure that things aren't just happening to your characters, but that they are reacting to the events around them.
  • End the Middle with the Crisis- Just as the beginning transitions to the middle through a turning point, so too must the middle to the end. And this turning point should be the crisis...a point at which there is no turning back. This should be pretty much the biggest obstacle or challenge your protagonist will face. The Titanic Sinks. The Bomb goes off. Jerry is dumped by his wife and his only client, Rod Tidwell, appears to injure himself. Crisis.

The End

Endings may be the toughest part of writing a story. In a lot of ways, the ending is how your work will be remembered. Solid endings turn good movies into great movies (The Sixth Sense.) Lousy endings can turn decent movies into bad movies (Signs.) Come on? Water? The aliens are allergic to water? And they decided to come to Earth? Is that all you got, M. Night?

But back to the endings. Yes, they are tough, mostly because, if you do your job right, your audience is going to be trying to anticipate how your story will play out prior to the ending. Make the ending too obvious and too easy and they'll feel cheated. Make the ending too surprising and unexpected and it will feel false. Yes, endings are difficult. Here are some tips to make writing them a bit easier.
  • Know your ending before you start writing- You're characters will not reveal to you what the ending will be as you write. That's not their job. To have a strong, conclusive, resolute ending, you need to know it from the beginning of your story. Otherwise, you will not lay the groundwork throughout. You don't start a roadtrip without knowing your destination. You don't build a building without having a blueprint of exactly what the finished structure will look like. Why should writing be any different?
  • Good Stories are Always Resolved - Don't get too cute with your endings. In the set-up, you should have established an interesting character with strong and clear internal needs and external goals. In the end, you need to clearly show whether or not they have addressed those needs and achieved those goals. It's okay if your hero loses. It's fine if he wins. It's not okay if it's a draw.
  • Leave no loose ends - Everything in your story should be wrapped up dramatically, and this goes not only for your main character but for your supporting characters. All the questions you've raised should be answered and all the predicaments you've placed your characters into should be resolved. Don't keep your audience guessing, unless there's a sequel coming soon. Cliffhangers do have their place in serialized storytelling, but when your story is done, you should be able to put a fork in it.

And there you have it. Basic three act structure. Every good story ever told has these three elements. It's just the way stories work. So before you start writing, you really need to work through your beginning, middle and end. Next week, I'll tell you how I attack my beginning, middle and end, beat by beat.

Next: VI. Beat It


Tears of the Dragon #14: Characters!

A new CHARACTERS page has been added to the Tears of the Dragon Production Blog. Get your first glimpse of 10 of the main characters featured in this epic fantasy tale.

Detailed character descriptions still need to be added, and will be in the coming weeks.

For now, hope you enjoy checking out the character designs by Koko Amboro, with colors by Paul Little.


New York Comic Con #3: Friday Professional Hours Report

Hey there.

So, I'm back from the New York Comic Con (and have been since Sunday) but a weekend in NYC can take it's toll on ya, for sure. Still, it's high time I reported on my con experience. So here it goes...

I got into New York City late Thursday night, courtesy of Greyhound's Bolt Bus service (which is lovely.) I entertained myself on the bus ride by reading the screenplay to There's Something About Mary, which is nearly as funny on the page as it was in the theaters. (Want a laugh, you can read it here.) I subwayed it over to my friends Leo and Vanessa's place in Manhattan, and found Vanessa busily gluing gems to wedding invitations. Considering I'll be flying out to Las Vegas in 7 days for Leo's bachelor party, and then flying to Orlando three weeks later for the wedding, I didn't feel bad in the least for having them put me up on their pull-out for the weekend.


Conveniently, the Jacob Javits Center was only about a fifteen minute walk from Leo's place. I got there bright and early, only to find a MASSIVE line of people. And yup, that was just the professional's line. I stepped into the very end of that long line around 10 am, and wondered if I'd make it into the show before 1pm when it was open to the general public. Luckily, shortly after getting in line, they opened up a few more ticket distribution centers. I got my badge and entered the con shortly after 10:30.


Now, when I walked in, there were still plenty of booths setting up, but still a ton going on. And given that these were just professional hours, there were no lines for anything. You could play the video games, grab the free swag, and talk to pretty much any creator you wanted who was there. It was awesome. Of course, my first order of business was getting my picture taken with these naughty nurses. (In my defense, I felt a cold coming on and thought perhaps they could be of assistance.)


I then made my way over to the Marvel booth, and saw they had a green screen set up to get your picture taken as a Marvel hero. One of the kids in my Creating Comics Class is a big Iron Man fan, so it was a no brainer that I'd step into the role of Tony Stark. The suit fit pretty well.


I then went over to the the gaming section, figuring this would be my only chance to check out what they had to offer, before the crowds swelled and it'd be impossible to play anything. I was particularly interested in checking out the DCU Online MMO that's been in the works for years now. It'll be available only on PC and PS3, and the game looks great. Here's a shot of the game, where you take your generic super hero up against a pissed off Doomsday. Superman comes over and helps you take down the big villain.


I then made my way over to artists' alley, where I got the chance to talk to a few artist and check out some other their stuff. I had fun looking at some of Jimmy Cheung (Young Avengers) stuff, and was blown away by the work of Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir.) I took a few pictures of some artists as they were sketching.


Mark Texiera knocking out a Wolverine commission.


Carlos Magno drawing Batman.


Todd Nauck posing while sketching.

Not surprisingly, those professional hours flew by. I did manage to track down Zuda Comic's submission editor Kwanza Johnson, over by the Zuda booth. I was able to thank Kwanza for giving Super Seed a shot in the April 2008 competition. I reminded him that Tears of the Dragon was in the submission pool looking for a chance, and showed him the pin-up I had printed. While my folder was open, he seemed very intrigued by ICE as well, and a strong response from ICE would be a recurring theme throughout the rest of the con.

Before I knew it, it was 1pm. The floodgates were open and the con was open to the public. More on the rest of the con to come...


New York Comic Con #2 - Panels Galore

Alright, the New York Comic Con 2009 is kicks off in less than two days! I've got my bus ticket to the Big Apple, my prints printed, and have started packing my bags. I already wrote about my goals for the con, but I wanted to talk a bit about some of the panels I'm looking forward to checking out. Here are some:

Teaching Comics

Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, instructors at the School of Visual Arts and creators of the comic textbook Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, talk about how to use comics in the classroom in this presentation aimed at English and Art teachers. Discussing techniques for reading and analyzing comics as well as creating them, Jessica and Matt will lead teachers to a better understanding of the comic medium that will empower them to make use of comics in new and exciting ways.

Friday, 2:00- 3:00 PM, 1A23

The Business of Webcomics! LIVE!

Watch PVP Online's Scott Kurtz take thematic suggestions from the crowd as he, on stage, creates a brand new online property while Penny Arcade's Robert Khoo simultaneously turns these concepts into monetizeable business models. Take notes!

Friday, 3:15- 4:15 PM, 1A21

Comics To TV Shows

Graffiti, published by 803 Studios and written by Steven Prouse, Coin Operated Boy, published by Arcana Studios and also written by Steven Prouse, and Kindergoth, published by Bloodfire Studios written by Lee Kohse, will all soon be adapted into television shows. Hear from Producers David Uslan, Tommy Lynch, and Jeff Hyman and writers Steven Prouse and Lee Kohse about what it takes to turn a comic into a TV show!

Friday, 4:30- 5:30 PM, 1A07

NYCC Classes: Creator Connections

Meet your next creative partner in this fun, interactive networking session. Many indie titles and careers have been launched through this panel. Be sure to bring business cards and samples of your work. Hosted by Buddy Scalera and Jarrett Alexander.

Saturday, 2:45- 4:15 PM, 1A15


Tears of the Dragon #13: A Taste of the Screenplay

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've recently started getting into screenwriting. Sure, I've had some limited experience writing for film in the past, most notably writing and directing a short film while taking a summer production workshop at the University of Southern California in 2002. It was a lot of fun, but something I never really pursued.

Since I've been pushing myself to structure my comic book stories in such a way that they could conceivably work well on film, it only makes sense to get into screenwriting for real. As it turns out, most of the great books on writing craft are focused on screenwriting. Almost everything I've read is applicable to comics as well, so I'm really enjoying taking the time to study up on craft.

I've already finished a feature length screenplay, and am in-between the second and third drafts. Needing to get a little bit of distance from that work before hacking back into it, I've decided to do a first draft of my comic Tears of the Dragon in screenplay form.

I'm finding that telling the story in multiple ways (as a treatment, as a comic book script, orally, and in screenplay form) enables me to push the story further. I know that writing Tears of the Dragon as a screenplay is going to make the comic better. And believe me, I have extremely high expectations for the the comic.

Now, I'm only about 1/4 into the first draft of the TOTD screenplay, but I'm having so much fun writing, I wanted to share a bit on this blog. Here are the first 4 and 1/2 pages of the script.

As always, comments and crits appreciated.




The forest grows dark as the sun sets. An OLD MAN and his
two grandchildren, CALLUM, 10, and CAYLA, 8, walk on a path
through the woods.

The Old Man stops.

Hold now, my little rabbits! The
sun's a settin'. We best stop here
and continue on tomorrow. Callum,
fetch some kindling. Cayla, my
dove, clear us a place to lay our

Eager to please, the young children hurry to the task.

Yes, sir.


The old man rests his weary frame on a tree stump, smoking a pipe. The girl, Cayla, places vittles out on a neatly arranged mat on the forest floor.

The boy, Callum, returns, bearing as much wood as the lad

can carry.

Will this be enough, Grandfather?

I should think so. Good little
workers, the both of you.

The old man lights a spark from a piece of flint, setting a
fire ablaze, as the children sit on the mat and eat their meal.


Yes, dear?

Will you tell us a story before we

Yes, please! One of your legendary
war stories!

Or a love story. How you and
grandmother met, perhaps?

The old man rises in front of the fire, a twinkle in his
eye, as the two children look fondly on a man they love, but don't feel they truly know.

A story you say? Hmmm. I suppose I
know a tale might be appropriate.

The old man takes a puff from his pipe.


Ahem. Where to begin. I suppose I
shall start...


Two magnificient dragons fly through the sky. The larger dragon, SYTHIC, is grey and muscular. Sythic chases METTAI,whose soft green tone and more rounded features make her feminine, and somehow even beautiful.

...the dragons!

The dragons chase each other back and forth through the sky like children playing tag.

Once upon a dream, in the last days
of the reign of King Heldemort,
there lived two dragons.

The dragons land on a mountain side, Mettai nuzzling up to

They were in love.

In love?



Callum scowls.

Dragons can't be in love!
Grandfather, tell us a real story.

The Old Man dismisses the boy with a wave of his hand.

Bah! What do you know of love, boy?
Let a hair sprout from your chest,
or a bit of timber enter your voice
before you try telling me 'bout

He takes a drag from his pipe and teases-

Now, shall I continue my tale, or
has a long day's march made ye both
ripe for slumber?

Continue! Continue!

Callum folds his arms.

Sorry, sir. Please continue.
But I still don't believe you about
the dragons.

My children, the tales you've heard
of dragons haven't done them
justice. Of all the creatures ever
to walk this land, only one other
comes to mind whose passion can
rival that of the dragon.

The old man gestures with his hands, and the flames from the firelight cast a shadow in the shape of a dragon.

You see, a dragon's love burns
hotter than a thousand suns. And so
too a dragon's hate.

And the other creature, Grandfather?


Commoners toil in the fields, a magestic castle off in the distance. A teenage boy chases a teenage girl through the fields, irking one of the laborers.

Why, Man, of course.

The girl runs through the fields, looking back at the boy, not far behind her. She loves being chased.

Since the Great Dragon Purge,
dragons have been scarce in this

The boy continues his pursuit, loving the chase even more.

What few remained were solitary
creatures, ever vigilant of hunters
and trophy seekers.

The girl trips on a stump and tumbles. The boy pounces on her and they laugh and giggle with one another as only first loves can. The boy slides in for a kiss, but the the girl's eyes widen.

But not Sythic and Mettai.

The girl points up and the boy looks.

High in the sky, Sythic and Mettai pursue each other once more.

Like all young lovers, the dragons
saw the sun rise and set in each
other's eyes. The rest of the world
mattered not.