todaysviews WEBLOG
EMAIL MARV
FIND MARV ON
FACEBOOK
TWITTER

FRONT PAGE
SECRETS OF THE TEEN TITANS
MIGHTY MITES
MAN CALLED AX
SCRIPTS FOR SALE 
OFFICE TOUR
WHAT TH--?
PUPPY FOTOS
VACATION PHOTOS
PUBLICITY PHOTOS
TODAYS VIEWS ARCHIVES DEC 2002-DEC 2008   
NOEL WOLFMAN’S CLOTH DOLL PATTERNS
NOEL WOLFMAN’S BLOG

Buying anything on AMAZON? Please go through this link and we get a rebate from every purchase.
Search Amazon:




todaysviews/todaysviews.htmltodaysviews/todaysviews.htmlmailto:marv@marvwolfman.com?subject=email%20subjecthttp://facebook.com/marv.wolfmanhttp://twitter.com/marvwolfmanhttp://www.marvwolfman.com/todaysviews.htmlfrontpage.htmlSECRETS_OF_THE_TEEN_TITANS.htmlSECRETS_OF_THE_TEEN_TITANS.htmlSECRETS_OF_THE_TEEN_TITANS.htmlMIGHTY_MITES.htmlMAN_CALLED_AX.htmlhttp://www.marvwolfman.com/ax.htmlSCRIPTS_FOR_SALE.htmlSCRIPTS_FOR_SALE.htmlOFFICE_TOUR.htmlWHAT_TH-.htmlPUPPY_FOTOS.htmlhttp://web.me.com/marvwolfman/Wolfmania_Vacations/Athens,_April_2009.htmlhttp://web.me.com/marvwolfman/Wolfmania_Vacations/Athens,_April_2009.htmlPUBLICITY_PHOTOS.htmlPUBLICITY_PHOTOS.htmlhttp://marvwolfman.com/Todaysviews%20Archives.htmlhttp://marvwolfman.com/Todaysviews%20Archives.htmlhttp://marvwolfman.com/Todaysviews%20Archives.htmlhttp://www.clothdollpatterns.com/http://www.clothdollpatterns.com/http://www.clothdollpatterns.com/http://www.clothdollpatterns.com/http://clothdollpatterns.blogspot.com/http://clothdollpatterns.blogspot.com/http://clothdollpatterns.blogspot.com/http://www.amazon.com/?&tag=marvwolfmanco-20&camp=211041&creative=374001&linkCode=qs1&adid=0AMYH5C5HM2HF2M2JDC9&http://www.heroinitiative.org/http://web.me.com/marvwolfman/Wolfmania_Vacations/Athens,_April_2009.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0shapeimage_1_link_1shapeimage_1_link_2shapeimage_1_link_3shapeimage_1_link_4shapeimage_1_link_5shapeimage_1_link_6shapeimage_1_link_7shapeimage_1_link_8shapeimage_1_link_9shapeimage_1_link_10shapeimage_1_link_11shapeimage_1_link_12shapeimage_1_link_13shapeimage_1_link_14shapeimage_1_link_15shapeimage_1_link_16shapeimage_1_link_17shapeimage_1_link_18shapeimage_1_link_19shapeimage_1_link_20shapeimage_1_link_21shapeimage_1_link_22shapeimage_1_link_23shapeimage_1_link_24shapeimage_1_link_25shapeimage_1_link_26shapeimage_1_link_27shapeimage_1_link_28shapeimage_1_link_29shapeimage_1_link_30shapeimage_1_link_31shapeimage_1_link_32

SPEAKING WITH… STEVE GRANT!
Part Two

When I set out to have an interview section in “What Th--?” I decided from the beginning that I didn’t want to ask the kind of questions I get asked at least once a month, every month. As a writer, I wanted to see how other writers think, about their work, about their process, about their craft. I thought this was a way A: I could possibly help new writers learn from those who have been doing it, and B: help myself. Every writer needs to be occasionally reminded about the A.B.C.’s of what they do every day. Speaking to other writers could, I hope, help me improve.

To that end, I needed to target my questions to force craft-oriented responses. Craft is what one needs to know from the inside out, especially on those dismal days when that spark of inspiration is snuffed out before you even see its smoke. Craft is like The Force: It guides you. Shows you the way.

Those who know craft tend to be around for more than a year or two. Those who don’t, who can only write or draw when inspiration strikes, tend to shine brightly for a brief time and then are rarely seen again.

If you read the first part of this interview you know that Steven knows craft. Better, he knows how to explain it. 

Settle back in you chair. Move your monitor up close and enjoy. Here is Speaking With… Steven Grant, part two:

Marv Wolfman: HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE WHEN A STORY ISN’T WORKING AND WHAT DO YOU DO TO FIX THE PROBLEMS?

Steven Grant: Depends how much time you've got. In a lot of cases you can't really fix the problem without screwing everyone else on a comic up, so you soldier on and hope for the best. (And some stories -- I won't tell you which they were -- that I'd thought while writing them were just godawful messes, were raved up by the editors and praised by readers. And I look at them and I STILL see the problems.)

Sometimes, I reboot the story from scratch and try again, sometimes I dissect it to see what's missing or what's bogging it down, and I try to add or subtract elements to deal with it. But most of the time the stories that deadlock are the ones that have in one way or another been fed to me, or something I'm doing as a favor for an editor, and what it really comes down to is I don't believe in it, or in the characters as positioned, and if I don't believe in it I don't see how the reader will. It's when the story doesn't interest me or excite me, when it doesn't feel credible.

It's a problem with the pitch system, sometimes you end up with stories that please the editor but when you leave the room you really don't want to do them. In those situations you either throw it out and start over or, if the editor really digs the story no matter what you point up as problems (I've said of many editors that you can tell they really love ideas because when they finally get their hands on one they refuse to let go of it) then your only choices are to finish it up or turn it over to someone else to finish. The latter can be tantamount to career suicide, since editors don't like to be told either that their tastes suck or that there are stories you aren't willing or aren't capable of writing, since we're supposed to be able to write anything at the drop of a hat.

MW: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FIRST DRAFT AND FUTURE DRAFTS?

SG: I work on computer so I work piecemeal. I don't do Draft 1, Draft 2, etc, I bounce all over the place and fix up little things here, or go back and add foreshadowing there, or whatever. So there is, ultimately, only one true draft unless an editor asks for a rewrite. In an average story, I'd say there are 30 or 40 microdrafts, and they get changed as the story makes its demands.

MW: HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CREATING A CHARACTER?

SG: Again, it varies. I find it hard to draw a boundary between character and story. Characters only really exist in stories for me. So I find out about my characters by writing them. I don't often concern myself with physical characteristics unless they have some specific effect on story, I'm more interested in psychological details. You figure out what a character is, then you work back to what made them that way. When I created Whisper, for instance, I knew what she had to be in terms of the story: young but not too young, she had to be someone who knew how to fight but not really, someone who was good at making it up as she went along even if she wasn't aware she was good at that. You start with that core then start working things backward and forward: HOW would she be good at fighting and why? That sort of thing.

Then you get the circumstances of her life -- her family lived in Japan when she was young, her father died and her mother remarried to his Japanese business partner, she had mild polio when she was young and her stepfather trained her in martial arts to strengthen her legs, etc. Then you move that forward to figure out how all that affects her attitudes now, and what happened in the meantime, etc. But that's not a character, that's the outline of a character. You only get a character when they play through a story.

In BADLANDS, I started with one line: a story set in 1963 about the man who really shot John Kennedy. Okay, so that automatically defines certain characteristics. Either the character is a cold-blooded assassin or he's a dupe. I thought dupe was more interesting and offered more possibilities. So the main character's a dupe, which says certain things about him, starting with he's probably not the sharpest tack on the board. And if you draw a conspiracy around the Kennedy killing (I'd read tons about Oswald and the assassination so I had a rough framework going in) he's got to be someone who could be on the fringes of such a conspiracy, without really being aware of it. So that suggests other directions: is he connected to big oil, the CIA/anti-Castro Cubans, organized crime?

You make decisions based on what works best for your story. Because story is character and character is story, really. The story will tell you what character(s) you need, and once created the character(s) will tell you what their story is. They evolve together, there's no separating them.

I really don't think what they teach in screenwriting classes, about making character charts and all that, is very useful. It makes for cookie cutter characters.

MW: WHAT MAKES A STORY?

SG: The ending makes the story. As I said, you don't really know what a story is about until you see how it ends. Endings can change everything. (Just ask Al Feldstein.) A lot of the problem with thinking in terms of character/plot/story/theme is that I don't think it's really something a writer should do, certainly not with character/plot/story. It's the job of critics to come along afterward and sort those things out, and we've all been trained to think in those terms to anticipate critical response and to some extent manipulate it. But that doesn't necessarily make for better stories.

The only element I think is really useful for a writer to consider is theme, which is the idea you want to get across. And theme is the element most alien to comics. But I've always been most interested in theme. WHISPER is built on the theme of betrayal, that betrayal is the true nature of existence and everyone does it in big or little ways whether they intend to or not. I don't think there's anywhere in the series I come out and state the theme, but if you got back and read them you'll see the theme permeates it. Theme is the important element because it's what truly defines the story, it's the hanger you hang a story on, it's the point you're trying to make. Everything about a story should ultimately lead us to its theme.

On the other hand, sometimes you don't know what your real theme is when you start a story. You think it's about one thing and in writing it you realize it's about something else entirely. You have to be ready to let the story tell you what your theme really is. You only hurt yourself if you're doctrinaire about these things.

MW: HOW DO YOU PITCH AN IDEA TO AN EDITOR / STORY-EDITOR / PRODUCER?

SG: Man, I'm the wrong person to ask. I hate pitching. It's antithetical to the way I work. My idea of a great pitch is to give the editor/producer as little information as possible, so that I'm locked into as little as possible, because it's been my experience that editors in particular (though I have worked with a few producers) latch onto specific things and it gets hard to shake them onto better ideas when one comes up in the process of writing. Producers tend to be easier to deal with in that regard because you can woo them with big picture ideas, but you pay for it in the long run because they commonly throw away the first script they get and hire someone else to transform your idea into their idea. It's gotten to the point where many of them do it as a matter of course. But I'd say briefly is the best way to pitch: get the basic concept of the story on the table as quickly as possible. If the basic idea's good enough and they trust you to some extent you probably don't have to go much further.

A lot of it's a matter of trust, the less trust they have in you the more you'll probably be required to fill in to satisfy them. Working with established ideas means you have to fit your story to the character(s) in question and quickly demonstrate that a) you grasp the essence of the character(s) and b) you have a sufficiently original take on them that doesn't upset any apple carts. (Unless you've been asked to upset apple carts, of course.)

Pitching an original idea is easier in that regard because there are no preconceptions, but that makes it harder as well because in both comics and media there's a strong emphasis on "original but familiar." The thing to remember about pitching in any case is that it's marketing, not creative. Which is what I hate most about it: you're almost shooting yourself in the foot by concerning yourself with marketing from the start. I've always thought that was the wrong way to go. Most publishers, producers and bankers don't seem to agree with me. Given my druthers, I'd rather write up everything first, dump in in their laps and say, "Here, read it. That's your story." It's not a great way to get work.

MW: HOW DO NEW WRITERS GET THE ATTENTION OF STORY EDITORS, PRODUCERS, ETC?

SG: Write well, come up with ideas that no one else has thought of -- they're out there, they're what I call "almost obvious" ideas -- and keep pushing (pleasantly). Get published or produced anywhere you can that'll give you something you can show for it at the end, even if there's little or no money involved. Keep writing while you're suffering through the rejection. The real answer to this question is: any way you can.

MW: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO WHEN WRITING IN OTHER PEOPLE’S UNIVERSES?

SG: Survive it, mainly. The fact is that when I work in other people's universes, it's for the money. Other than that, my goals aren't much different from when I'm working on my own stuff: try to make it interesting, try not to screw it up. It's a myth that you have to have a deep abiding love for a character or property to write it well, in most cases you can sort of what makes something work even if you don't particularly respond to it.

I wrote a couple GI JOEs back at Marvel in the '80s, for instance. I hate GI JOE, think it's the epitome of inane. But I had to pay the rent and that was what was offered to me. So I wrote them. In both stories I played the Joes as pretty much total screwups, but focused on the specific characters I was dealing with at the time, and I tried to treat the characters as fairly and creatively as possible, despite the overall storyline. And I still have GI JOE fans walk up to me at conventions and tell me how much they loved those issues.

I think you have to view other people's characters as people and treat them like they're real people. You have to take them seriously. Like, for instance, Batman. I don't have to take Batman seriously right now, and I don't. I don't have to take comics in general seriously right this instant. But when I writing them I have to take them seriously. If there's one thing that really burns me, it's writers who go online or to conventions or whatever and brag about how they never take comics seriously. Which means they're either lying or stupid. Because you have to take what you do seriously WHILE YOU'RE DOING IT to do it well. I don't mean you have to be humorless, but you have to take your work seriously.

MW: WHEN YOU ARE IN CHARGE AND OTHER WRITERS EVER WRITE YOUR CHARACTERS (NOVELIZATIONS, TV SHOWS, COMICS, ETC.) WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR AS THE EDITOR AS WELL AS THE CREATOR?

SG: I don't think I've ever been in that situation. I generally don't let other people write the characters I create. I generally don't read what people do with work-for-hire characters I've done after I've left them behind. If I were in that situation, I'd probably just want them to do what I'd do for them if the situations were reversed: don't screw anything up, make it interesting, take it seriously.

MW: HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP UP FRONT WITH YOUR EDITOR, STORY-EDITOR, PRODUCER, THE WRITERS WHO WORK UNDER YOU?

SG: I like to think we approach each other with mutual respect. If it's their/the company's book, my feeling is they get to call the shots, within reason. So I'd say my relationship with editors is generally cooperative. On their books, I'm a hired gun, I'm there to get the job done. On the other hand, on books/properties I create, they're my creations and I feel that give me the right to call the shots, and in that case THEY'RE there to get the job done. So that's the give and take I ask for. If it's yours, you get to tell me what to do. If it's mine, I get to tell you what to do. And presumably even in the former case I've been hired because the editor has some belief I know what I'm doing. I don't take micromanagement or inflexibility well. I generally won't walk out in the middle of a project, though I have done that once or twice, but those are signals to finish the project as best as possible and head for higher ground.

MW: WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL ADVICE TO WRITERS AND WOULD-BE WRITERS?

SG: Writing professionally is like tightrope walking without a net. The one thing to remember is don't look down.

I’d like to thank Steven Grant for all his answers and for helping me start off this column exactly as I hoped it would go; concentrating on the craft of writing rather than what we’re currently producing.

You can read Steven’s opinions every week in “PERMANENT DAMAGE.” It is strongly recommended for anyone who wants to get past all the standard operating B.S. and read thoughtful and extremely well-written essays. (http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/?column=10). Tell ‘em Marv sent you.

See you in seven.

 
Speaking_With_STeve_Grant_Part_One.html

WHAT TH--? HOME PAGE

Who_Is_Reading_This_Stuff,_Anyway.html
NEXT PAGEWho_Is_Reading_This_Stuff,_Anyway.html