“WRITING THE PLOT”
PART TWO

Welcome back. Last week we began to talk about putting together a plot. We’re using the plot for The New Titans #109.
Once again I want to thank Paul Levitz and Terri Cunningham at DC for giving me permission to print some of the plot pages here. The Titans plot and all the characters is © 2003 by DC Comics, all rights reserved.

What has gone before: Starfire, Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran, is putting herself through a Tamaranian ritual to re-discover herself. She thinks she’s doing it because the evil Raven has put a Trigon seed inside her, but, in truth, it’s because in pursuing Dick Grayson she has lost her true self, something she has yet to discover. Note, Dick never asked her to make any changes, but he, being more conservative than the alien and very emotional Starfire, has pulled away from her. Right or wrong, Dick could not accept Tamaranian morality and Kory, in trying to be something she wasn’t, namely human, violated everything that made her the person she is. Without acceptance and compromise on both sides, this relationship was doomed. Kory, perhaps realizing this even before Dick does, seeks to find the truth she has tried to bury.

In her dream quest, Kory has turned her sister, Komand’r, a person she has fought with numerous times, into her Tamaranian conscience. Note: At this point in the Titans continuity Komand’r has become the new Queen on Tamaran. Kory can’t accept this despite the fact that Komand’r has actually taken her job seriously. She understands who she is and has changed, which is more than Kory can say for herself. Using Komand’r as her Jimminy Cricket is Starfire’s subconscious way of dealing with the fact that her sister is no longer her enemy.

10: Kory tentatively gives Komand’r her hand to help her up and they are suddenly on Tamaran. They see her father and mother waving good-bye as the Gordanians take young Starfire away. Komand’r says this is when your world changed. Kory says you were the ones who told the Gordanians to take me. Komand’r smiles...of course. I hated you. But don’t you see the truth?--Look. Father, MYAND’R, is weak. Mother, LUAND’R, says to him how could you give up my daughter? Myand’r says to save our world. The Gordanians will leave us alone. The Citadel world who controls the Gordanians will not attack us. Luand’r says you’ve given my daughter for peace? You can’t trade in peace that way. She’s not the only one who’s become a slave. With that act we’re all slaves now. Standing before a very specific temple-like building, Komand’r turns to Kory--Father was weak...but it wasn’t always so. Look, she says, pointing off panel. Standing before the same temple, we see long wild-haired Tamaranians, in more barbaric costume, alien axes in hand, battling with Gordanians, dressed in more barbaric uniform. We are witnessing an early battle. Once, Komand’r says, we were a proud race--strong.

Obviously, since this is all taking place in Kory’s mind, we are seeing for the first time that she understands what her father had done was wrong. Up until now, Kory followed her father’s orders without question. She allowed herself to be tortured in his name, sold into slavery because of him, let herself be married because he insisted on it. She was born to believe in the infallibility of the King, but, obviously, deep inside she knew that was wrong. She knew she should have stood up to him. Is Myand’r, her father, a bad man? No. He did what he believed was right, and, as shown, his actions did bring peace to Tamaran. But Kory is finally coming into her own by questioning the concept of – does the end justify the means. Kory is struggling with this because she’s still having other people point this out to her in her dream, but she is realizing that ultimately she made her life the way it was. By standing up for what would have been right, even if it meant going against her father, her life would have been very different. This is an important discovery. To thine own self be true, but until now Kory never accepted that truth.

We move on.

11: Watching the above, Kory says we were warriors, but father led us into battle, to. He didn’t shirk. Komand’r says when he was young he was full of anger, full of emotion--as you were Kory, when you killed your Gordanian slavers and fled their ship--they stand for one panel on the flier from TITANS #1 in the scene where Kory is blasting a Gordanian to escape. Now they are back in the barbarian world. Komand’r continues her sentence as if they hadn’t gone ahead in time and into space...as if no time has gone by. Kory stares--she has no idea what happened, and will comment on her confusion. A great Tamaranian General sees a Gordanian grabbing his son--the Gordanian says one step forward and your son dies. The son stares in horror. The General says if I surrender you will take my next son and then the next. NO! I will fight so all may live. He throws the ax and it goes right through the Gordanian’s face. His blood spills over the frightened child. The child is young Myand’r, Kory’s father. At some point above the General will call his son by name, Kory will react in shock, and an all-knowing Komand’r smirks--her father was weak. His father never was.

Again, this is in Kory’s mind, in her dreams, so we have to assume Kory learned this from Tamaranian history.

nterestingly, because when I originally wrote this plot I didn’t realize it – but do now – I had used this same scene in showing the origin of the Terminator’s son, Jericho. Terrorists held Joe Wilson and threatened to cut his throat if his father didn’t do what they wanted. Slade Wilson, the Terminator, not being weak, attacked the terrorists. He killed them but in the process Joey’s throat was cut. Joey didn’t die but he lost the ability to speak.

It’s strange for me to see this now because I had two fathers react in completely different ways to the same scene, and that moment is the one that defined two different characters in two completely different ways. By the way, as many fans know, I like using puns for names. Koriand’r is the spicy member of the Titans, and her name comes from the spice, coriander. Komand’r was a villainess who at first led an army, and her name obviously comes from commander (thanks to Tony Tolin for that one). Kory and Kom’s father was weak-kneed and was always changing his mind. His name, Myand’r, comes from the word meander.

At this point in the plot Komand’r chides Kory for trying to be something she isn’t (remember, it’s actually Kory telling herself that). Kory and Komand’r fight. It seems like a standard comic book fight but since we know this is in Kory’s mind she’s fighting herself, still not wanting to believe that she’s responsible for what has happened to her. Her sister won’t let her pretend that she’s a strong warrior. Komand’r calls her weak because she gave into her father’s every demand no matter how unreasonable it was. It’s obvious Kory needs to reassure herself – she’s being battered emotionally as well as physically – so she brings Dick Grayson into her dream. Dick says he loves her. He says he needs her. But Kory now knows better. She can’t simply give herself to someone until she is herself. She can’t let anyone, Dick included, take anything else from her. She is, of course, imbuing Dick with the power her father had over her. She starts blasting away at the image of the man she loves, but he keeps telling her how much he loves her. Finally, she realizes the truth.
We go on:

18: Then she stops and turns. NO! She says. I love him. He doesn’t make me weak. He isn’t my enemy. YOU are. And she blasts at Komand’r who smiles and absorbs the blasts. Excellent, sister--recognizing your enemy is important. But I’m NOT your enemy, either. Komand’r begins to shimmer and change form. And she BECOMES KORY, but a dark, demonic version of Kory half with Kory’s face and half with Raven’s. HERE IS YOUR ENEMY. DESTROY IT! Kory unleashes bolts at evil Kory. Kory is wild, screaming at evil Kory who is being blasted to bits.

Finally, Kory accepts that old Pogo quote: We have met the enemy and he is us. Kory’s enemy is not her father who did what he thought was right, not Dick who reacted as per his own upbringing, but Kory herself.

In the middle of page 19 lets Komand’r have the last word: Komand’r smiles...a warm smile this time. You are right, sister...you are not evil. There is none of the Raven inside you. It has all been purged. If there was you would have killed yourself and you would have died in actuality. One does not need violence to become the warrior again. It is knowing when to fight and how to stand up for yourself that separates you from our father. He thought weakness would save us. It enslaved us. Violence would have destroyed us.

Kory has accepted that her sister is no longer the same person she used to be, and, at the same time, Kory herself changes. Accepting who she is, her dream quest is over…

21: Kory turns...Komand’r is gone. Kory is back in the cave. Her body is on the floor. Kory walks over to it dissolves into light which streams back into the unconscious Kory through her eyes, nose, mouth, etc. Just as in the beginning. PUSH IN on Kory’s eyes...they open now. Kory stands, weak. She stretches out an arm and tries to create a glow with her hand, but can’t. She looks up through the hole she came down through. Silent, she reaches and hoists herself up. She pulls herself up into the tunnel.

22: More. We see the anguish on her face, but she is not giving in. She continues to push up, up and up. The stone tears at her. We can see the pain she’s in. Let’s play the climbing scene for all it’s worth. Not short--not a panel or two, but show how hard the climb is. This is her final test. Can she re-enter our world and face the sun? She falters...it’s hard, but she presses on.

23: More of this...keep the pain going. Hand reaches over hand, grabbing rock, pulling herself straight up. This continues. Build her pain by showing her face contorted, stretching in horror and agony. She falls back when rock gives way under her hand, but she grabs a ledge and pulls herself up again. At last we see hands grasp the surface from inside the tunnel. She pulls herself up...slowly. I do think we need all these pages to show how hard it is.

24: Full page end splash. It is blinding daylight now. Let’s be a bit hokey: The sun is VERY LOW AND VERY LARGE AND ROUND...think the poster from Empire Of The Sun. Kory is a silhouette in front of it. She reaches up, her arms out, taking in the full sun here. She is well.

That’s it. I hope this shows not only the format I use to write a plot – by the way, every writer approaches this differently, so don’t worry about getting spacing exactly as I do it. I change my own approach depending on the moment.

What is important is to understand that a plot needs to be more than a series of actions. There needs to be a real story, a story that affects people, a story that is something more than the slugfest the plot seems to be about, or the monthly mission the characters appear to be on. Think about what affects the characters, what they care about, what might hurt them the most, then rub their faces in it. I used a very direct and not at all subtle method here, but I hope it was effective.
Keep the story moving quickly. Keep it moving visually. But keep it real.

We’re not done with plotting. Although many stories published today and in the past are plotless wonders, the plot is still the spine upon which everything rests. Plot discussion will continue.

See you in seven.
Marv Wolfman.

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