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Writing a Superhero Story in a Non-Visual Medium

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Dec 25th 2010 at 8:24:57 AM

As far as entertainment goes, I've always preferred books over anything else. But I've just started reading Watchmen and I've wondered, can a superhero story be only confined to a comic book. I know the fact that comic books are visual-based help keep it in it's current medium, but can it work outside of it in books, something without art to back it up?

Anyway, I guess my question is: If you were righting a superhero story in a book, how would YOU go about doing it?

feotakahari Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Dec 25th 2010 at 1:44:07 PM

There's plenty of precedent to follow. Alternately, take the characters who're Not Wearing Tights and put them in tights.

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
RavenWilder Raven Wilder
Raven Wilder
Dec 25th 2010 at 3:45:49 PM

Making an exciting, over-the-top action scene using just prose can be difficult, though, but it is certainly doable. I recommend taking a look at The Dresden Files for superhero battles in everything but name.

"It takes an idiot to do cool things, that's why it's cool" - Haruhara Haruko
LizardBite Shameless Self-Promoter from Two Galaxies Over
Dec 26th 2010 at 3:20:37 PM

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a great book about superheroes and supervillains. I recommend you try it out.

EddieValiant,Jr. Not Quite Batman from under your bed.
Not Quite Batman
Jan 9th 2011 at 12:16:31 PM

[up][up] That's the thing, isn't it? A fight (moreso a super fight) is lightning-paced, visceral, savage.

They take creative wordsmithing to pull off effectively in non-graphic form.

"Religion isn't the cause of wars, it's the excuse." —Mycroft Next
zam Last Boy on Earth from Orlando, FL . Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
Last Boy on Earth
Jan 9th 2011 at 3:19:31 PM

[up]Difficult but some Fantasy novels pull it off.

All of time and space, anywhere and everywhere, any star that ever was. Where do you want to start?
Jan 10th 2011 at 5:23:30 PM

If you do a superhero story in prose, you need to focus on other things. Introspection, character dynamics, relationships, and sensory input during a fight, for example.

You can't just tell it straight because it's not supposed to.

Jan 11th 2011 at 7:35:45 AM

David Brin has said that this is the way to write an action scene. I like it, but the story it's part of is about hard, hard scifi. Superheroes are just a sidestep.

zam Last Boy on Earth from Orlando, FL . Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
Last Boy on Earth
Jan 11th 2011 at 3:15:57 PM

[up]That was awesome.

All of time and space, anywhere and everywhere, any star that ever was. Where do you want to start?
TomoeMichieru Samurai Troper from Huntsville AL
Samurai Troper
Jan 27th 2011 at 10:33:06 PM

This is good advice. I like novels over comics anyway,so I would much rather read a superhero novel than comic.

MoeDantes cuter, cuddlier Edmond from the Land of Classics
cuter, cuddlier Edmond
Jan 28th 2011 at 4:32:54 AM

To be honest I'm surprised this is even a question. It's not like there's never been literary heroes who do over-the-top things or have amazing powers.

Sun Wukong, Zorro, and Bilbo Baggins come to mind almost immediately.

(Not to mention that there are licensed superhero novels. The Death and Life of Superman is quite good).

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TeChameleon Irritable Reptilian from Alberta, Canada Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Irritable Reptilian
Jan 30th 2011 at 7:25:17 AM

Honestly, if you're writing a superhero novel, the only serious challenges that you encounter that you'd hit that you'd be unlikely to encounter in another genre are the sheer hyperkinetic vastness of the fight scenes. Let's face it; superheroes, almost by definition, dispense justice by bludgeoning the bad guy into submission. Whether that's a Kung Fu duel on the rooftops by moonlight or a brawl that devastates three city blocks and turns multiple skyscrapers to rubble, you have to block your fights as tightly as possible and use the most active language you can manage.

Aside from that, the more generalized rules of good writing (show, don't tell and the like) should be enough to get you by.

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