Story Concepts & Development for Novels, Comics, Games, Film and TV

When Preparation Meets Opportunity…

I had a unique opportunity drop into my lap, the one that led me to this very blog. An old friend from my comic book days asked me to come by for lunch because he needed a writer for a small project and was in a pinch. He told me about Namco’s upcoming game property, Alien Confidential, and how their company had been asked to produce a webcomic – in this case, more comic strip than comic book, in the vein of Sunday comic strips of old – and wanted to know if I could drum up three scripts for the Namco guys to look at. By 7:00pm that evening.

I have been a working writer for over seventeen years in comics, games, and film. And for those considering becoming writers yourselves, let me tell you… if you’re doing it right, it should never really get easy. Easy means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough; that you’re not digging deep enough.

I don’t consider myself a very fast writer, but Alien Confidential was a fascinating opportunity, and more importantly, I wanted to come through for my friend. So I usurped an empty cube at his office and got to work.

Now, I’d never written a comic strip before, and even when I was actively writing and publishing comic books, I was considered “wordy” by the various artists I worked with. (What can I say? I was never a fan of comics that took all of four minutes to read.) So I knew going in that these short scripts were going to be a challenge. And it was already 2:00pm.

The first one took two and a half hours. It was called “Scars”. The form was too long and the tone too heavy for the project, but just having a completed draft that I could go back to later and edit was comforting.

I took some time to do a little research on some of the more contemporary webcomics (strips) and then dug in to the second story entitled “Chatterbox”. This one was far shorter, with a funnier tone that harkened to more classic comic strips like the ones I used to read in the Sunday Funnies.

By now it was 4:45pm. Hm, not bad, I thought. Maybe I will actually pull this off.

I re-opened “Scars”. I knew it needed to be shorter and “lighter”, and as I dove back in I realized I could still use the original, stronger story elements as long as I juxtaposed them with funny content and visuals. That’s when my particular vision for Alien Confidential started coming together.

One hour left.

Finally, I started to write what was to become the first work actually produced on the project called “Who Shot First?” It started strong enough… but about 20 minutes in, I completely stalled out.

I knew I wanted to play on the pop reference of Han Solo and Greedo’s meeting in Star Wars by having a “bad guy” alien from Arash’s past confront him about the day he was captured by him – claiming Arash “cheated” when he shot first.

But in choosing that reference, I also knew I would have to deliver the “punchline” in an unexpected way. So, which way to play it? Had Arash actually shot first and been unapologetic about it? Was he innocent and being wrongly accused? Or was there another solution altogether? And how do I funny this one up?

If I remember right, it was only minutes before the deadline when I finally decided on my ending, created my pdfs, and emailed the scripts in to my friend in the next office over.

Thirty minutes later, he walked over and told me Namco “loved them”. And a week later, they gave the green light for more. I hadn’t let my friend down. Pretty cool.

Now, halfway through the writing of the first “season” of Alien Confidential, I seem to have found my stride, am moving along pretty comfortably, and am having a great f-ing time doing it.

It would’ve never happened if I hadn’t been willing to risk trying something out of my wheelhouse. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d given up halfway through.

The lesson of the day: Look for ways to dig deep, and never turn down an opportunity to challenge your vision for yourself.

Alien Confidential #1 Part 1

Alien Confidential #1 Part 2

 

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