graphic novels

Case Study – Professional Writing

Years later, after already being lied to by financial aid, I soon discovered the head of the professional writing department resigned from his duties due to being charged with sexual assault. Apparently, this had been going on for thirty plus years, with multiple accusers, and they failed to mention it in the brochure. It makes for an intriguing conversation starter, but what exactly does professional writing look like?

First, my “writing career” has gone in variety of directions. I wrote award winning short stories while in school. I spent a decade getting articles and reviews published in over a dozen publications. I earned a bit of change as a freelance writer. I even did work as a ghost writer. I made some money, so that makes me a pro, right?

I’ve written detailed essays on retroviruses, award winning poetry, and scripts for television, commercials, game shows, graphic novels, comic strips and even an award winning indie film. On the creative side of things, I also managed to write and self-pub a novel that hit #12 on Amazon. Cool, cool.

I believe the problem with my writing career is just that: for years I played the role of professional writer. Such a generic term. Think on this. On top of everything I’ve listed, I also wrote business plans, marketing plans, press releases, training manuals, legal reports, and code for databases. In fact, I’ve now studied VBA, MySQL, HTML, JavaScript, and Python. Did I mention I’ve also written songs? And I don’t even remember the hundreds of other things I’ve tinkered with.

In one sense, it’s great that writing can be transferred to a number of incredible occupations. I’ve even done copy editing, proof reading and developmental editing. On top of video editing! Yes, the ability to communicate is an essential skill. However, did you see the problem? I sure did. I guess I had been blind to it for far too long.

Yep. Jack of all trades but master of none. Consistently distracted, continually learning, but never coming to a place of sheer satisfaction. And that’s the interesting thing about this case study. Despite the successes, all I hear is the sound of failure.

For a long time I lived life as a conquered of molehills. I hear someone exclaim, “I do sales!” So I go and spend two years, win eight awards, and master the art of sales. Then another guy shouts, “I am a graphic designer!” And I charge into battle, designing 180+ billboards. Then another guy says, “I’m a beast at customer service.” Oh yeah. Well I have six awards and a handful of employee of the year awards at various companies! And that’s how I went about life. Hilltop to hilltop. Conquest to conquest. A pile of worthless rewards and a burned out attitude lacking much passion.

Yeah, I went about writing that way too. Ghost writer, technical writer, copy writer, copy editing, proof reader, marketing, business, publication relations, coding, film, poetry, novels, manga…well, you get the picture I suspect. When you continually hop from discipline to discipline, it’s difficult to mature, to grow, to come to any sort of sophisticated level of understanding.

The haze began to clear when I finished my graphic novel script. It was the proudest I have been of my writing for years. I started to think: man, writing manga, writing novels…those are things I genuinely love. Not so much film or technical writing or any host of things I had worked on. Sure, I could do those things. But I didn’t have the passion for them like manga and novels.

Then I had a talk with a bigwig at a company. A guy who had significant military and business experience. He pointed out my main weakness, perhaps my only weakness, had always been focus. I could do anything…but I lived life like I had something to prove. And I needed to prove it to anybody and everybody. It’s true. I grew up in abusive home. I guess I always felt like the underdog in every situation. When in reality, I need to stop, consider, and focus on on the things I’m truly passionate about. Then set out to master those things.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have hobbies. Martial Arts. Guitar & Piano. Learning foreign languages and gardening. Working out. Fantasy Football. Reading. Gaming. But when it comes to passion, what four things would I narrow it down to?

Well, writing, of course, is number one. I don’t care if I’m never famous. I love it. And I want to focus on manga and novels and maybe a video game one day.

Problem solving is number two. I love investigations. I also love math and data. Teaching is number three. With critical thinking and creative freedom tied at four.

Where does that leave me? Well, I love data analytics and want to master data science. I love investigative/intelligence analyst, and want to continue to master it and possibly teach it. And if I can master the art of being an author, I believe I will accomplish a portion of what I was created to do.

To me, loving what I do will always be more important than the amount of money I make or fame I incur. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll hear those words one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Well, I can hope at least. In the meantime, here’s to being a master of a handful of skill sets as opposed to being a jack of all trades.

Pushing Limits

Part 1 of 2

A Game of Balances…

 

Are video games an art form?  The question is sure to stir up debate and needless strife.  I wish to avoid such banter and get right down to the real issue that is often overlooked: interactive storytelling is our generation’s new medium of writing.  And like films were in the 1920’s, storytelling in games is still very much in its infancy.

Novels may forever be the greatest medium for telling stories.  It not only narrows the cooks allowed in the kitchen to one, but gives something no other medium can: a look into the minds of the characters.  Film, television, and plays can be flashier, absolutely.  They consist of moving pictures and sound.  However, what you cast on a screen or place on a stage will never equal a person’s imagination.  Nor is there a way to film a character’s thoughts.

Graphic novels and comic strips are a hybrid of sorts.  They present still pictures and thought bubbles; bridging the gap between novel and film.  Albeit, a bridge with flimsy construction.  The art form also dates back to Egyptian hieroglyphics and the superhero tales told today (i.e. Batman, Superman, etc) can be rightly labeled modern day mythology.

Interactive storytelling can be described as a hybrid to a degree.  It has the potential to present thought-provoking stories that engage your mind and capture your imagination.  It consists of moving pictures and sound, but can go far beyond what graphic novels and films are capable of.  It offers a key advantage over any other medium: the ability for the reader (player) to interact directly with the story.    This becomes both its blessing and curse.  Indeed, interactive storytelling is really a game of balances.

Stuck in Neutral

 

Most games that are published today are suffering from an identity crisis.  Games like Uncharted 3 and Modern Warfare 3 can’t decide whether they are a game or a movie.  Some take being a game too far, like Saints Row The Third, and sacrifice story altogether.  Others, like Alan Wake, go in the opposite direction.  Games like Infamous mix in comic book elements.  Many more are simply made as gimmicks to make money off licensing.  Very few games today are doing much to advance the actual medium.

The quicker developers and publishers come to the realization that games are not movies, comics, or novels, the better.  Writing for television and writing for games are two entirely different things.  Rather than attempting to copycat what other mediums are doing, interactive storytelling needs to put on pampers and grow up.

This doesn’t mean that every game needs to be Shakespeare.  Just as each novel carries with it the individual voice of its authors, so game writers must learn to find their voice in the stories they write.  I believe the sooner that can be accomplished, the better.  And it really begins with learning how to balance.

 

by D.L. Timmerman

writerofthings1@gmail.com