Adventures In Freelancing: Building A Story

I can’t believe it’s been nearly three years since I wrote an Adventures In Freelancing post! I don’t have a particularly good or bad reason for that, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how I write these days and figured my strategy might work for some of you too.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts, I’ll preface by saying that most of my professional writing is for Comic Book Resources, Spinoff Online and Marvel.com. With CBR, I have a specific beat covering BOOM! Studios and Image Comics before that, plus I do a variety of collectible-related stories. My Spinoff work mostly involves rewriting news stories with our audience in mind and for Marvel.com, I do the occasional creator interview written up in a prose format. Much of my work involves communicating with a creator about their upcoming comic and turning that interview into either a prose piece or a question and answer (Q&A) style piece. I do a lot more of the latter, so let’s start there.

With a Q&A, much of the heavy lifting gets done by the interview itself. Whether you’ve done it by way of email or phone, once you have the answers written down, that’s most of your work right there. Of course, you have to edit these sections, make sure they fit your site’s style guide and also check to see if they make sense. Sometimes that involves moving quotes around and rewording your questions to better reflect the answer.

But, there’s still the matter of the introduction. For CBR, that’s usually three to four paragraphs that hit all the important facts like what the project is, who’s working on it, where it’s coming from, when it’s coming out, background information and a bit of a tease about what’s in the interview itself. Basically, I think of this section as a really good movie trailer. It needs to get the reader excited about what’s coming without giving too much away.

This week, a story I wrote about Mondo’s upcoming toy offerings went up on CBR. I did my best to get right into the story — something my Spinoff editor encourages on the regular — and explain the news right away. I usually try to start with a clever opener, something that will grab the reader’s attention, but this time the news itself was the big attention grabber, so that made sense to start with. From there it was a matter of explaining the products, talking a bit about the company and setting up the conversation. Sometimes, you’ve got to explain things in greater detail, but in the case of Mondo, I figured the poster sellers were well known enough to the CBR audience. It’s easy to get bogged down in over-explaining things you think the audience might not be familiar with, so it can be difficult striking the right balance.

When it comes to Spinoff posts, the process is somewhat similar, but I go about it a different way. Since there’s no interview to build off of, I tend to start with the background and basic information first. The other day, I wrote this story about the Daredevil showrunner talking about the feel of the series. I read through the original piece, copied and pasted that money quote about the grittiness, laid down some of the show’s basics and then went back and wrote the opener, which was edited to the much better one seen in the final post. I’ve found that knowing what’s involved in the body of the story makes writing that opener much, much easier. In other words, sometimes it’s better not to start at the beginning.

For Spinoff posts, I’m actually writing them in the system and saving them for the editor to read, so I’m not just writing, but also making sure the links are there, coming up with tags and finding a photo that works for the piece. Sometimes that last part can take longer to get than the actual writing. Then again, my roots are in image-finding, so I try to find the best pic for the post.

The Marvel.com stories tend to be a hybrid of the previous experiences. Most of the time, I’m interviewing a creator and using that in the body of the article, but they prefer to go with more of a prose style. This means you’re laying out the quotes, but connecting them with your own text.

Last week, this story I wrote about the new Winter Soldier comic went up. For this one, I got the quotes in via email, gave them a read through and then copied and pasted them into a new document in an order that made the most sense to me. I think of this like sedimentary rocks, which are basically larger rocks made up of pieces of smaller rocks and something keeping them all together. In this case, the quotes are the rocks and what I write acts as the connecting material. In this format, there’s still the matter of the opener which I also tackle last.

So that’s how I write these kinds of things. There are plenty of days where I look at an assignment — even a seemingly simple thing like a Spinoff post — and just can not figure out a way into it. I’ve written a lot of pieces over the years and I do my best not to fall into too many ticks or ruts, but I still find the best way to get the wheels spinning is to move past the intro — the hardest part for me — and get into the details. I might not know how I’m going to get you to read the story right off the bat, but I do know that I can lay out who’s involved, when it comes out and a few story details. I also know I can work with my quotes and figure out the best placement. Once I’m further down the road, it’s easier for me to look back and figure out a good way for everyone else to start down the same path.

What We’re Watching: Wednesday & Thursday

As it turns out, our Wednesdays and Thursdays are mixed between longtime favorites and brand new shows that are tickling our fancies these days. This batch includes mostly half hour comedies as well as my personal favorite comic book TV show Arrow. My wife also enjoyed this season of Cover Affairs, but I usually read or watching the other TV when it’s on because it just never quite grabbed me. If you’re interested, I covered Mondays and Tuesdays in a post last week.

WEDNESDAY

Arrow (8:00 PM, The CW)

arrow season 2 banner

Arrow is one of my favorite shows on TV and probably one of the ones I look forward to the most in any given week. I was cautiously optimistic when it kicked off last season, but got sucked in with the story of spoiled rich kid Oliver Queen trying to make things right in his city while also flashing back to his time on a crazy island. Sure there’s a ton of melodrama involved in the proceedings (it is a CW show after all), but I love the solid mix of action, fun stories and deep cuts when it comes to comic book references. I couldn’t help but compare Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Arrow and in nearly every way, Arrow came off better.

Modern Family (9:00 PM, ABC)Modern Family - Season 5

I’m not really sure what to say about Modern Family that hasn’t been said a million times. It’s so intricately written and perfectly acted that it’s impossible not to fall in love. We’ve been watching the reruns on Fox at 7:30 every day after Jeopardy and even though there aren’t a ton of episodes, it’s a welcome addition to the syndication rotation.

Super Fun Night (9:30 PM, ABC)super fun night

I wanted to like Super Fun Night, but the first episode just killed all the excitement I had going in. The basic concept of the show is cool: three 30 somethings put a bunch of ideas for ladies night in a hat, pull one out and that’s what they do that evening. The problem? Star Rebel Wilson puts on a terrible American accent throughout the entire thing. There are pretty much three things everyone knows about Wilson after watching Pitch Perfect: she’s not America, she’s super funny and she can sing incredibly well. The first episode of this series tried to get you to forget two of these things as her character is nervous about karaoke. I was pretty much done at that point and tend to flip around or read during this time slot. I really think I would be back in if they just had her speak in her regular voice.

THURSDAY

The Big Bang Theory (8:00 PM, CBS)big bang theory season 7

We’re still big Big Bang Theory fans. I love how they’ve expanded the group to fully include Bernadette and Amy. It does kind of seem like the writers aren’t quite sure what to do with Penny lately. She and Sheldon work so well together, but they seem to be writing her a bit dumber than before. It’s a minor problem and I think they’re probably ramping up for something big at the end of the season, but we’ll see.

The Millers (8:30 PM, CBS)the millers

The Millers was a big surprise for me. We’ve liked previous Greg Garcia shows like My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope, but got burned out on the latter. I also didn’t much like Will Arnett’s two previous shows, Running Wilde and Up All Night. But I think this is enough of a departure for Garcia — it’s not about dumdums in a mysterious western town — and it allows Arnett to play awkward and put-upon in a way we haven’t quite seen before. I think it’s funny that last season saw all kinds of “adult kids moving back in with their parents” shows and this seasons has the reverse. Even though it’s not super original, I’m still enjoying two shows like that this season between Millers and Dads. As a nice bonus, the show features Jayma Mays who deserves a show better than Glee and Nelson Franklin who I’ve enjoyed on Traffic Light and his brief stint on New Girl. I hope the show succeeds just so I can keep seeing them all!

The Crazy Ones (9:00 PM, CBS)?????????????????????????

I’ll be honest, I wish Parks & Rec was on at 9:00 PM on Thursdays. I love that show and really miss it, but since we’re full-on into BBT, that’s the show we watch. Plus, it sounds like the schedule’s going to be all over the place. Anyway, since NBC doesn’t have much to offer, we’re watching The Crazy Ones, an ad agency comedy starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as well as the guy who played Bob Benson on Mad Men and the former secretary from The Mindy Project. The dynamics on this show are a ton of fun and really carry it through. This is one of two shows that I could probably just watch the outtakes of and have a great time. New Girl is the other for what it’s worth. Still, as enjoyable as the show has been, I’d drop it in a heartbeat if it meant I could watch Parks & Rec.

The Michael J. Fox Show (9:30 PM, NBC)MichaelJFoxShow1

I think The Michael J. Fox Show is the only show we watch on NBC these days which is crazy because it used to one of the main stops for us, especially on Thursdays. As a dyed in the wool child of the 80s, I have an almost inborn love for all things Fox going back to the days of Family Ties on through Spin City. The fact that the show puts his Parkinsons right on front street and just deals with it as part of the ongoing story is an ingenious move that brings everyone in on what’s going on and deals with it honestly.

What We’re Watching: Mondays & Tuesdays

It’s been a crazy-long time since I’ve talked about TV here on UM, but that doesn’t mean we’re not watching. It’s an interesting season because there are a good deal of shows I’m really into, but also a lot of slots in the schedule that are left open. For what it’s worth, we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to cable and don’t have DVR, so all of our viewings are done the old fashion way, “live.”  Continue reading What We’re Watching: Mondays & Tuesdays

Casting Internets

I haven’t done this in a while, but I think you should check out something I wrote. I did a list for Topless Robot called Ten More Marvel Shows We Want To See Besides Agents of SHIELD!

Two guys dressed up like Mario and Luigi to do parkour. Apparently, I’m a big fan of themed parkour videos because this is awesome. (via Topless Robot)eboy ATM-Atlanta-Coca-Colonization-15t

eBoy art really draws me in. It’s like a Where’s Waldo detail-wise, but you’re just enjoying all the scenery instead of looking for a stripe-loving goofball. I could lose myself in this Coke piece of his for days, if I wasn’t careful.dead weather

The Dead Weather is the Jack White project I’m least familiar with, but I’m glad to hear he’s recording more music with them through his own Third Man label. More bluesy, dirty rock can never be a bad thing. (via Rolling Stone)shivers poster

Just the other day I was thinking to myself, “Boy, I sure would like to watch Cornenberg’s Shivers.” Little did I know that sites like TheWrap would be reporting a remake in the works the next day.

I haven’t seen the un-aired Locke & Key pilot written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, but I heard good things. It’s exciting to hear about them moving forward with the project as a series of movies, as Kurtzman told Collider.

Bob Burnquist is awesome. Want proof? Watch this video about the skateboarding tricks he does on his big air ramp that include a HELICOPTER.

Alec Baldwin did a great interview with Chris Columbus on Baldwin’s podcast Here’s The Thing spanning the writer and director’s career. Man, that guy’s helped created some of the greatest films around.happy-endings-abc-tv-show-4

Like a lot of Happy Endings fans, I was sad to see that show go away, but it’s cool that Damon Wayans Jr. will return to New Girl and Adam Pally’s becoming a regular on The Mindy Project. I can’t find my links to these stories, so you’ll just have to trust me.

This New York Times article about the world of 20-somethings in the professional world is impressive because it shows how hard kids are working, but also sad because it seems excessive. Maybe I’m just lazy.nirvana in utero

I’ve been trying not to spend much money lately, but I feel drawn to the 20th anniversary release of Nirvana’s In Utero. Speaking of which, Pat Smear talked to Rolling Stone about the last years of the band.

As a big fan of both The League and the How Did This Get Made podcast, I’m really excited to hear from Deadline that Paul Scheer’s got a show in the works at ABC according to Deadline.EC_Tales-DigitalPostcardFinal

I actually gasped with delighted exasperation when I saw that Mondo is doing a Tales From The Crypt art show. That show shaped me as a kid and the comics are some of the most beautiful looking around. So awesome.

Casting Internets

shootfirstIf you don’t buy my friend Justin Aclin‘s upcoming Dark Horse comic S.H.O.O.T. First, you suck.

I recently discovered a site called Humans Of New York that I can’t get enough of. A photographer walks around NYC, snapping pictures of people and asking them questions then presenting them on the site. Sounds simple, but that’s why it’s so interesting.

Oh my goodness, you guys, this Screen Junkies Honest Trailer for Batman & Robin is super-great-fantastic. Thanks to The Mary Sue for bringing it to my attention!

As a kid, I read The Giver more than any other book. The adaptation is shaping up to be quite a film. Jeff Bridges is in it and according to Deadline, Meryl Streep’s on board too. I will certainly see this flick.

Not quite sure what to think about the CBGB movie. If it’s got even a fraction of Please Kill Me in it, it should be alright. The Ramones look like gods in the first trailer over on THR, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Variety‘s telling me that there’s going to be a Disney Imagineering documentary. I went on the Behind the Magic tour at Disney World which was fascinating, so this should be even better.ace mccloud centurions custom

Not too long ago, I talked about how much I enjoyed the concept of Centurions and wondered why it never made a comeback. Now there’s a killer custom of Ace McCloud by Hemblecreations as posted on ToyNewsI that looks all kinds of rad. That’s internet synergy, yawl.

Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer is hilarious, you should check it out. I will definitely check out her Judd Apatow-produced film, Deadline reports.

Transworld Business, an action sports website I recently discovered, tells me that Oakley’s doing a 6-part web series featuring skateboarder Bob Burnquist showing off his own personal skatepark. The part where he skates around a helicopter made me super nervous.

Right after the X-Games, Nyjah Huston wrote this fantastic column for THR about the greatness of his sport and its potential for inclusion in the Olympics. I’ll throw my vote in for that idea right now.

Danny Way told ESPN might return to the X-Games, bringing a whole new gigantic ramp thing to the proceedings. Yes, make this happen.

I’ve always been interested in how Alice Cooper balances his normal life with his stage one, something he talked to Esquire about recently.walmart-library-5

Web Urbanist posted these amazing pictures of a Texas Walmart that was converted into the largest single floor library in the country.

I picked up The Tom Tom Clubs’ latest record Downtown Rockers this year and have really grown to dig it, so I’m glad to hear they told Rolling Stone they’re likely to get back together and record later this year.

Brilliant physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about science and how it needs to be more prevalent during SDCC. (via Spinoff).

If you’re like me and wondered why the producers on Real World and The Challenge don’t seem to be interfering as much when things get violent, Variety did an interesting write-up on why.sam bosma-lisbon

Finally, go check out the larger version of Sam Bosma‘s Lisbon drawing. It’s wallpaper-worthy, no doubt.

Late To The Xbox Live Party: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

amazing spider-man xbox 360 I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record here, but Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 is still one of my all time favorite video games. It did the open world/mission-based thing incredibly well while also offering all kinds of Spidey-based add-on powers and moves to keep things interesting as you swung through NYC, stopping occasionally to kick a criminal’s teeth in. There was a connection to the movie of the same name, of course, but not a huge one, which is great for me because I think the middle of that movie stinks

As I mentioned when I talked about the trailer for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions — which I erroneously referred to as Dark Dimensions for some reason — I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man which took many of its cues from Spidey 2, but also seemed to dumb things down more than I liked. Since then I’ve kind of shied away from the franchise after not hearing great things about games like Friend Or Foe and Web Of Shadows. But, when some of my friends who are far more into video games than I started telling me that Amazing Spider-Man — based on the film reboot I still haven’t seen — might just be the next Spidey 2, I was definitely interested and actually got a copy of the game for Christmas. 

And it’s close, but it didn’t really hit all the same notes for me. In fact this game, while a lot of fun and challenging at times, really didn’t seem to offer much in the way of new gameplay experience. I’m far from an unbiased voice in this conversation, but the game itself really just felt like an updated version of a game that’s nearly a decade old. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but I was really hoping for something that would take a great game, update it for a new console and also add a lof of new goodness on to it. I mean, the open world style of games have been around for a long time and yet this one didn’t seem to add much to the sandbox. 

And yet, I still had fun with the game. I’ve mentioned plenty of times here and there that my daughter Lucy actually really got excited about this game. For a few weeks she liked watching the old 60s Spider-Man cartoon, but then lost interest but still liked the character. She saw me playing Amazing Spidey and really dug it. In fact, one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to finish this game is that I basically stopped playing it when the kid wasn’t awake. Also, not for nothing, but when a toddler is yelling at you to play a game, it can take away some of the fun. 

So there was an added level of doing something cool with my daughter that she dug while also going through a game that I liked for the most part. Again, it’s not a bad game by any means, but I was just hoping for more. Even though it didn’t do everything I wanted, I still had a great time web-swinging around a digital New York City, trying to figure out where I’ve been and where I can throw down with some bad guys. I even enjoyed the main storyline which does a cool job of mixing a zombie outbreak story and some crazy big mech robot stuff. That’s all aces in my book. 

I’ve already moved on to my next video game which actually happens to be Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions which is much more of a straight-ahead action game than an open world sandbox. I think I’m getting the hang of it and it’s a lot of fun to mash buttons while kicking bad guy butt and also hopping from timeline to timeline while experiencing one cohesive story. Fun stuff so far. I’ll probably review it when I finish, which might be another five months, we’ll see! 

Casting Internets

Last Sunday I went down to Toy Fair and covered the show for CBR. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Anyway, you can click this link and read all the coverage I wrote.

I think DC was shortsighted and foolish for hiring homophobe Orson Scott Card to write a Superman story. I think it’s fantastic that people are standing up against it, people like my pal Brett White and Patrick over at Geeks Out. The comments that I read on the page made me sad for humanity.

My pal Sean T. Collins was featured over on a site called The Setup which features creative folks talking about what kind of place they do their work in and with what equipment.

Speaking of Sean, our mutual friend Ben Morse interviewed him about Gossip Girl over on The Cool Kids Table. I have no idea what any of it means, but it’s interesting.

 

I’ve written about my unabashed love of Fall Out Boy, so I’m pretty excited to hear they’re back together. Better yet, they’ve got a new album coming out on May 7th called Save Rock And Roll. As if all that wasn’t good enough, the first single “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” is damn catchy. (via Rolling Stone)

 

I think the Young Justice freak-out is a little premature (I’m guessing Cartoon Network just wants to keep DC Nation to an hour) but I’m also pretty excited about Young Justice: Legacy” a video game set in continuity and written by the show’s creators. I’m not a big RPG guy but I think I can get into this if it’s like that PS2 Justice League game or the X-Men ones that were good for a while.  (via CBR)

Whoooa. Charles Band cleaned out his warehouse and found a ton of vintage Wizard Video clamshell cases and Atari game boxes. They’re selling four a month for the foreseeable future, but for $50 each! Yowza.

I used to watch Dragonball Z after school and have a box of DVDs from the old Anime Insider library after that magazine was shut down, so I was pretty interested in reading about the first new DBZ movie in 17 years heading to IMAX theaters on SuperHeroHype.

Diablo Cody’s films don’t really speak to me personally, but I like reading her interviews like this THR one about directing while also pregnant and being a mom to a 1 year old. Sounds exhausting.

Walter Hill talked to Hero Complex about making Bullet To The Head with Sylvester Stallone and a potential Warriors remake, so it’s a must read for me and mine.

Charles P. Pierece’s Esquire piece about how a religious faction somehow overtook a major political party is instigating and insightful.

After just watching Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, I’m pretty excited for any Scott Adkins movie, especially one co-starring Randy Couture who has proven to be a ton of fun to watch in the Expendables movies. The story sounds pretty heavy, but we’ll see how it works out. (via THR)

Nick Kroll and Bill Burr are going to guest on New Girl as Nick’s family members? Holy nuts, that’s amazing. The episode will be amazing, the outtakes will be fan-friggin-tastic. (via THR)

Mark Neveldine of Neveldine & Taylor fame is doing a solo flick called The Vatican Tapes, I’m pretty excited about this. (via Variety)

 

Feeling a little violent? Want to watch pixelated carnage? Then dig this video of Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion going yard on the first level of the original Double Dragon! (via Topless Robot)

500days of summer glen brogan

I’m having trouble focusing after checking out Glen Brogan‘s (500) Days of Summer piece for an upcoming art show. It’s pretty erect.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Black Keys in the past few years, both their music and the guys themselves. I love drummer Patrick Carney’s attitude towards this whole fame thing, including his recent dust-up with Justin Bieber’s fans on Twitter. Laughed out loud at the one about the Keys being a one hit wonder and Bieber being around a long time. (via Rolling Stone)

I feel the same way about The Real World that Andrew Seigel does. Read her Vulture piece to see how alike we are!

 

I’ve always thought of Eric Clapton as a professor of guitar (partly because he reminds me of my friend’s prof dad), so listening to him talk about his history with a Gibson guitar is right up my alley. (via Rolling Stone)

Over the past few years I’ve become a big fan of digital media, but my one complaint is the lack of a secondary market for things I no longer want/need. As such, I’m interested to see what Amazon does with this patent for re-selling digital content. (via THR)

Ron Marz‘s comparison of binge TV viewing on Netflix and the comic book market makes me wish more than ever that there was a Netflix for digital comics.

After reading Please Kill Me and becoming a fan of Legs McNeil, I’m very interested in reading the entries on his list of the ten best rock books of all time.