Category Archives: Our Favorite Fiction

What are some of the books, movies, or TV that we the Fictorians love?

How Not To Torture Your Artist

Yesterday I wrote about my first opportunity to write a comic script.  I talked about the differences between writing a short story and writing a script for a comic book.

There are some very talented folks (i.e. Nick Roche – Sins of the Wreckers; Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist; Naoko Takeuchi – Sailor Moon) who can write plot/dialogue and also draw the art to go with it.  I know my art skills aren’t equal to my writing skills.  So I was paired up with a talented artist who would draw the fan comic I wrote.

There are different ways to write comic scripts.  Sometimes the writer describes the entire story in a few paragraphs, leaving it to the artist to break it up into panels, and then going back later to fill in dialogue on the relevant panels.  On the other extreme, the writer can describe each panel in minute detail, but that gives the artist far less room to contribute creatively.

I wanted to make sure the finished product would tell the story I had in mind, but I also didn’t want to reduce the artist to a servant who could only draw what I described.  In writing my script , I tried to find a middle ground.

I described an idea (or a few possible ideas) for each panel, and I mentioned if there was some crucial item or action that had to be drawn in order for the story to make sense.  Beyond that, I gave my artist freedom to choose what they wanted to draw and how they wanted to draw it.  As a fan project, it was intended to be fun for both of us.  To me that meant giving the artist some room to interpret the scenes and contribute to the storytelling by imagining the characters’ expressions, gestures and locations.

Writing a comic script challenged me as a writer.  I couldn’t rely on the luxury of multiple paragraphs of internal dialogue to explain how my characters came to their decisions and what they truly felt.  I had to communicate their thoughts and feelings through gesture, expression and (limited) spoken dialogue.  I had to up my game of description and dialogue.  And I had to do it with a very, very limited number of words.

And I had to do it in collaboration with someone else–an artist with their own interpretation of the characters, the dialogue and the story.

The actual script wasn’t that long, yet the time it took me to write was easily the time I devote to a short story five times the length.

I’d love to get the opportunity to write more comics scripts in the future.  I learned a lot from my first.  I want to improve my balance between action and dialogue.  I would love to see if I could tell a story with no narration boxes whatsoever.

Comics scripts aren’t just short stories with pictures.  They’re a whole new means of storytelling.

About Mary: 

Mary Pletsch is a glider pilot, toy collector and graduate of the University of Huron College, the Royal Military College of Canada and Dalhousie University. She is the author of several previously published short stories in a variety of genres, including science fiction, steampunk, fantasy and horror. She currently lives in New Brunswick with Dylan Blacquiere and their four cats.


Writing Comics Scripts

I had the opportunity to take part in an unofficial fandom magazine where I was able to write a comic script for the very first time. Another fan, an artist, volunteered to draw the story, if I provided the script.

It was going to be just like a short story, right?

…not so much.  Writing comics scripts is an art of its own.

I like to write a lot of internal dialogue.  How two characters can interpret the same event differently.  How people decide how much of their true selves to show.  How characters talk themselves out of–or into–giving in to their impulses.   I find it interesting to explore how characters think.

Internal dialogue is a lot harder in comics.  I was still able to do some of it, using small narration boxes, but I had to make an effort to put as much as possible into dialogue and visuals so that the artist could show the characters actively doing things.

Speaking of dialogue.  Nobody likes word balloons that cover half the panel.  To give my artist room to showcase their art (and show what the characters were doing) I had to prune out every non-essential sentence.  Then prune again.  Is there a phrase that would convey the same meaning as a sentence?  A word that would convey the same meaning as a phrase?

“Talking heads” are boring.  For every panel, I didn’t just write the dialogue.  I also had to describe what the characters would be doing in the panel.  Comics rely on the art and the dialogue complimenting one another and telling the story together.

And on the topic of collaboration…someone else was doing the art, and I had to take that person into account, as well.

Come back tomorrow for How Not To Torture Your Artist.

About Mary: 

Mary Pletsch is a glider pilot, toy collector and graduate of the University of Huron College, the Royal Military College of Canada and Dalhousie University. She is the author of several previously published short stories in a variety of genres, including science fiction, steampunk, fantasy and horror. She currently lives in New Brunswick with Dylan Blacquiere and their four cats.


Welcome to Podcasts

Podcasts. They’re the new digital frontier of talk radio, full of informative content. The perfect way to kill time on a long commute. Trust me, I would know.

But podcasts aren’t all non-fiction in focus. There is a small but growing population of podcasts devoted to telling fictional stories, like the radio serials of yore. Move over The Shadow. Make way for Welcome to Night Vale.

In truth, we at Fictorians have been remiss. This post is long overdue. Night Vale has a been a Big Deal for several years now.  Something like a local radio news show as written by Stephen King, Welcome to Night Vale tells the story of, in their words, “A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”

With a healthy dose of both horror and humor combined with a sneaky dash of heart, Night Vale has brought audio storytelling into a new generation. It’s a process that entails some challenges. As I mentioned, the show is done in the format of a local news radio station, only set in a town where every conspiracy theory is real and anything horrific you can imagine is probably happening at that moment. Whether it’s mysterious hooded figures marching and chanting at the local sports stadium, the discovery of a mysterious subterranean civilization beneath lane five of the local bowling alley, a doorless and windowless library inhabited by monstrous librarians that defy sane description, or a city council that appears to be comprised of the same group of individuals that founded the town several hundred years in the past, Night Vale is given all the worldbuilding depth a storyteller could ever want.

The radio host, Cecil Palmer, is the voice of the podcast and the radio show within it. Because the show is broadcast from the Night Vale Community Radio station, all action that doesn’t take place at the Night Vale Community Radio Station must be described second-hand by Cecil, who is not generally witnessing it at the time. This flies directly in the face of that age-old writing adage, “show, don’t tell.” With the exception of when Cecil broadcasting on-location or is manning his mobile broadcasting studio, all he is doing is telling you, the listener, about local events, the community calendar, and whatever existential nightmare threatens to destroy his beloved Night Vale this week.

To make matters even more challenging, the climax of an episode’s plot generally occurs “offscreen” during the news show’s “weather” segment, which (contrary to its name) is always a song from an independent music artist. Once the weather concludes, Cecil returns and explains to his listeners how the crisis was resolved, and the episode wraps.

It’s a recipe for storytelling disaster if handled poorly.  Yet somehow, Welcome to Night Vale’s writers, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, make it work. Much of this credit goes to Cecil Baldwin (the actor behind Cecil Palmer). Without someone with his gravitas (his deep voice recalls trusted anchors of days gone by even as his frequent weirdness and goofiness reminds us what era it really is), the show’s format would absolutely fall apart. But the writing style is pitch-perfect for the format, and framing the story as a news segment, something we are all used to hearing told to us in the past tense, is a big part of why it works as well. This serves as yet another example of how for every rule of writing, there exist innumerable exceptions that succeed just fine.

The podcast picks and chooses its conventions well. In the past, seasons would generally have an overarching plot that played out in the background of the more focused, single-episode stories. Only in the last few episodes of the “season” (which spans a full year of real-world time, roughly 25 episodes, much like a network TV season), would the overarching story move into the foreground and come to a head. With the most recent season, they have broken the stories into a series of three-parters which have little connectivity beyond the characters and setting. And in the best tradition of shows like The Simpsons, they’ve populated their town with lots of quirky, lovable characters who grow and change with time.

But the show also experiments quite a bit within the confines of the format as well. In one episode, they recommend wearing headphones, because they play with which ear you can hear the audio feed from. It proves effectively creepy and disorienting, especially if you are listening alone. In one early episode, one of my favorites, they address the entire episode (titled “A Story About You”) to you, the listener, casting you as one particular resident of Night Vale who is having, shall we say, a bad day.

They’ve also created a series of live shows, where attendees can go experience a specially written, extra-long episode which changes every tour. These episodes are written specifically with live audience participation in mind, and with the assumption that attendees may never have listened to the show before. I’ve been to three of these shows myself, and they are a unique experience while still being utterly Night Vale.

Storytelling is a constantly evolving art form. Sometimes, an old form of storytelling, the oldest form, in fact, comes back in a new and different format. Some things about it change while others stay the same, but if done well, the total result is something new and special.

I’ll close with one of my favorite Night Vale quotes, and quotes in general, of all time:

“Before everything, before even humans, there were stories. A creature at a fire conjuring a world with nothing but its voice and a listener’s imagination. And now, me, and thousands like me, in little booths and rooms and mics and screens all over the world, doing the same for a family of listeners, connected as all families are, primarily by the stories we tell each other.

And after, after fire, and death, or whatever happens next, after the wiping clean or the gradual decay, after the after…when there are only a few creatures left, there will be one at a fire, telling a story to what family it has left. It was the first thing, and it will be the last.”

Welcome to Night Vale, Episode 71, “The Registry of Middle School Crushes”


About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (, his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.


Thor: Ragnarok – The Brilliance of Humor

Thor trailer imageThor: Ragnarok is one of the best Marvel movies ever.


It’s funny.

Other Marvel movies have done a great job of incorporating humor into otherwise serious films. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are excellent examples, and I love all the excellent one-liners in the original Avengers movie. But Thor: Ragnarok is the first Marvel superhero movie that sets out to be first and foremost an action-comedy.

If you haven’t watched this latest installment in the Thor franchise, you might want to stop reading now to avoid any spoilers.

I love well-crafted humor. I include a lot of it in my Petralist YA fantasy books, so my professional interest is stirred in addition to simply loving the fun of this movie. I consider Thor: Ragnarok to be a masterpiece for the rest of us who utilize humor in our works to study and learn from.

There are those who claim that the humor actually undercuts the movie’s effectiveness by diminishing the stakes. It’s a tricky balance sometimes, and some decisions boil down to how the work is being positioned. Thor: Ragnarok was always positioned as an action-comedy, and as such it works brilliantly.

If they had chosen to make it a brooding, dark, serious film, the world-ending topic of Ragnarok could have tipped it into a real downer. Instead they dealt with that difficult topic brilliantly, turning the moving into a fun and very entertaining ride.

People have responded well to it. It has received the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any Marvel movie (, and has been a huge commercial success. Even though it still ranks near the bottom of the other Marvel movies for total worldwide commercial sales, it’s rising fast through the ranks. It’ll be interesting to see how it tops out in the coming months.

One of the cool things I learned while researching the film is that New Zealand director – Taika Waititi – was actually the voice of the super-funny blue rock monster, Korg. I also learned that a lot of their scenes were ad-libbed, including the funny dialogue between Korg and Thor when he’s trying to pick a weapon for his upcoming duel with the then-unknown Champion.

And for those who want to know more about that, here’s a great article by Jesse David Fox, interviewing Taika Waititi. Well worth a few minutes to listen.

The humorous focus of the movie is set immediately with Thor talking to a skeleton while trapped in a cage, then having to interrupt the babbling of the scary fire demon, Surtur, while the chains holding him suspended from the ground slowly turn him in circles. The conversation both shares important information and includes ongoing funny beats.

Then we jump into a fun fight scene between Thor and the demon, Surtur.

Then immediately back to humor when Skurge (Karl Urban) fails to summon him back via the bifrost because he’s distracted by some beautiful women.

Take a look at the movie, study the different beats, from humor, to action, back to humor again, with some seriously dark scenes mixed in, usually thanks to Hela (Cate Blanchett) as she wreaks havoc on Asgard.

Some critics have claimed that the heart of the movie was missing since the humor can serve to diminish the stakes, but I disagree. Their homeland is destroyed, but Thor focuses on the need for change and the fact that it’s more important to preserve the people than the location, and that Asgard will live on through them. I found that message of hope, despite desperate situations worthwhile.

Works for me.

I’ll close with a few favorite quotes and images from the movie:

“It sounds like you had a pretty special and intimate relationship with this hammer. . .”
~ Korg

“The devil’s anus.”
Need I say more?

When Thor gets smashed back and forth by the Hulk and Loki leaps to his feet and shouts, “That’s how it feels!”

“Another day, another Doug”
~ Korg


About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form.  When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities.  For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: