The Immersion Factor: Comics + Novels

I wrote part of my new comic book this morning, and after lunch switched gears to the novel.  This is something I’ve been doing for years — and I don’t usually give it much thought.  I’m a visual storyteller, and the language of visual storytelling doesn’t change that much, from one medium to another.

Well, that’s not quite true, actually.  But that’s also not really the focus of this post.

Instead, I started thinking about how it feels to switch gears.  How it feels to write a novel compared to a comic.  The difference inside my head is tangible, physical, as if one is silk and the other is cashmere.  I can almost touch it.

Now, that’s just me.  But I’d argue there’s a more universal shift that happens for anyone who writes in two different mediums.  Creating a deeply immersive experience for a reader requires deep immersion for the writer.  It just does.  You have to be fully in — in the characters, in the world, in the conflict.

But the type of immersion changes from novels to comics.  Writing a novel means that you, the creator, are solely responsible for making people and worlds that readers can believe in and empathize with — and your only way of doing this is with your words.  That’s it.  Your words are the building blocks, your words are your tools.  You, and you alone accomplish this.  So when I say, for example, that I become immersed in the book I’m writing — you better believe I am all in.  In ways that I find difficult to describe, because I’m really somewhere else, out of body.  I have to be, in order to craft those words into something more than just letters on a page.

Writing a comic require another kind of immersion — equally strong, just as intense — but different.  Because here’s the thing — you are not alone when you write a comic (well, unless you’re both artist and writer, in which case my hat is off to you).  And the script you write?  A reader will likely never see it.  You write that script for your artist.  Your artist and your editor, your colorist, your letterer.  Just a handful of people in all the world.  You tell a story that will be interpreted and brought to life by another.  You and the artist create a world together, and even though your words might set the framework, at the end of the day that’s where the artist does her magic and brings these things to life.

I am fully immersed when I write comics — I am in that world, in the heads of the characters — but because what’s needed of me isn’t completely reliant on the strength of my prose (unlike in a novel), the texture of my work and my focus changes.  I’m focusing on moments within scenes, scenes within parts, parts within arcs — visual cues, dialogue, the importance of a look — and how all these things build and build within a serialized format to make a whole story, over time.  It’s the same as when I write a novel — but again, different.

Different muscles.  Different mental textures.  Different and the same.


Christmas Panic

On Monday someone reminded me that Christmas is next week, and I think I might have sunk to my knees and let out a primal wail.

I love Christmas.  After Halloween, it’s my favorite holiday.  But I’m always caught off-guard, I’m never able to quite get the decorations up, gifts are last minute (sorry to friends and family who are reading this), and then it just seems to happen so darn fast.  There’s not even time to take in the music.

Oh, well.  As I learned watching Christmas movies all throughout my childhood, it’s the spirit that counts — and the Christmas spirit is something we should carry with us every day.  Along with pie, adorable cat ornaments, and Burl Ives singing Frosty the Snowman.

I am going to cook, though.  I may not have the Christmas tree up, but man, I’m going to get in that kitchen and whip up a feast.  The menu is all planned, totally nontraditional — and, keeping some of our guests in mind — mostly vegan.  Mostly.  Because I gots to have my meats.

What are your favorite foods, or things to do at Christmas?  If you’ve got recipes, post them in the comments!


I didn’t talk about it at all over the last three months, but I’ve been teaching comic book writing at MIT — a class full of undergraduates, throwing themselves into the mix.  What great students.  One of them interviewed me post-semester, and wrote a very kind review of the class that you can find here.

CNN and “Call Her Savage”

Two things to mention.  First, when I was in Hong Kong for the literary festival, CNN interviewed me as part of their Passion to Portfolio segment — basically, talking to me about following my passion from being a lawyer to a writer.  I think it turned out well, and they found a great location in Quarry Bay.   You can see the segment (and read the longer interview) right here at

Second, a previously published short story (which made its first appearance in the Lou Anders-edited anthology, MASKED) is now out.  “Call Her Savage” is set in another earth where crystal skull technology is a thing, China settled the west, and a gang of mutant soldiers need to be taken down by a legendary woman with her own superpowers.

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Follow Your Freak

I wish I could say I’ve got a good memory, but that isn’t much the case anymore.  Too much on my mind, too much to do.  I’ve got three different writing projects on hand (maybe four, we’ll see), and they are all passion projects — but with vastly different stories and flavors.  One of them will be announced on January 8th at Image Expo: my first foray into creator-owned comics.  Which basically means that I’ll be “following my freak” and seeing where that takes me.

“Following your freak” means following your imagination, no matter where it goes.  I’ve been mulling over this a lot lately — the importance of exploring all those crazy impulses and visions that come out of no where and inspire us in some truly random ways.  The most off-hand crazy jokes often, and suddenly, become fabulous and insane ideas for novels. Which happened to me the other day via a hilarious text conversation — pretty much the pattern for the last year or so of late night discussions where there’s too much pie involved, and too little sleep.  It’s the best, getting inspired like that, with friends laughing all around you.  Even if those wild little gems never become something more, the way they were born is something warm and special.

It’s important not to be afraid when exploring new and unusual ideas, ideas that excite you — and also make you uneasy.  It’s okay to feel uneasy.  Just don’t let uneasiness become paralysis.  Maybe this new idea isn’t all it’s cracked up to be — after the bloom wears off.  But you won’t know unless you explore it.

Follow your freak. Follow your imagination. Follow what excites you.

[I’ve been in Indiana, spending time with family, tromping through the woods, hanging out with my messy lovely books, eating the few persimmons left on the trees, and hugging cats…there’s never enough time for any of those things, really]

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