Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 22, 2012

MRP Day 20 – Rucka on Writing

Filed under: comics,the month of relentless positivity,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:57 pm

Greg Rucka‘s one of those powerhouses of modern comics writing. Not quite as big a name as a Morrison or a Bendis or (shudder) Geoff Johns, but one of those utterly reliable writers whom you can depend upon to produce work anywhere between satisfying and exhilarating. His early works like the British spy drama Queen and Country and the Antarctic murder mystery  miniseries Whiteout  [1] remain some of my favourite non-mainstream titles, and since then he’s racked up a list of credits and well-deserved awards as long as your arm [2].

I mention him here today for two particular reasons, though I could cherry-pick anything from his Batman-adjacent cop drama Gotham Central (co-written with Ed Brubaker, about whom I could also rave enthusiastically) to the holy-shit-it’s-really-good Batwoman: Elegy to his recent action-adventure novel Alpha [3].

You probably get the sense that I like Greg Rucka’s writing, and I’ve seen no more than a small fraction of his career body of work. So when he offered a piece of writing advice to a somewhat-daunted NaNoWriMo noob last week, I (along with a lot of people inside my attention sphere) took notice. It’s succinct, and it’s useful. Moreover, I’m using it. There was one specific suggestion in there that helped me to pick apart the serious mental block that I’ve been carrying all year over my novel. I understand what I need to do to fix it now. Arguably without this very short article I might have continued squinting helplessly at a nearly-but-not-quite-there manuscript for months or years to come.  As he rightly notes, it may be of no particular value to you in your writing – no writing advice is ever universally applicable [4] – but it certainly helped me. So I owe Rucka for that one.

The other thing I can do is throw a shout-out to his current twice-weekly webcomic project (with long-time art collaborator Rick Burchett) Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether.

Now certainly you, like me, may well be disposed towards the story on the basis of that name alone, and it would be disingenuous of me to dissuade you from pursuing that urge. Go check out the first arc “A Dance of Steel” – but having done so, let me offer a suggestion, which is that you immediately read the second arc as well. The first is an amusing extend duel scene featuring the eponymous heroine stealing something from an airship run by some Prussian-looking dudes. It’s all very “sa-ha!” and “have at you, varlet”, but a little light on for narrative depth. The second arc, “The Easterly Call”, which introduces some old West-style bounty hunters, appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with what has come before.

That’s why you might then roll straight into the third arc “The Blind Leading the Blind”, which starts tying the two plotlines together. It’s also about where it becomes apparent that Rucka has a big story planned for this strip, and that he is in no particular hurry to tell it. There’s clever, delicate worldbuilding going on behind the showiness of witty sword duels atop airships and the steam-powered shootouts in dusty western streets. It’s an approach to storytelling I’m attracted to, even as it baffles me. For comic creators and those interested in such, Rucka posts the script for each page-sized episode, including dialogue and stage directions for the artists. It’s generous and instructive. At times it borders on revelatory, providing insight into thestorytelling tricks he hides in plain view. For a completely different insight into a great storyteller’s techniques, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Also, swordplay and gunfights – what more could you possibly demand?


[1] Both of which at more than ten years old suddenly make me feel my age, for some reason.

[2] I acknowledge that my assumption here that the reader has not suffered catastrophic bodily dismemberment is highly ableist.

[3] Which is an action-adventure story about a Delta Force operator finding new and inventive ways to kill terrorists at a Disneyesque funpark, which would already have my money if I were not currently reigning in my frenzied ebook purchasing impulses.

[4] Although one that must come close is “A writer writes, always” from that seminal examination of the psyche of the frustrated novelist Throw Momma From the Train, a film I recall in unsettling detail for something I haven’t seen in about twenty years.

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