More Writing Wisdom from Joss

Someone’s right on the cusp of major over-exposure. But, till the fall:

Geeking Out About Storytelling with Joss Whedon
by Charlie Jane Anders

Joss Whedon is in the unique position of being both a cult icon and a huge mainstream creator, thanks to projects like Firefly and The Avengers. But both halves of his success spring from his ability to create addictive stories, that leave you desperate to know what happens next.

This interview was very kindly set up by Dark Horse Comics, so we tried to keep the interview pretty focused on the comics that Whedon is doing with them — including Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9, Angel and Faith, and some upcoming Firefly comics. But we also took this opportunity to geek out about comics versus other media, and the nature of serialized storytelling.

You’ve said in the past that TV shows are a question, and movies are an answer. What are comics?

I will put comics in the TV camp, because of the serialized storytelling, the growth over the years… but at the end of the day, you do sort of come to them needing a thing that is both cinematic and has that kind of resolve. So… both. I feel like when Spider-Man defeats the Tarantula, you get your answer. But then you need to know where he’s going from there. And could I have made more of a Seventies reference than that? In my mind, it’s all Ross Andru. But I think it’s definitely both. Because you don’t just want to move forward. You want something that says, “I’m here for this hero to win the day.” The way you go see a movie and say, “I want that resolve.”

That kind of feeds into our next question. Historically, both TV and comics depended on the illusion of change. You were part of a generation that challenged that, adding more arc-based storytelling and actual change. Like, Buffy graduates high school, drops out of college, moves to San Francisco, and so on. Do you think that was a good move, in retrospect?

It was good for us. It was good for the kinds of storytelling that I want to do. Is it good for all comics? I don’t think so. Some things really should stay the same. Reed Richards should always have exactly this much gray. [Gestures at the sides of his head.] But um… You know, the problem is, when something goes on for as long as most things have, then they’re just looking for any change. Either they reboot it, or they do something drastic, because they can’t write the same thing over and over. I mean, TV shows don’t run since the Sixties. Whereas some of these comics have.

But with the newer stuff, the more graphic novel-y stuff, when you get a story that’s just about the progression of the story, for me it’s harder to dive in than when I know, “This guy is going to have this power and that’s the thing.” It’s a different experience. And for me, I feel like comics — that sort of comfort food that I refer to a lot of recent TV as — I seem to want that from comics.

You want the comfort food.

A little bit. I want to see the costume. I want to see the power. I want to know what the sitch is. And from there, I like the comfort food… but there’s a lot of exceptions. Like with the Luna Brothers’ Girls, which was a book that I never knew from issue to issue what was going to happen. I just adored it. But when I think about creating comics, I think more in terms of, “Why are we coming back? What do I love?” Not, “What can I change?”.

Read it all

Now, Joss, listen to us carefully. Time to take a deep breath, man. Step backward. Chill. Enjoy your life and – this is our biggest suggestion – see if you can go for, oh, let’s say a month without being quoted anywhere. We mean, what if you say something even more brilliant, but everybody’s decided not to listen anymore? You can’t let that happen to you, Joss. You can’t let that happen to us.

Joss Whedon’s Guide to Avenging Screenwriting

Yeah, the title’s a stretch, but…you know.

Joss Whedon’s Top 10 Writing Tips
by Catherine Bray

Joss Whedon is most famous for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its spin-off Angel and the short-lived but much-loved Firefly series. But the writer and director has also worked unseen as a script doctor on movies ranging from Speed to Toy Story. Here, he shares his tips on the art of screenwriting.

1. FINISH IT
Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure.

2. STRUCTURE
Structure means knowing where you’re going; making sure you don’t meander about. Some great films have been made by meandering people, like Terrence Malick and Robert Altman, but it’s not as well done today and I don’t recommend it. I’m a structure nut. I actually make charts. Where are the jokes? The thrills? The romance? Who knows what, and when? You need these things to happen at the right times, and that’s what you build your structure around: the way you want your audience to feel. Charts, graphs, coloured pens, anything that means you don’t go in blind is useful.

3. HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY
This really should be number one. Even if you’re writing a Die Hard rip-off, have something to say about Die Hard rip-offs. The number of movies that are not about what they purport to be about is staggering. It’s rare, especially in genres, to find a movie with an idea and not just, ‘This’ll lead to many fine set-pieces’. The Island evolves into a car-chase movie, and the moments of joy are when they have clone moments and you say, ‘What does it feel like to be those guys?’

4. EVERYBODY HAS A REASON TO LIVE
Everybody has a perspective. Everybody in your scene, including the thug flanking your bad guy, has a reason. They have their own voice, their own identity, their own history. If anyone speaks in such a way that they’re just setting up the next person’s lines, then you don’t get dialogue: you get soundbites. Not everybody has to be funny; not everybody has to be cute; not everybody has to be delightful, and not everybody has to speak, but if you don’t know who everybody is and why they’re there, why they’re feeling what they’re feeling and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then you’re in trouble.

Read it all

This was first published in 2009, and we found it by a lucky accident while web-surfing the other day. And, no, we’re not about to get snarky with or about anything the Jossman has to say. Because there’s absolutely nothing to get snarky about.

Joss Whedon, Interweb Video Superstar

“Joss Whedon, Squat Team Leader.” That’s all anyone needs to know. Oh, maybe also this credit:

Story by a 5 year old kid.

Without further ado:

FIREFLY 10th Anniversary Panel (Comic-Con)

Because we’re all fanboys at heart, everyone of us:

Oh, and also because this could be one of the best-written – if not the best-written – s-f shows in history. But why read about it when you can watch:

And Ghetty Images has a great set of pics.

Nathan Fillion! Nathan Fillion! Oh, & Those Other FIREFLY Peeps Too

Finally! A press release to, um, release. TVWriter™ is headed for the bigtime, baby!

SCIENCE TO LAUNCH THE DEFINITIVE FIREFLY TEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY EVENT
FEATURING THE WORLD PREMIERE SPECIAL BROWNCOATS UNITE

The science fiction world was abuzz with anticipation earlier this month when the news broke of SCIENCE’s FIREFLY 10-year anniversary panel at Comic-Con International 2012: San Diego (Comic-Con) on Friday, July 13. Comic-Con is just the beginning of the tribute, as Browncoats everywhere can board Serenity for a full marathon of the classic series followed by BROWNCOATS UNITE, a world premiere anniversary special exploring the FIREFLY phenomenon debuting November 11 on SCIENCE.

The hour-long special will feature exclusive footage from the Comic-Com panel featuring series creator Joss Whedon, stars Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher, show runner Tim Minear, and writer Jose Molina, as well as a behind-the-scenes roundtable facilitated by Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen. BROWNCOATS UNITE will unearth defining memories from both sides of the camera and feature first-person accounts from the individuals who made the franchise a modern classic.

“FIREFLY is a landmark work of science fiction and a favorite with our viewers. Ever since it premiered on SCIENCE, fans have asked us to do something special to mark its 10-year anniversary,” said Debbie Myers, General Manager and Executive Vice President of SCIENCE. “With this signature celebration, punctuated by BROWNCOATS UNITE, we will connect the minds behind this classic franchise with its legions of passionate fans.”

Huh? We don’t get it? Where’s the ‘tude? They send these things out straight and expect sites like ours to use them that way? Really?