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Can you tell us the meaning of the colors of the index cards you use to plan your shows?
It changes from show to show, even from season to season. And on YJ S3, because of index card shortages of specific colors (this happened, believe it or not), it changed more than once DURING the season.
As an example, in YJ S1:
Green - villains
Red - Justice League
Blue - The Team (hero stuff)
Purple - The Team (teen stuff)
Yellow - Stuff where a specific date matters (like holdays)
White - Stuff that we're laying pipe for but will not objectively reveal to the audience at this time
I've heard a lot about the "core truth" concept you and your team use in your approach to characters.
Are some of these core truths secrets, or would you tell us any that we ask?
I don't think they're secrets because we put it all up on screen. But my inclination is to let our interpretation stand on its own, influenced by each viewer's own interpretation, as opposed to explicating everything in writing here. Still, I don't mind talking process. I'm not going to go down a laundry list of characters, but if someone were interested in one specific character as an example of the process, I might - depending on my mood and clarity - answer this kind of question once or twice.
I have questions regarding adapting DC comics.
You see there is certain fan adaptation running around on the net( I won't mention it for obvious reasons) , and to be honest all the changes seem silly, cringe inducing and fanfic like.
Yet all your changes seem logical. I mean replacing Aqualad with Kalduram or Cassie as Wondergirl would be controversial but it's logical and I like it. You even improved on many characters like from the source material like Artemis and Sportsmaster.
Most of the changes you have done are like apple products they just work.
So my question is How do you make earth 17 feel so cohesive and faithful despite doing some heavy changes to the source material?
Well, for starters, it's Earth-16.
But otherwise the goal is to get down to the core of every character that you're adapting and be true to that. Not all the details matter, proven out by the fact that over 75 years of comics history, a lot of the details about any given character keep changing. But who the character is at her or his core does matter.
All this is influenced by what we've already done in a universe that we're trying to keep cohesive and coherent, so we think about how any new character would fit into that schema. Or if they'll fit. Things like scope effect us too. For example, we talked about including Supergirl in both Season One and Season Two, but her story was too big to fit in either season without derailing our main overall plot or skimping on her story. We'll get to her eventually - no promises as to when - but it'll have to be when we could do justice (YOUNG justice) to her story.
I think that in #3 of this question (http://www.s8.org/gargoyles/askgreg/search.php?qid=22075), Lenny was actually asking if a company would consider a recommendation *for* a more seasoned producer, not *from*. i.e. If the newbie who's idea was picked up by the company wanted Dini, Cook or Vietti to produce it, would the company consider that request or just provide their own producer? (I have a feeling I know the answer, but wanted to clarify what Lenny was asking)
Ah. Yeah, I didn't get that.
I guess you could ask for whomever you wanted, but whether they can cooperate with that suggestion will depend on a load of factors, including but not limited to availability, cost, interest, studio needs, etc.
Hi! I'd like to ask you a question from a writing standpoint if you don't mind. When juggling a lot of plotlines, how important is it to develop relationships on-screen? On the one hand, obviously the main couples should be. But for the minor ones/background characters, I'm not sure if it's better to leave their relationship status static (which would be unrealistic for most) until I can properly develop something for them, or sometimes put them in side relationships based on chemistry even without much prior development. This would be provided that these relationships could be used to further individual storylines, just not important enough to warrant too much attention from the main plot. It's okay if you don't have an answer, but I'm curious if you do.
Every character should have his or her own life, even if you don't always have the screen time for it.
I found a tumblr post that talks about great characters with the link below.
I also remembered you answered a question like that.
"I believe they exist as fully as possible. I create backstories for them, whether or not those backstories will be revealed on screen or on the page. I make them real to me."
So for the actual questions:
1. What do you think about the tumblr post? I think "compelling" and "fascinating" seem too subjective.
2. What exactly do you mean by "exist as fully as possible"? I'm guessing you want to give as much of an image of a character as you can, but I'm also sure that's the main task of any story.
3. You also said that you want to make the characters seem real to yourself, but how do you make them real to the viewer?
4. This one might be redundant, so it probably doesn't need to be answered. But just in case, how do you make characters and stories that the audience can enjoy?
5. I also know you've said that you write your passion, but how do you know it will appeal to others? It all sounds like being hopeful.
1. Perhaps. But so is "relatable" and "sympathetic". They're directions to head not a detailed map.
2. It's not the main task to make of any story to make EVERY character in the story fully realized. My feeling is - within reasonable parameters - that it SERVES the story to have fully realized characters, who have their own backstories and motives that are specific to them.
3. I cross my fingers that if it works for me, it'll work for a substantial portion of my audience.
4. I write what I like, and cross the above-mentioned fingers. The alternative is pointless. If I can't get passionate about my story, how can I possibly expect anyone else to?
5. That's all it is. Honestly. See above.
Hello Mr. Weisman,
I had just a couple of questions.
1. One thing about the animation industry is that once a season is over there is no guarantee that the next season will be picked up. Should some one have a plan B for another profession if the next season does not work out? Or is there plenty of work in California that if you did your job well, finding another one should not take long?
2.If someone has a animation idea they want to pitch and have all the details worked out (pitch bible, characters, story, and pilot script) how would they know when they could pitch the idea?
3. I had a question for attires for animation shows. Does it cost more to have different episodic attires for characters or do characters have only one attire to save time? I know in Spectacular, Peter had a winter attire with the jacket, or that one time he had the black shirt with brown pants during the symbiote removal episode but is there a choice on whether they can change their attire episode by episode to add more realism?
1. Well, uh... There are no guarantees. I try to have other work lined up, pretty much always. And sometimes I'm just flat-out unemployed for stretches. This gig is not for the faint of heart, I guess.
2. I'm not sure I understand the question. If you're ready, pitch. But my caution would be to be careful not to poison the water. If it's a work in progress, and isn't actually very good (YET), then I wouldn't pitch. Make sure you're only showing the best possible version of what you've got. On the other hand, there's not much point in noodling forever on an idea. If it's solid, go for it.
3. Every design - and new clothes are a new design - cost time, which costs money. So, yes, in animation, we need a pretty good reason to give characters additional wardrobe. But if we need it, we need it.
Not so much a question as an attempt to clear some things up. You said that you didn't remember our first exchange, so, here's a link:
The follow-up exchange:
I do hope this clears things up. I checked the links on my end and they appear to work. If they don't work for you then I'll just have to copy and paste, which will probably take up more space than I wanted to use.
Okay, yeah, reread it all. (You've got the links switched, but they're both there.)
As I suspected, I wasn't upset the first time. I don't even seem to be annoyed. I was just giving you my honest response to your question, which was that I thought to some extent it was the wrong question for a writer to ask.
As for the second post, as I noted, you seemed to have a better handle on things.
So no worries on my end.
Good luck with your stories.
As a general rule of thumb, how far do you like to plan ahead with stuff you write?
All the way. At least to the end of each season, with at least some clear sense of where we'd go next.
I am getting ready to write my first professional scripts for animation. At the risk of asking a really broad question, what is the number one thing from your experience you would tell a starting out writer in the medium to keep in mind?
Hey Mr.Weisman, managed to check out Starbrand and Nightmask and it was pretty good to no one's surprise. Also congrats on a season 3 of Young Justice. I just have two questions regarding that show.
1. You mentioned that there was both a timeline(that only you and Brandon are privy to) and a series bible(with details like Vandal Savage being Attila
the Hun supposedly). In the context of Young Justice, is their a difference or are they more or less the same.
2. You mentioned on this site that you used post cards and a giant billboards with different cards with different colors to establish certain dialogue or plot points. Do you also use them for events off screen such during the time skip or prior to the series?
Thanks in advance for time.
1. They are two different documents. I'm constantly updating the timeline. The bible, I haven't looked at in five years.
2. Index cards, not post cards. And, yes, sometimes.
1) How do you try to keep things unpredictable when you know that by the simple law of enough monkeys with enough typewriters, some fan out there will figure out any twist sooner or later?
2) How do you balance keeping a villain interesting/likable without making it so much so that the audience roots for them instead of the protagonist?
1. Can't worry about that. We tell the stories that we want to tell. That our characters tell us we need to tell. Inevitably, some percentage of our audience will figure out our game. Inevitably, some will be surprised. If the story is well-told, hopefully both groups will still enjoy it.
2. Give them motivation that makes sense, but don't sugarcoat their actions.
Hi Mr. Weisman. I remember we met in WonderCon last year and I asked you questions about writing spec scripts for cartoons. I remember you said that I should write three scripts, then go over them, and only submit one of them if you're absolutely sure it's good.
Knowing what you and your crew got away with in Young Justice, how do how people like you and Gennedy Tartakovsky on Sym-Bionic Titan get away with the TV-PG content and make your show with teens in mind? And since I plan to make TV-14 shows for the main Cartoon Network channel, would the channel accept them?
You'd have to ask them. The needs of ANY given channel are constantly changing.
And I don't write for an older audience. I write on levels so it works for the widest possible audience.
Hi Mr. Greg! Firstly I'd like to say how much I truly enjoy your shows and shows you've written for, you've been an inspiration to myself as a writer for a long time. You're one of the greats!
I have some questions about writing, if that's okay.
1. As stated previously, I admire your writing greatly and wanted to know if there are some tips you could give me in writing a series focused on a team and writing for multiple characters? I'm currently working on my original ideas, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that a lot of my writing pace and story planning/arcing is influenced by watching shows such as Spectacular Spider-Man, YJ, TMNT and many others including comics like Kanan: The Last Padawan (I own every issue)that you've written for. But writing for multiple characters can become difficult since I write in third person.
2. Have you ever gotten "bogged down" so to speak in writing a series planned on spanning over a period of time?
3. Lastly, do you find it hard to focus on what's happening in the series currently instead of jumping to the conclusion because of exciment for the end? If so, how do you stay focused?
Just for fun question: When not writing for tv, what's your prefered voice for writing, first or third?
Thank you for your time, and I can't wait to read/watch what you write next!
1. I've answered questions like this before, so check the WRITING and WRITING TIPS archives here at ASK GREG for more details. But it's hard to answer your question, because I'm not clear what you're trying to accomplish. When you say you're "writing a series," what does that mean? Television? Movies? Books? Comics? Short stories? A proposal for one or the other or all? Are you asking me about choreographing action or about juggling storylines or something else?
3. Sometimes. DEADLINES help me focus.
4. I don't have a preference. It depends on the needs of the specific story.
What do I need to write in character biographies? As I'm making my project, the way I do my character bios, I write a lot of backstor, the characters' personality, birthday and age, and a bit of present, etc. Is that all necessary or do I need to do them in a better order?
There aren't any rules. You do what you need.
Hi. A little while ago I requested a character oriented slant for a hypothetical third season of Young Justice. I want to rescind my request. As I sit here working on my YA novel, I realized that no writer can work that way. He/she can only tell the story she wants to tell and hope other people like it.
In your opinion, what are some of the key factors that separate a good story/script from a poor one (especially as it applies to writing in episodic television)?
Story that comes out of character.
Dialogue that sounds like something human beings would actually say.
Some amount of surprise.
And if we're literally talking about the script itself: PROOFREADING!
Hello Mr. Weisman,
I'm very much a writer like yourself and am trying to break into the animation industry with a story of my own; its tone and maturity much like Young Justice, which I loved by the way (Go Robin!).
My questions are:
1.) How much should I have in my story's portfolio before I pitch my idea to various networks? I already have concept drawings, practice scripts, and I'm having an independent studio make three animated shorts, but what would you suggest?
2.) Who, generally, should I know or get to mentor me in breaking into the industry? I was trained as an Engineer before realizing my true passion for storytelling.
3.) Any other tips I may have missed?
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
1. Less is more. You already have way more product/content than I'd use to pitch an original idea. The thing you may be missing is experience. But you never know. Sometimes they go for it.
2. As many folks as possible. Networking is an important skill.
3. Proofread religiously.
My name is Mexi Gremillion and I am going to be writing for film and television when I finish college in May. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions possibly about your experience as a creator and writer of fantastic television series like Gargoyles and Young Justice via email if possible, but it is totally fine if I ask you publicly on this sort of forum. I love your work and it's totally fine if you don't answer this, but I hope you do. Thank you so much for your time.
I'd prefer to keep things in this forum. I know you asked this question nine months ago, so if you're still checking this, I'd recommend that you look at the Ask Greg archives under WRITING and/or WRITING TIPS. See if your questions were asked and answered already. If you still have more questions, post them here.
I'll try and keep this short, as I'm sure your busy and having things to do, but basically I would like your honest opinion on something. And no, don't worry, it's not about ideas for any of the things you've worked on, nor anything that I or others have written.
Anyway, I'm an aspiring writer who wants to make his own series, and there's an aspect of storytelling that I can't seem to decide on. You see, I have always felt that there are, primarily, two types of villains:
1. The kind who do bad things and don't care
2. The kind who believe that their actions are justified
Summarily, I can't seem to decide which one is worse, as it could really be argued either way. I've asked some friends what they think, and have gotten back different answers.
Admittedly, the self-justifying villain tends to fall under a trope that I have a disliking towards:
Knight Templar - a villain who is convinced that he/she is the hero.
And, after thinking about it, there is at least one thing to appreciate about the "bad and don't care" villains; at least they have no illusions about what they want or what they're doing. Plus, we've seen a lot of the self-justifying villains in recent years, to the point where I think it might be overused. Which is why I think a balance between the two needs to be met, as too much of one can get old fast.
But anyway, I mainly just wanted to ask which type of villain you think is worse; the "bad and don't care" kind, or the self-justifying kind?
I take some issue with the reductive nature of your question. And so I think you're going about things the wrong way. It's not about which is worse. It's about what fits your character. Take, as an obvious example for this website, GARGOYLES.
We have two rather unique and memorable lead villains, DEMONA and XANATOS. I suppose you could reduce Xanatos to your definition of a type one villain. And I suppose you could reduce Demona to your type two. But there are moments when Xanatos thinks what he does is justified, and moments when Demona does a bad thing and just doesn't care. There are also moments when each has done truly heroic things.
The point I'm making is that a great villain is nothing more or less than a great CHARACTER. Write a character with consistency, backed by consistent motivation and history and I don't really care if he or she is type one, type two or type three. (Because, among other things, I doubt that there are truly only two types.)
I leave tomorrow for CONvergence 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Okay, really Bloomington, MN, but close enough.) CONvergence is one of my favorite cons. And I have the honor of being their first fan-funded guest. Here's my schedule for the long weekend:
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2016
GUEST RECEPTION 07:00pm - 09:00pm
THURSDAY, JUNE 30, 2016
"Why Gargoyles is Still Relevant" 12:30pm - 01:30pm
Atrium 6 w/Christopher Jones, Patrick Fisher, Alana Profit, Chandra Reyer.
RADIO PLAY AUDITIONS 02:00pm - 03:00pm
Plaza 3 w/Christopher Jones.
"Physics of Time Travel" 03:30pm - 04:30pm
Edina w/Renate Fiora (m), Dan Berliner, Melanie Galloway, Jim Kakalios.
"Fancy Bastard Pie Competition" 08:30pm - 09:30pm
Garden Court - Southwest w/GPS.
FRIDAY, JULY 01, 2016
SIGNING 11:00am - 12:00pm
Autograph Table B.
RADIO PLAY AUDITIONS 12:30pm - 01:30pm
Plaza 3 w/Christopher Jones, Khary Payton.
"Writing by Ear" 02:00pm - 03:00pm
Bloomington w/Patrick Marsh (m), Emma Bull, Aimee Kuzenski, Jim McDoniel.
"Don't Call Them Sidekicks: The Enduring Power of Teenage Superheroes" 03:30pm - 04:30pm
Bloomington w/ Christopher Jones, Jessa Markert, Khary Payton, Sylus Rademacher.
"Drawing with the Masters" 07:00pm - 08:00pm
Plaza 2 w/Christopher Jones, Ruth Thompson.
"Why Diversity Needs to be Deeper than Marketing" 08:30pm - 09:30pm
Edina w/ Trisha Lynn (m), Kate Norlander, Jonathan Palmer, Dirk Ykema.
"Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome Live Podcast" 10:00pm - 11:00pm
Edina w/Windy Bowlsby, Melissa Kaercher.
SATURDAY, JULY 02, 2016
"Building Worlds for Fiction" 09:30am - 10:30am
Plaza 1 w/Michael Carus (m), J.M. Lee, Melissa Olson, Lynne M. Thomas.
"Why We Need Representation in Superheroes" 11:00am - 12:00pm
Edina w/ Christopher Jones, Bri Lopez Donovan, Khary Payton, Lynne M. Thomas.
RADIO PLAY REHEARSAL 12:30pm - 01:30pm
Atrium 6 w/ Christopher Jones, Jim Kakalios, Khary Payton and a cast of tens.
RADIO PLAY PERFORMANCE 02:00pm - 03:00pm
Atrium 6 w/ Christopher Jones, Jim Kakalios, Khary Payton and a cast of tens.
"Superficially Strong Female Characters" 05:00pm - 06:00pm
Edina w/ Crystal Huff (m), Kathryn Sullivan, Chrysoula Tzavelas, Joan Marie Verba.
"One on One with Christopher Jones" 07:00pm - 08:00pm
Edina (m) w/Christopher Jones.
ANIMATION BLUE 07:00pm - 08:00pm
Atrium 6 w/Christopher Jones, Lyda Morehouse, Khary Payton, Jenna Powers, Edmund Tsabard.
SUNDAY, JULY 03, 2016
YOUNG JUSTICE 09:30am - 10:30am
Atrium 6 w/Christopher Jones, Khary Payton.
SIGNING 11:00am - 12:00pm
Autograph Table B.
RAIN OF THE GHOSTS 12:30pm - 01:30pm
READING 02:00pm - 03:00pm
ONE ON ONE 07:00pm - 08:00pm
Atrium 6 w/Melissa Kaercher.
Hey Mr. Weisman
I consider your and your collaborators' take on Young Justice to be a masterpiece, not just in terms of action but in terms of planning and structure. And that leads me to ask the question of how, exactly, did you go about mounting that type of beautifully complex operation? I mean how were you able to develop all of those intertwining stories for literally hundreds of characters and feed them all into the larger agenda? Did you start by breaking a general story for where you wanted the series to go and which characters you wanted to take it there? Or did you start with the main characters and work your way out from there?
I suppose we did start with general story. And characters, including general directions for each major character.
Then it's about index cards on a bulletin board. You move them around until you've got a cohesive set of stories, creating an arc or tapestry for the entire season.
I just had a few questions concerning Series Bibles if that's alright.
1. How are Series Bibles typically constructed? Is it divided into sections like characters, locations, and story events usually or does it depend on the show?
2. Do they contain much in the way of art or concepts? If so, are there perhaps unused versions or is it typically the finalized designs?
3. Given how much the passage of time is a factor in your shows, do you typically have a series timeline that gets added to as you progress? Do events tend to stay where they are or can things be moved around if need be?
Thank you for your time.
1. It depends on the needs of the show. But generally, there's an introductory section. Then characters. Major settings. Perhaps gear. Stories. Conclusion.
2. Most don't include art because no art has been done yet. (I'm not sure what you mean by "concepts".) By the time there is art, generally no one bothers to update the bible with it. But there are tons of exceptions.
2a. Could be either or neither.
3. I do, yes.
3a. Nothing is canon until it's appeared on the air or in some other canon source, for example the YJ companion comic. So things can change until then. But we tend to stay on track most of the time.
Hello, Greg. I'm a huge fan of yours. I'm really interested in animation, and storytelling and writing- and would eventually like to have my own show at some point. And I'm a big fan of superheroes and comics, especially DC ones. So- Young Justice had a huge impact on me. Anyway I wanted to know-
1)What advice do you have for young aspiring writers?
2)What are the people in the industry/companies looking for, when they're hiring?(I would love your insight)
3)What's the first step one needs to take, in order to get into the TV animation field and break through?
4)What sort of educational background is preferred in the industry, or proves helpful/useful in it?
The last question, I wanna know specifically as I think that'll help me determine what I wanna take for my University course. I love storytelling, always have and I would love for you to share your knowledge of the industry, and insights of writing. :)
1. Look through the "WRITING" and "WRITING TIPS" archives here at Ask Greg.
2. Good writers with good sample scripts.
3. Write scripts. Rewrite scripts. Rewrite some more. Get an agent.
4. No one cares. Seriously. Personally, I'm big on education, and I think it'll make you a better writer if you have a strong liberal arts background (even if you majored in the sciences or whatever), but no one looks at a resume and says, "Oh, no, he didn't go to Harvard! We can't hire him!"
I'm starting a comic on my own with a superhero plot I want to know what does these comic publishing companies look for
They're all different. The best way to analyze each company is to read what they're already putting out.
But frankly, for an original property, I think I'd recommend self-publishing online first.
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