thoughtballoons Turns 4

by ryankl

Four years ago I created a site, a place for comic writers to go and just write one page of script a week on a decided character/theme. Yes, the concept is completely stolen from ComicTwart, and such, but instead of having rad art, it had scripts. Text heavy, wordy, non-arted scripts.

And today, thoughtballoons turns 4!

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I thought this site up and figured it would be fun. Above all else, I built this because I wanted to do it. I wrangled in a few mates to join me and so each and every week we wrote our scripts, and critiqued each other, and bonded, and got better, and experimented. It truly was a glorious time to live and learn. For the first two straight years, I didn’t miss a week. But then I got busy, well, kinda busy, and I found the one page script a week was either going to take up too much time/headspace, or they were going to start sucking. So I bowed out early in that third year and I know it was the right thing to do but I miss the site and the challenge and the team a lot.

In my two+ years running the site, I forged friendships in steel, I figured out my writing strengths and weaknesses (and I worked on improving both), and I see that I did what the site was intended for – I grew and I enjoyed it. From the site, I really got to know Ben Rosenthal and now we table next to each other at many Aussie cons. I met Dan Hill in the comments section and now he’s a first reader on nearly all my stuff and he’s the editor on HEADSPACE, my Monkeybrain book. I also met Grant McLaughlin somewhere in the mix and we’ve subsequently shared a bed – true fact. The site was a breeding ground for much of who I am today as a writer.

If you want to watch me grow, and stumble, and try, and enjoy every word – scope my thoughtballoons archive here (though skip the first few at the top, the team decided to write scripts ABOUT me so those aren’t mine, though I wish a few were, bloody good they are).

While looking at the site, and realising 4 years has passed since I thought it up and slapped it together and started hacking my words on there, I started going through my scripts and I came across my final few and realised I didn’t immediately hate myself.

Iron Man’s Armour – we had to write about the central item of Stark Tech and I write a page where Iron Fist chi-powers an Iron Man gauntlet. Not gonna lie, I still wanna read this in a Marvel comic, hot damn.

Captain America’s Shield – a small moment as a page where a fellow soldier realises Cap is reading something on the back of the shield right before battle. I’d still use this idea today if I got to write a Cap short.

Mjolnir – I posit an equal and opposite hammer, and then put it into Jane Foster’s hands in order to kill Thor. This page was just damn fun to write.

Hulk – I take the phrase ‘Hulk smash!’ and make it feel really nasty and problematic in a way I’ve not thought of/about before or since.

I link to these scripts not just to brag – 1) it’s my site, let me brag, 2) there are plenty of flaws, so little to brag about – but I want to show just how much fun it is to write a one page script each week. You get to play with characters and ideas just for the fun of it. I know I don’t get to do that like this anywhere as often nowadays, and reading these scripts makes me smile and realise sometimes the words can just be fun, and sometimes you can try different things, and sometimes you will have huge and insane and awesome ideas. Look above, a fanboy Iron Fist moment, a sombre Cap piece, an almost cheesy old school Mjolnir moment, and a downright horrific Hulk page. Each week I was flexing all kinds of muscles. There is definite power in that for every writer. And those were just my last handful of scripts. I have my absolute favourites from history – if you come across my X-Men page then you’ll see something I think I did very well (and no, I won’t link to it, I can’t do everything for you). I just recently took one page and pillaged it for an upcoming pitch. Everything old is new again.

I’d suggest, if you are a process hound, or someone looking to hone their craft, check the site out. Damn, there must be about a thousand pages of script on there so far, wow. You should scope the site, pluck the lessons from the corners in which they hide, and if you want to play along at home then each week when a character/theme is picked they write a Why post – throw a one page script there and have it in the world, have it real, and maybe have it critiqued by some other people who might just be your best friends and strongest allies in a few years time.

Also, artists, looking for sequentials to draw? Well, damn, I just found you hundreds of pages on all sorts of different characters from Indy to Batman to Buffy to the Pet Avengers. Enjoy.

As for me, I’ll just sit and reflect that something I started 4 years ago, and abandoned nearly two years ago, still lives on and thrives and provides those lessons and fun for others like it did for me. I have to admit, that’s really humbling and intergalactic levels of cool.

thoughtballoons – because I wanted to be a better writer and have fun and found a way to do both over time. I hope you have or find your thoughtballoons.