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Foxwolf writes...

Hi Greg

As someone who is interested in writing episodic stories, I was wondering if you could share your approach on how you write a season for a series like YJ. I remember seeing an image on Brandon Vietti's blog where he had post-it's on a board mapping out all of season 1.

1. Do you start with the season's overall story first, eg. "The Light wants to take control of the Justice League and Red Arrow is the mole who will help them" and then do you just come up with plot points/events that move the story forward and scatter them across episodes?

2. Do you come up character development separately or in tandum with the story? I ask because in my own writing I have growth of some characters mapped out but have struggled to come up with plots to tie that growth in with the overall story arc.

3. If you're able to recall, would you be able to share some of the content on the post-it's from a particular YJ episode?

4. And what are your thoughts on "filler story episodes". My interpretation was "Secrets" and "Performance" were filler, in that they didn't drive the overall season story forward, but did have character development. Do you think it's important in writing for a series to give the audience a break from the story arc at regular intervals?

Thanks for your time Greg on sharing your writing process.

Greg responds...

1. Yes, more or less. (For example, I'm not sure Red Arrow was the FIRST thing we came up with, as your example implies, but it was pretty early on.)

2. In tandom. Though we have a pretty clear idea of who all the leads are when we start.

3. Okay, first, not post-its. INDEX CARDS. Second, that board came down to make room for the Season Two board some time ago. And when I moved offices, even the Season Two board came down. That stuff's all boxed at the moment. But I do have issues #20-25 up on the board now. And since issue #20 has seen print, I'm willing to spoil THAT one here. Now the comic is slightly different. Particularly within this truly jammed-packed six-parter, my index cards literally broke things down page-by-page, and everything is color-coded to make it easier for me to refer to where a particular sub-plot left off:

I'll transcribe it all here, exactly how it's written on the index cards:


"Players, Chapter One: Wheelbarrow, Shoe, Thimble"

PAGE ONE - WHITE - Y0 - Cave - DG's Bday. Z kiss on cheek. KF told Z.
PAGE TWO - YELLOW - Y5 - Blud - DG's Bday. WW, AC call. BK exits bedroom.
PAGE THREE - YELLOW - BK & Gotham Academy Yearbook.
PAGE FOUR - YELLOW - Cave - Splash, Logo, Subtitle. Nw, Sb, MM, Bb, LB, Rob, BBoy, Bg, WG, MD, W. Comp announces Z & Roc.
PAGE FIVE - YELLOW - Leaguers Z, Roc enter "slumming". Nw's ex Z Bday kisses Nw on mouth.
PAGE SIX - YELLOW - Ex Roc kisses Nw on cheek. Rob to join Bm. Roc pix of AE. Nw talks to SB, MM.
PAGE SEVEN - YELLOW - Sb, MM can work together. Nw starts briefing.
BLUE - Metro - Beta - Meg links Con, KB, BG in crowd. Camo'd B-S...
PAGE EIGHT - BLUE - Bored LB at helm. BBoy as warbler is on edge. NH fundraising. QB a threat.
PAGE NINE - WHITE - Y0 - Logan Sanct - GL, Monk watch TV re: RH's impeach. ML tells GL: Meg, Con here.
YELLOW - Y5 - El Paso - Alpha - Nw, WG, S-C.
PAGE TEN - YELLOW - New recruit WG glad to be w/Alpha, recruiting next recruit. Reveal Blue.
PAGE ELEVEN - BLUE - Metro - Beta - Meg alert, longing Con.
WHITE - Y0 - Logan Sanct - Meg, GL, Monk hang; Con w/Sumac.
PAGE TWELVE - WHITE - Meg kisses Con. Reveal Clark, JO interview ML.
PAGE THIRTEEN - WHITE - Intros. ML calls Meg her daughter. Clark & Con meet.
PAGE FOURTEEN - WHITE - JO intro. Clark requested Logan gig. Clark, JO cover impeach. Clark offers ride to get to know kids.
PAGE FIFTEEN - WHITE - Meg turns down ride. Clark may see them in Dhabar.
BLUE - Y5 - Metro - Beta - Clark greets Con.
PAGE SIXTEEN - YELLOW - El Paso - Alpha - DG, CS wait for and discuss Blue/JR.
PAGE SEVENTEEN - YELLOW - Blue into JR. CS greets JR. CS, DG confront JR.
BLUE - Metro - Beta - JO, Meg, Con look no different. Clark linked, spots Dev. Clark to suit up.
PAGE NINETEEN - BLUE - Dev vanishes. Sm vanishes. Con vanishes. Meg reacts.
PAGE TWENTY - GREEN - Br Ship - Orb-One sends First Leader Ks' go ahead to Br. Reveal Br. Logo, Title, Credits.

4. There's no such thing as filler episodes on any series I've ever done. There ARE change of pace stories, but even they wind up playing into the larger tapestry. For example, one could easily view "Targets" as a change of pace, focusing as it does on Red Arrow, Sportsmaster and Cheshire with just a little Aqualad thrown in at the end, but obviously, it wound up being crucial to the season as a whole. Neither "Secrets" nor "Performance" were filler in our minds. Both advanced the overall story, the arcs of multiple characters, the dynamics between those characters AND held clues to what was still to come. They clearly drove the season forward. Having said all that, I do think it helps to have 'breathers' in there, where some plotlines and/or characters are rested, to allow time for growth, to build suspence, to let off-screen events take place, etc., etc.

Response recorded on October 02, 2012