Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Mystery Behind Writing Mysteries

Taylor Elizondo
A good mystery will leave you guessing. Often when you read a puzzling novel you are left wondering what is going to happen next. You never want to put the book down. But what if you want to write a mystery novel of your own? There are many ideas that would benefit you in writing a novel, and I have broken them down into five steps.

First, start your story off with a BANG! When starting your novel, there is always a worry that you have enough information for the reader so that when they are reading your novel, they understand what is going on throughout the story. You need to make sure that it all flows together, and it is cohesive. When someone is reading a good mystery novel, they want something that makes the book tense, so when you are writing your novel make sure that it is suspenseful; you want your readers on the edge of their seats and left to wonder. For example, you can create a villain, be unpredictable, and apply pressure to the situation at hand. This is what draws them in and keeps them captivated while reading. Because who’s going to read a mystery novel if they are able to figure out what is going to happen before it even happens? If you start a mystery off with a huge problem that keeps snowballing, the reader will be more inclined to keep reading in order to find out what is really going on. Readers want to be able to peel back the layers.

Second, the more imagery, the stronger your novel will be. You want the book to come to life. From the color of the leaves on the trees to how the sand feels in between a character’s toes. You want them to feel like they are living right beside the characters inside the pages. When someone is reading your book, they want to feel like they have stepped right into the middle of it. With as much description as possible, you can easily achieve this goal.

Third, give your character a story! The main character is the person that the reader is following throughout your novel. In a good mystery, the main character is usually the person who is trying to solve the conundrum at hand. Depending on what age range you are trying to reach, make the main character the person who you know will speak to that group of people. You always want the main character to have something that a group of people will be able to relate with. This will help the reader keep reading. For example, in the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling made sure that you knew every little detail about Harry all the way down to the lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead and his broken glasses held together with tape in the middle.

Fourth, try to contrast suspense with something that is funny. When you use humor to counter the suspense, it brings another aspect to a story that might otherwise be flat. Sometimes humor can even make a tale darker than it was before. Sometimes making light of the situation that the characters are in lets you see into their world. Humor is a great way to change up the action. Think about it. When your life feels like it is in a downward spiral, what is one way that you can counter it? You make light of your situation. This is our defense mechanism. Doing this helps you feel a little bit better even for just that moment. The main character of your novel is feeling that same tension. Adding some humor can help make the story seem more realistic.

Fifth, avoid cliché plotlines! There are many clichés when you are writing a mystery. It’s always easier, for instance, to have the murderer be someone who the deceased knew. In the movie “The Lovely Bones,” Susie Salmon was abducted by next-door neighbor George Harvey. This could be seen as cliché. Think outside of the box. In the end there is always a worry that your story is like someone else’s. The best way to avoid this problem is to do something different that will set your work apart. Sure, it might be scary to go against the grain—however, the payoff will be great in the end.

For more tips on writing mysteries, check out the Writer's Digest website for a list of helpful articles. 

Taylor Elizondo is a senior at Calumet College of St. Joseph. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Growing up she has always been drawn to mystery novels. Today, when she isn’t playing softball for the college team, she spends her free time writing her own mystery short stories. She hopes to graduate from CCSJ with a degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Writers Can Use Their Voices to Change the World

Anthony Delvalle
Today, more and more powerful writers are needed. Not just any powerful writers but writers who are willing to make a change in people’s lives by writing on issues, disadvantages, advantages, and accomplishments that happen in communities that collect negativity. If they’re not the ones fighting for change, then they could be the ones writing to support those who are on the front line. The world we are living in is only getting worse with depression, pregnancies, gang activities, dropouts, killings and more. As much as we witness in our surroundings, many writers never really give it attention to try and change the matter. It’s on the news every day, which is 90% negative. Where is the positive?

We need writers! Writers who want to help others reveal their talents and show people’s ideas and creativity. Basically, the people who want to better themselves need connections, but who are going to be their connections? That’s where writers take their part and go as far as they can with the career of writing. It begins with graduating high school and, most importantly, getting into college to become journalists, book writers, or even photographers to better get their points across. It will make it easier to help gain the attention of members in the community.

As journalists, writers speak about the community people live in and what needs to improve, such as more policemen needed in the neighborhoods because of gang-related violence or drugs. Interviewing people living in an area like that and writing on it can help pass the word of what’s needed. Simply explaining stories based on people’s lives and what they’ve gone or are going through living in their area can accomplish this.

Other than reporting about the bad in communities, writers should show love to the individuals that completed school or made programs for youth to attend or to churches hosting events to bring the public in. They need to let the world know more about the good so people all over the world can use those ideas in their communities. If they see a big giveaway of canned goods or clothing or whatever is in need that people don’t have, that can spark a light in others around the world. Putting something like that in a magazine can catch someone’s eye.

It can go as far as being a free tutor to young teens who want a career in writing. Even holding sessions after school to edit papers and give one on one advice that most teachers don’t have time for during class. Not only to young teens but even to college students who don’t have the time to go to tutoring at their school. Emailing a writer with experience is okay, too. Not just about homework but with résumés that someone needs help putting together.

It’s all about sacrifice and showing support to citizens who want to make a change in their lives or just better themselves no matter what their age. It’s not an easy job for writers to get done but it’s a building block and a step of faith that’s not always just about you. It’s about your gifts making a difference in someone else’s life.
Anthony Delvalle is a junior at Calumet College of St. Joseph. He is currently studying communications. He was born and raised in Hammond, Indiana, and grew up in church. He goes out of his way for people and loves inspiring the younger teens. He thrives to be the best he can be and wants the best for everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Writing through a Lens

Robert Davis

Taking a picture isn't as easy as it seems.  Some people think that taking the perfect picture is picking up a camera and snapping. Great writers know that a nicely photographed picture can make a reader gravitate to your work. Photography can be one of the trickiest parts of telling a story because pictures speak to your audience. So, if your picture doesn't match the title of your publication or writing, people aren’t going to read after the title. A bad picture could dissuade a person from reading. More than likely before reading your works, an ordinary person will look for something about the story to catch the reader's eye.

As a beginning author, you must think that if you don’t have a big name in writing a lot of people aren’t going to want to read whatever you write to begin with. It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture has the power to bring a piece to life. Your job is to find out how to make readers want to read what you’ve written. This can be a simple picture to illustrate what you’re going to write about. Bringing a picture to life can be quite complex though.

Many aspects go into taking a great picture to promote your masterpiece. Get creative and flirt with angles to manifest a picture that will catch even the hardest critic’s eye. Using the right angle of the sun can be critical in this instance. Lighting and angles definitely play a big part in taking a perfect still picture. The time of day, expression, and mood can affect any possible good-looking picture. For instance, did you know that many smartphones today such as the iPhone and Galaxy have features on the newer models to help you capture well-photographed pictures, such as portrait mode so authors can take extravagant face shots for the covers of their books? Professionalism is expected in every aspect of your publication.

You’re writing through a lens, and words can be misinterpreted. Knowing how to match a picture can be very helpful for readers. For example, you don’t want to write about a “happy” clown in a children's book covered in blood. Those two things don’t go together. Same thing goes for using a blurry or unprofessional picture for a serious matter.  Also, a book about anything concerning a bad outcome more than likely needs a cover photo of something dark and gloomy. You would never want to use a picture of something unintentionally blurry. Never be afraid to get nature in your photo either. Simply staying still and using the focus on your camera or your smartphone can get you the picture that you want. Looks are very important to Millennials and Generation Z. If it doesn’t look good, why bother with it?


Robert Davis is a student at Calumet College of Saint Joseph.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Comic Book Writing Process

Emily Gomez

Many comic historians would say that in 1938, when Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman) was published, it marked the birth of superhero comic books. Before full-length comic books, there were short newspaper comic strips. Those short strips did not require the same amount of time, energy, and effort as a full-length comic book published by a major publisher like Marvel or DC. Comic books are now stories using years of established history and continuity that writers must take into account every time they decide to write for an existing character. Let’s go through the process that comic book writers must undertake in order to produce the perfect script.

Like all writers, comic book authors must start with an outline. They do this to organize all their ideas before starting the actual script. Writers place all of their thoughts into bullet points. After jotting down all their ideas, they can determine how many panels are needed for each point in the story. The average comic book has about 22 pages, 132 panels per issue, and 22 words, so it is very important to plan ahead before jumping into a script.

The next step is to write out all of the action, dialogue, and key elements that will be needed for each panel. It is important to be as detailed as possible so that when the artist receives the script, they know exactly how to illustrate the writer’s vision. Communication between the writer and the artist is important because without it a story can be taken into a completely different direction. 

A famous example of this is from Avengers #213, where the character Hank Pym (also known as Yellow Jacket at the time) is seen hitting his wife Janet Van Dyne. This was, of course seen as very controversial and tainted the way readers looked at Hank. The writer of the comic, Jim Shooter, addressed this issue in 2011 on his blog by stating, “In that story (issue 213, I think), there is a scene in which Hank is supposed to have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of ‘get away from me’ gesture while not looking at her.  Bob Hall, who had been taught by John Buscema to always go for the most extreme action, turned that into a right cross!  There was no time to have it redrawn, which, to this day has caused the tragic story of Hank Pym to be known as the ‘wife-beater’ story.” 

If you are writing for an already established character like Spider-Man or Batman, it’s important that you have a decent knowledge of the character’s mythos. You don’t have to know everything, but it’s important to know the basics to do the character justice. Every writer can bring something new to a character while still keeping its essence. Some of these new takes on characters can have long lasting impacts on the way the general public views him or her. Frank Miller’s graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” is one of the most important Batman stories ever written. In the 60s, Batman was campy and goofy and the 70s brought him back to his dark roots, but Miller did this better than anyone else had with his graphic novel in 1986. In 1988, Alan Moore wrote the graphic novel “Batman: The Killing Joke,” which is considered to be the most iconic Joker story ever told. The story had a large effect on Batman’s continuity, one of the major points being the shooting and paralysis of Barbara Gordon (a.k.a. Batgirl). She went from Batgirl to Oracle, a wheelchair bound hero who is a computer expert and source of information for Batman. She used her preexisting knowledge and photographic memory to continue to assist Batman and many others in the superhero community. She would remain in a wheelchair for 22 years before she was rewritten as Batgirl once again.
Comic book writers are privileged with the task of continuing the adventures of these beloved characters. Because of this, they should be greatly respected for their fantastic contributions to comics and to literature as a whole.


Emily Gomez is a junior at Calumet College of Saint Joseph. She is studying communications and when she graduates, she hopes to become an entertainment journalist. She would like to one day write for a blog, work for a TV news network, or start her own podcast.