Writing Excuses 10.11: Project In Depth: “Parallel Perspectives”

If you haven’t yet read “Parallel Perspectives,” from Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, we have a PDF for you to download and read before you start listening to this episode. It’s a 33mb file in a public DropBox folder.

Parallel Perspectives PDF for Writing Excuses listeners

Got the file? Done reading? Okay, let’s go…

This week is a Project in Depth episode focusing on a 13-page graphic story (“comic book”) found at the end of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, and our focus this week will be story structure. It’s fun, because the process of structuring a bonus story begins much differently than most projects, and the structure was laid in support of a four-creator collaboration.

The creators? Howard Tayler, Brenda Hickey, Travis Walton, and Keliana Tayler.

(If you’d like your own hard-copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, you can get it from Amazon.com or directly from the publisher.)


Next month we’re going to talk Beginnings: decide on the promises you want to make to your readers in your story. Then outline according to those promises.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle,  by Christopher Healy, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

11 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 10.11: Project In Depth: “Parallel Perspectives””

  1. As a rookie writer who just started working on a webcomic / graphic novel project – by collaborating with an awesome artist I just made friends with – I found this episode particularly interesting. Especially since this is the first time you guys really drilled down deep into the details of planning and plotting out a story. This is an excellent addition to the other about a dozen times when you talked about (web-)comics , where I already learned so much useful stuff about other facets of writing for comics. And the best thing this time is that I could download the PDF to see what you were talking about with my own eyes. Thank you very much.

  2. You gave us a link to download your print-exclusive bonus story for free just so we could more easily appreciate this episode? That was supremely generous and considerate of you, Howard. All the gratitudes to you for that!

  3. Dan referred to it as a “Yojimbo” type story. He means “Rashomon.” Yojimbo is the Kurosawa film about the wandering samurai who manipulates two rival gangs. Rashomon is the one with four perspectives on the same story.

  4. Will be listening to this tonight but downloaded the PDF and read it during my lunch break to prepare. Awesome and lots of fun Howard. I liked the PoV changes refelcted in teh chaging art styles. Thanks for making this available.

  5. When you dig down into it, Parallel Perspectives is quite literally parallel perspectives, telling the same story from several different points of view, all wrapped up in General Tagon’s stage directions. The real question is, what can you do with a remote-controlled headless monkey?

    While you’re deciding how you want to answer that question, read the transcript! Over here:


    Words to make your eyes tingle!

    Also in the archives.

  6. Interesting episode. I was trying something in my first few chapters – and not sure if it is related to this idea of parallelism (or whatever this is called). I had one character doing something in chapter one, and at the end he runs down the street. Chapter 2 is another character PoV but as her story moves along she sees character 1 running down the street. I did something similar in the third chapter without realizing I was connecting all of them (pantsing) and somebody pointed it out to me. They said it worked for them but I stopped doing it once it was pointed out to me. Not sure if this is similar or if it is good or bad thing to do.

  7. This was a great episode. I love hearing Howard’s take on things, I find it very insightful and articulate. One thing that jumped out at me was how, in prepping for this bonus story (and I assume many graphic novelists do the same thing for larger projects) is that he laid out 12 blank notecards on his desk to start literally brainstorming the physical shape of the project. What got me thinking, though, is whether this works/can work for writers who do not illustrate. I would love to hear if any novelists out there or short story writers do anything similar, and what unique twists they put on it. I often print out my novel chapters and lay them all out on the floor in a row, step back, let my eyes glaze over, and try to get a take on what the whole thing looks like. This helps pin down areas where there are too many bulky paragraphs strung together, which I think sometimes discourage readers when they are flipping through a book late at night wondering whether or not to bite off one more chapter before bed; and it helps wrap my brain around the ups and downs of the plot and any dramatic rises/falls in action or pace.

    Anyone else out there do anything similar with a fresh take? I wonder, too, if Brandon, Dan, and Mary, being–oh, what is called again…? Published!–would find this useful, or if it is the sort of gimmicky thing a real pro might look at and say, “Eh, not necessary.” Especially when you may not have much control over the final print formatting of your project in terms of page size, fonts, margins, etc. Thoughts?

  8. I need to give compliments to Howard for the artists he chose to do the various styles in Parallel Perspectives. The aesthetic of each one is a great way of showing how they view the world. And themselves!

  9. @J. Evans? You might be interested in the Board in the Save The Cat! approach. Basically a story structure, with his beats spread out in four rows and adding extra cards. Save the Cat! is aimed at screenwriters, but there’s plenty of overlap with written stories, I think.

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