Guest Post: Noah Murphy talks Superheroes and Ethereal Girls
A little bit ago, I told you about a guy I consider a literary hero–Noah Murphy. Noah writes want he wants to write, the way it should be written and he doesn’t give a damn who doesn’t like it. Well, he probably does give a little it of a damn, but it doesn’t have that cowboy ring to it, does it?
Back then, I told you that Noah wrote the most complex, exciting steampunk/cyberpunk/fantasy stories I’d ever seen. This is a a guy who COMMITS to his world-building. I’m lucky enough to have Noah grace my blog to talk about his new novel Ethereal Girls. Take it away, Noah!
Ethereal Girls – Constructing Superheroes for the Printed Page
Superheroes have retained their popularity for years because they tap into the part of people that makes them want to be something more than they are. By day, they’re average people, but by night they’re superheroes who run off and save the world. Because of their action-packed nature, superheroes found a natural home in comic books, movies and TV.
Superheroes have not, however, found as much success on the printed page. There’s been a few books here or there, mostly licensed books about Superman or Batman, but nothing approaching an established science fiction subgenre. I’ve even had a fellow author tell me that an agent told her superhero books don’t sell. There are two interconnected reasons why I think that’s the case.
First, most superhero books forget the core of any superhero story: action. Many of the works I’ve read have exactly three action scenes, one each in the beginning, middle and end of the story. The rest of the book is nothing but dialogue and character-building. For example, a recent book I read, Confessions of D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer, had a fight at the beginning, the “villain” and a heroine talking in a bunker for what felt like eons, then there was a short fight scene against goons of the real villain, even more talking for pages and pages and finally a battle against the real villain at end. I remember the original Other People’s Heroes by Blake Petit having the same general 3 fight scene structure, though I have not read the newer expanded version.
Second, the traditional idea is that books are all about description and exposition. It’s not just about what happens, it’s about what the character thinks about what is happening. But there’s a problem: the more words used, the slower the story goes.
I tried reading two superhero books aimed at teenagers and while they seemed to be a bit better in the action department, I found them unreadable; the action scenes spent as much time reveling in the teen characters’ angst as they did describing it. I find that the best written action is simple and direct. You get a much quicker sequence. While it’s cut and dry, the action flows instead of grinding to a halt.
So this brings me to Ethereal Girls, my new superhero novel I released about two weeks ago. Here’s the synopsis:
In Medieval Europe, four mystical weapons were forged in order to combat malevolent spirits – vile entities seeking nothing more than to spread misery and chaos across the universe. Centuries later, only one weapon remains to protect Earth. That weapon, the Axe of Boren, falls into the hands of teenage Liza while she is driving home from cheerleading practice, transforming her into a hulking warrior of immense strength and endurance. At the same time, her best friend Macie is twisted into a psychopathic murderer by one of the Axe’s counterparts, the corrupted Sword of Boren, and goes on a gruesome killing spree.
But just as Liza and Macie are headed for battle, the most powerful evil spirit in generations appears, unleashing an army of monstrous cannibals on Washington, D.C. In order to defeat the spirit, Liza must ally with three odd girls: a sickly waif with macabre teleportation abilities; a member of a snake-like race called the Lamia who wants nothing more than to be a human teenager; and the 107th reincarnation of an ancient goddess who may know far more about the mystical weapons than she lets on. But even with her new friends, Liza faces a near impossible task. Macie is obsessed with destroying her regardless of the devastation unfolding around them…
The book is a rewrite of a superhero novella I published in October 2011 called Barbarian Girl which had many of the same main characters along with a similar plot. The novella, I’ll admit, was so terrible I pulled it at the beginning of the year. It had many problems but the two foremost issues were the ones I talked earlier. It had 3 action sequences; and a completely incompetent editor managed to make the book worse by making everything read like the original passage above.
The only way to salvage the book was to destroy it and completely rewrite from scratch. This time I crammed as many action scenes into the book as I possibly could while hiring a more experienced and professional editor who kept my short and snappy writing style. Ethereal Girls was the result. It’s a much stronger work that I think properly captures superhero action in textual form by fixing many of the problems in superhero novels.
Go and read the first two chapters, available on my website and see for yourself. If you like the book, purchase it via the links at the bottom of the page. I’m not going to say it’s the greatest book in the history of ever, but I do think those looking for an action-packed superhero story will find a lot to enjoy.