Our Best Jackett
Our Best Jackett
Newsletter #178: You Are a WRITER.

Newsletter #178: You Are a WRITER.

Talking Drake concerts, class plans, and an embarrassing high school Scott story!

Hey guys, it's Scott.

It is Friday, March 1st (when I recorded this). Where did February go? Who the hell knows. But I'm sorry I didn't do a post last week. My schedule got a little bit blown up because full disclosure, the big Christmas present this year for our two older boys, Jack and Emmett, 17 and 12 years old, was tickets to a Drake and J. Cole concert in the city. They're both big fans and we were really excited to go. But a few weeks ago, the concert date got moved unexpectedly to a day they couldn't go. And so I put the tickets up on StubHub, got new tickets to a show up in Buffalo this past week while they were on February break and surprised them. We all flew up there and saw Drake and J. Cole at the KeyBank Center and it was fucking amazing.

I am just a casual fan. I mean, I'm a hip hop fan these days, but 80s and 90s is when I grew up though. So everybody from Public Enemy to Biggie to Tribe Called Quest and so on, that's like, my generation. But so my boys and I argue a lot about greatest of all time and so on. But anyway this was something we could agree on the show was fantastic and it brings me to the subject of this week's post which is passion for what you do. But before I jump into it I wanted to do a tiny bit of housekeeping. We have a few things to talk about, like how Canary #3 is currently out from Dark Horse.

Canary #3 (2024) | Covers by Dan Panosian and Francesco Francavilla

It's the conclusion to the twisted Lovecraftian western by incredible co-creator and pal Dan Panosian and me. I really love this book. I hope you'll check it out. This is the finale to it. We spent a lot of time talking about it. It kind of sums up everything we were trying to do when we decided to try and make a western about this moment. It felt like it would have to have some elements of horror to it to make it work. It was an experiment. I think it's like Barnstormers, one of those books that just came out really special because of the incredible work of my co-creator. So I’m really proud of it. Check it out. Let us know what you think!

Also, in a week, Dark Spaces: Dungeon #4 is out by me and Hayden Sherman, my co-creator on that book, out from IDW.

Dark Spaces: Dungeon #4 (2024) | Covers by Hayden Sherman and Dustin Nguyen

It's a serial killer thriller. My take on a Silence of the Lambs or Alex Cross sort of mystery. And I'm really happy with how it came out. It's definitely one of the darkest books that I've worked on. So look for that.

Also, in other news, we'll be doing our next class. It's going to be on action scenes, one of my favorite topics. I was going to do it this week, but because of this concert, I have to push it a week. So we'll be doing it Wednesday, March 13th, 9:30pm EST. I'll pick the material that we're going to look at this week. But if you guys have any suggestions, let us know. Action scenes, I just love. I mean, if you read any of my work, I'm very action heavy. I love the way in which action can sometimes be both a figurative underpinning of what you're going for. So how the action scene moves, where it's set, how it kind of flows beat to beat. It can often be like a microcosm of what the whole story is about. Sometimes it highlights something emotional for a character because of the way the fight goes or again where it happens. We're going to talk about all that stuff, look at some stellar scenes and how they fit contextually into their larger narratives. So if you have any examples that you really want me to use, let us know and we will. So class coming up, those two books coming out, really excited about it.

Also White Boat will be out in April from DSTLRY. It's me and Francesco Francavilla doing big, seafaring horror. I can't wait to see what you guys think of it. You can pre-order it now. FOC is coming up. So give it a chance if you can, if you've liked anything that we've done together as a team, this one is definitely up there with our best. So I can't wait for you guys to see it.

White Boat #1 (2024) | Cover by Francesco Francavilla

I'm just very excited about a lot of things, I gotta say. I know it sounds like I'm just saying that about everything, but I really am. I really genuinely love the stuff I get to work on so I get excited for you guys to take a look. Anyway, with this concert the thing that was so impressive to me was watching someone who from the moment they step out till the moment they go backstage is all about gratitude to the fans and all about energy they're putting out. There wasn't one down moment. There wasn't one moment when it felt like either Drake or J. Cole were phoning it in. They were constantly engaged, constantly talking to the audience, giving out money to the audience, asking them what they thought of this and that. There was props, there was pyrotechnics, there was all kind of the bombast of a concert, but it also got really intimate. It was great. And it just felt like somebody who was grateful to be there. And it made me want to come back and be that kind of person to my readership.

Believe me, I am not Drake. I'm not J. Cole. I'm a particle of sand comparatively. But watching an artist in general relate to their fans in such a powerful way was inspiring. That's all I mean. And it got me thinking about relationship to audience because I think it's something that we don't talk about a lot. The passion for your audience. Look, absolutely the number one most important thing is that you write something that you love. It doesn't matter what anybody else thinks of it. It really doesn't. And I always approach stuff that way. It's not what do they want, it's what do I want and how do I get them to see what I want? It’s how do I get them to want what I want, not how do I give them what they want? Once you start going down the rabbit hole of how do I give them what they want, everything falls apart. Believe me, like, I've been in that boat before. It's the worst. Do not try and please your fans by anticipating what they want. If they're your fans or fans of a character you're working on that you love, your love of that character should generate a story that you love, thereby other fans should love it too. But it should be written for you. It's like I said the other day when I listened to that Rick Rubin quote where he was talking about how he makes stuff for himself. And once in a while, luckily, it seems like a lot of other people, or the majority of people, want the same thing he does. So you have to proceed that way. Otherwise, you don't make anything special.

But that isn't to say that there isn't something incredibly powerful about connection with the audience. When you go out there and you meet fans at a convention, it's powerful. And they come up and they say, I read this and it meant something to me. That's powerful. and it's a core aspect of being a writer and that's okay to admit to say listen I love meeting people that read my stuff. I love seeing if they enjoyed it, if they didn't enjoy it. That connection is is why we write. You write to make something that you if you were the audience would be wowed by something that you would be moved by, inspired by, shocked or scared by, provoked by, all of it. You're writing to yourself and yet by writing to yourself, you're hoping to connect with other people. It has to be that. You're writing because you hope other people feel the same way you do or you want someone to tell you not to feel that way or you want someone to come around to the way you feel even if they didn't feel that way before. That's what writing is, right? It's connection.

I remember the very first time I felt it powerfully, I'm going to tell you. So I was a junior in high school. So this is when I first decided I really wanted to take writing seriously, not just “maybe a comic artist or maybe a comic writer.” But I was like, “I think I'm really a writer. I want to draw my own stuff, but I think I'm a writer first.” And so I took a creative writing class with a teacher named Susan Sherman. She was awesome, and she was married to a poet named May Sarton, and she had her classroom all set up like this study. She had lots of hanging plants and low light, and it was like walking into a library in the middle of the high school, I remember. And we would all workshop our stories and we would workshop them by reading them in the class so if it was your week you would read them to everybody live and they would listen to it. So it became this really performative thing where you had to learn not only how to write a good story but how also to communicate that story, how to animate it by reading it in a way, and read it to people right in front of you so deliver it in a way where they could hear it, feel it, all of it. And so it was a wonderful experience, I loved it. And I got very carried away where I would write stories that were too long and everything. We had like, a final and it was at a parent’s house where we would all get up and read a short piece, one after another, there were like, nine kids in the class. And mine was over by a little bit, and it was an asshole move, but I didn’t understand that at the time. And I still remember the story, it was called Jack and the Reaper and it was about how Jack the Ripper secretly had a brother who lived in the States and they were supposed to be killing together, like, they were a team if I remember correctly because they'd grown up on this farm in America and then Jack had moved to England but his brother was still here in the fields of the of the Midwest and he wore a skull that was his father's skull, it was very very gothic but ultimately the big reveal was that Jack the Ripper was two people and one was Jack and one was the Reaper and the Reaper lived here.

Anyway, so I remember going up, it was at this this girl Danielle's house and it was a really nice apartment in the city and all the parents were there and we were all dressed up and we all got up and read our things and obviously my first mistake was not understanding that reading something about serial killers probably wasn't the best idea in front of your high school parents but did it not deter me whatsoever. I sort of barreled in headlong and was like “and then he took out his scythe…” and went in there, was reading it, and our allotted time was like seven minutes and I remember at minute seven seeing I had a page and a half left, which would have taken like, another two minutes. And Ms. Sherman was sort of like, “listen, Scott, could you wrap it up?” And I completely lost the connection with the audience at that point. I really thought I had them. And whether or not I did, my parents always said, “you were great,” but those are my parents. But I remember looking out and looking in their eyes and trying to win them over and it being this big thing for me, this performance of trying to get them into the story. And when she said that, it just cut everything where everybody clearly was out of it, wanted me to get off the stage and everything. I tried reading a little longer and then she was like “no no, you’ve got to stop…” and I was like “okay” and I left.

And I will tell you what a lunatic I was, I remember I was so upset I had like, one paragraph left that I didn't get to read. And so I called her at home. I found out her number from my friend's parents that were on the PTA and so they had the teacher's number. And I can't even wrap my head around this, but I called her at home and was like, “you know, Ms. Sherman, I'm really upset. I was so close to finishing this story. I worked on it so hard. I wish you had just let me just read the very last paragraph…” And I'm so humiliated even telling this story when I think about it because what an asshole of a kid but I really meant it I felt so upset that I didn't get to read this and I don't know what it says about me. I mean I was a teenager so bear with me, but anyway she took a moment on the phone and she was like, “well first of all like, how did you get the number?” I told her and she was like, “you're calling me at home and my wife just had surgery and I’m coming back from the hospital, so it's not the best time.” So that was like dagger through the heart. Immediately I knew I was in big trouble. And then she was like, “and you're calling me to tell me that I should have let you finish. Is that that what you're saying?” And I was like, “yes, I guess.” And she was like, “Scott Snyder, you are a writer.” And then she hung up. And I thought what was coming was “you are a piece of shit” or “you are an asshole.” And she said it like she meant it that way. But she was like, “you are a true writer.” Click. And that was it.

And I remember not knowing how to take that. And today, taking it both with like, complete shame that I had behaved so poorly and also a strange badge of pride. We still stayed very close after that. We laughed it off. But she was very influential to me and the fact that she responded to that passion for connecting with audience, for trying to be there and read and all of that stuff in such a supportive way, ultimately, was really special. But don't call your teacher at home ever, kids out there. But one good thing to do if you're up for it, practice reading to people, for real. Practice reading your story. Practice the dialogue in front of other people. See if you can get them, friends of yours who are listening, into it. Having it be a living thing that's performed. Trying to sort of think of audience as someone you're connecting with and having them in front of you. It's a really fun and important part of writing, honestly. So anyway, I hope you guys have a great weekend. I'll be back this week!


Our Best Jackett
Our Best Jackett
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