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Help:Writing Compelling Articles

With thanks to the Official Handbook's Sean McQuaid, here are some handy tips for writing the perfect profile!

Use Passive Statements Sparingly

Good: "Scourge killed Norman Osborn."

Not So Good: "Norman Osborn was killed by Scourge."

No rules are absolute, and sometimes there's a good stylistic or content-driven reason to slip into passive voice — but it's not ideal form, especially in handbook-style material. Most of the time, passive statements needlessly bloat a sentence and suck energy out of the text.

Always Focus on Action, Seldom on Ability

Good: "Reed repaired H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot."

Bad: "Reed was able to repair H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot."

Good: "Tagak freed Starlight"

Bad: "Tagak managed to free Starlight"

Whenever possible, let the actions speak for themselves, stripped of embellishment. There are certainly cases where content calls for a little embellishment, because of something emotional or dramatic or unusual about the act in question, but bland, generic "able to" and "managed to" phrasings like the ones above almost never add anything worthwhile, and these pop up in the profiles way too often.

Don't Repeat Yourself

This comes up most often in overlap between History and Powers. If you've already addressed in History the fact that Doctor Sunshine is a superhuman mutate who got his powers from a vial of Happy Serum, you don't need to mention any of this stuff again in the Powers section.

Bad Powers Text: "Thanks to the Happy Serum that gave him his powers, Doctor Sunshine is a mutate who can generate "feelgood" vibes that "mellow out" his opponents."

Good Powers Text: "Doctor Sunshine generates "feelgood" vibes that "mellow out" his opponents."

Participles Are Your Pals (Sometimes)

These profiles all force us to compress many, many events into one dense narrative. Present participle ("painting") and past participle ("painted") versions of your verbs can help compress things a bit.

Okay: "Brian O'Brien donned a mask and fought crime as The Clock."

Better: "Donning a mask, Brian O'Brien fought crime as The Clock."

In that particular case, the space savings are only very slight, but they add up over the course of a profile, and using fewer sentences helps keep the layout tighter.

Another example:

Not So Good: "Josie was stunned by Valerie's true feelings, and she insisted they remain just friends."

Better: "Stunned by Valerie's true feelings, Josie insisted they remain just friends."

Use Introductory Descriptions Sparingly

If a character is well-known, don't go overboard introducing him or her. Referring to "the insane symbiote-possessed superhuman criminal Venom," for instance, is a bit long. If Venom needs an intro at all when he's being mentioned in passing in someone else's entry, say "the mad super-criminal Venom" (or something like that) at the very most. And avoid peppy but unhelpful descriptive phrases like "the wall-crawling Spider-Man,","the rampaging Hulk," and so on. Most people already know these characters, and those sorts of phrases do nothing to meaningfully inform the few who don't..

That being said, intro phrases are more acceptable -- encouraged, even -- for more obscure characters: "the flying French mercenary Le Peregrine," for instance.

Never Send a Phrase to Do a Noun's Job

Generally speaking, you're better off if you go with "crimes" instead of "illegal activities," "mistakes" instead of "errors in judgement," "battles" instead of "violent clashes," and so on. Unless there's something vitally, specifically descriptive in the phrase in question, a noun will usually serve you better.

Possessives Are Your Pals

Not So Good: "Fabian consulted Mister Costello, the lawyer to the Avengers."

Better: "Fabian consulted Mister Costello, the Avengers' lawyer."

It's a simple trick, but I see variations on this in the profiles a LOT, instances where a connection can be expressed more concisely through the use of possessive phrasing.

Avoid Unnecessary Analysis

We recount actions; we generally don't comment on the actions. If we detail a falling-out between Shades and Comanche that includes Shades wounding Comanche, then closes with Comanche pushing Shades off a cliff, we could do this two ways:

Okay: "Comanche exacted his revenge by pushing Shades off a cliff."

More Concise: "Comanche pushed Shades off a cliff."

It's a revenge act, sure, but if the history has already supplied the context of their relationship, we don't necessarily need to further underline the nature of their relationship while recounting the actions.


There's more stuff I could get into, but I've gotta get back to work, so I hope what little I've outlined above will be helpful. -- Sean McQuaid