Creating Comics: Storytelling and Narrative

Back for part 2 of the creating comics series of blogs! Exciting stuff.

Okay, I'm kinda gonna cheat.

Once I finished last weeks blog I kept on thinking of bits I left out and was racking my brain over it. This blog is a personal one, a rambling of thoughts so it doesn't really suit what I tried to accomplish last week. I need to properly sit down and map it out, which is time consuming.

 

So yeah the cheating, remember that magazine I'm plugging? I'm going to copy and paste articles from that! It's still all my material and I'm just stupidly leaving it in the dust. I wrote it 2 years ago, it's a bit clunky, some elements I learned later are missing but the fundamentals are there, so enjoy!

 

Introduction

Here we begin at the basic groundwork of all storytelling. Later on we’ll look into the various specific requirements for every medium, but every story ever told in some sort of form will follow these basic storytelling techniques. So before you go on to write an epic novel or a thrilling script, read the following.

Before You Start

The very important first step is to gather your thoughts together for the story you wish to tell. If you’re interested in writing but don’t have a solid idea yet, try and get inspired. Inspiration can come from anything and everything; wither it be life experiences, music or a story in the news. Inspiration is of course very important, once you have the passion to tell a certain story you already have the mind set to push yourself to learn everything about writing and using that to make your ambitions come true.

Brain Storming

Once you gather a basic idea of what your story will be, try and brain storm ideas down for characters and plot. One of the best ways is to learn by example, watch your favourite films or read your favourite book. What bits stand out in them? What makes them a well told story? Also watch/read/play badly done pieces of storytelling. What makes it not work? Cliché? Audience confusion? Try and suss out what makes certain parts work within the story and take notes. The worst thing to do is to plagiarize of course, it isn’t cut and paste, more like learning from industry professionals. Remember every storyteller has taken inspiration from other writers in their medium. Nothing is truly unique anymore so don’t try to break in by crafting something that will be incredibly “different”.  It won’t be different; it’ll just be convoluted and annoying to the audience (if it finds one).  So brain storm down all your ideas you wish to include in the story, make thought bubbles with all the elements that will come together. Heck even figure out the ending of your piece if you already have it set. Remember to keep true to the genres you wish to adhere to, and keep the theme in mind.

Theme

Theme is of course very important; all works of writing can be very entertaining but have important subtext to go along with them. All good stories have a point to them. Think, does your story have a point? Are you trying to comment on society, expose corruption or examine human relationships? No matter how big or small your topic is, try and work it into your work without hitting your audience on the head with it. An audience preached to is a bored audience.

Construct a Background

A very important aspect is to gather all the background details before the actual plot is written. This is more important in SCI FI and fantasy as the alternate reality they are set in will require a lot of background information and mythology. This can be used on screen or in the book to give depth to your plot, or it can just be for your own mental notes for when you write the story.  For example for a vampire film you’ll have to construct the mythology of them, will they be killed by wooden stakes or silver? Can they fly or are they more realistic as if plagued by a disease? If you write a gritty disgusting vampire book and they start flying out of nowhere with no real explanation, it can come off as poorly written. So set up your back-story, write everything about your world and your characters back-story. And remember to set the plot within this world, even fantasy stories can seem unrealistic as bizarre as that may sound. If they break the rules of their own universe, they become silly.

Readme

So you have the ideas down, don’t worry if they are incomplete, once you learn structure and everything else, more will come to you and no doubt changes will be made. Redrafting is the key to writing. You’re story will change numerous times before you’re finished. Now its time to begin. Are you game?

 

What is Narrative?

A story is what the film or book is about but the narrative is how that story is told. Narrative is the single most important thing in storytelling as the way the narrative flows can dictate how well your plot unfolds. A properly told narrative can engage the audience, develop characters and avoid a convoluted nature that can confuse your audience. Remember more often than not, simpler = better. Not meaning your story should be stupid, but the more straightforward it is, the better the result, especially if this is your first crack at writing. Films such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings follow the most basic narrative structure (which will be explained in the next page) and are incredibly well received critically. While complex stories such as the film Magnolia can provide unique breathtaking storytelling, even it follows a simple structure. The film intertwines different characters perspectives, but throughout the film, emotionally they are all developed at the same points when leading to the climax. But for first time writers, try to avoid getting ahead of yourself.


Linear Narrative

This is when the narrative telling the plot follows a linear chronological order. While it may encompass techniques such as flashbacks to add more depth to the plot and develop characters, it is still consider a linear story.

Non- Linear Narrative

This is a less common narrative style but done right can be very effective. This is when the story is not told from the straight one time to another. Non-Linear narratives will jump around the time line and often different characters. Film examples of this are notably Memento, 21 Grams and Pulp Fiction. When the jumps around time aren’t flashbacks from the characters, it is non-linear.

There are many ways in which the narrative is told throughout all mediums. It includes everything to what is in the settings to what the character is wearing. For movies and games musical score can also contribute to the narrative. Scary eerie music tells us the audience that it’s a horror scene and we should be scared. The low lighting and dark set design adds to this, all coming together to tell the story in accompany with the actual dialogue and movement. Likewise in a book, the description build up the suspense, describe blood and fear, all adding to the narrative of the piece.

The main driving focus of the narrative though is actions and dialogue. What the characters do, where they go, what actions happens to them and conflicts. The dialogue must seem natural and give the audience the necessary information to know what’s going on. Remember these key elements when constructing your narrative.

Conflict

Conflict is the driving force behind every story ever told. There can be no story without some sort of villain opposing our protagonist (main character). It can be a person, a natural disaster or an entire organisation ala 1984. Without conflict nothing interesting will happen. If our main characters just breeze through the plot, it will be incredibly dull. Imagine if Lord of The Rings, everyone helped Frodo and he had no enemies to face. It would be just him walking for years to put a ring in some lava.

Don’t Make Your Protagonist a Wimp

Quite simply your lead character must be in some aspects strong willed and willing to face danger. If a character shies away from great obstacles there is no excitement or suspense in the story. The character must be so motivated to achieve his goal (save the world, build a relationship) that he/she will go through great lengths to do so. Imagine if Indiana Jones had the option between hiding on a Nazi sub and taking them on or just staying back because its too dangerous. The latter would send the audience to sleep. The narrative must take the most emotionally and psychically tasking route to engage the audience.

Purpose

Remember that every scene, chapter or section in your story must have a narrative purpose. A bit of dialogue that doesn’t develop a character, push the plot forward or reveal personality is pointless. Character’s can talk about mundane things, but these mundane things are often related to their character and help us relate to them more. The worst thing to do in narrative is to not add to it at all.

Each scene with dialogue, monologue, action, conflict, progression, journey, plot twists must all contribute to the overall narrative of the piece in order to get the audience from point A to B in the most satisfactory way as possible.

 

Next time - Character development!

 

Leave a comment, tell me how much you enjoyed/hated it.