Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Shape of Comics to Come

I was thinking about the way the shape of comic affects the narrative.

I never, never start a story without knowing where I want it to end. Come to that, I almost always know the ending before I know where the start is. The end is final, but I can start a story anywhere, although I try to come into it as close as I can to the inciting incident.

Endings are easy. Beginnings are easy. It's the middle bits that are complicated, and it's also the area where the fact that I am writing (so far) in 22 page chunks comes into play, because that shape affects the way I tell the story.

I'm pretty meticulous about the individual issues having a beginning, middle and end, and they need to have some kind of story beat in them.

In Luther Strode, for instance:

Issue One - Ends with Luther realizing what he's capable of

All of the issues build through their story towards that final beat, following a rough three act structure, and the series as a whole follows this same progress. This gets kind of fractal, actually, because I have an eye towards structure within the individual scenes as well, and even down to the level of the page.

(It goes the other way, too - if I have my druthers, Luther will return in two sequel series, and these again follow a rough three act build towards the final series.)

Anyhow, this affects the actual substance of the story, because when I write, the stories are not simply chunks of story divided into 22 page sections, they're built around that structure, so if I were writing them for a different form, the actual way the story would be told would be different, too.

Finding the right amount of material that fits comfortably into 22 page chunks is by far the biggest challenge for me when I'm working on outlines. The first issue and the last are usually pretty easy - it's the four in the middle that take the bulk of the mental heavy lifting for me.

I do have other structural things that I strive for, as well - I like to make sure that each issue is "bigger" than the one before it - in Luther, this was both in terms of the relationships and the amount and intensity of violence that was depicted. This makes, for my tastes, a properly satisfying story.

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