Sunday, 8 August 2010

Story telling

A recent Art and Story podcast raised the subject of getting the multi-part epic rocking around inside your head out into the world as a mini-series or single GN or issue.

Some writers are great at using hyper-condensed story telling techniques (see Grant Morrison), some let the story breath across multiple parts, using panels to slow pace, create tension and beats (see Warren Ellis and B M Bendis).

Ultimately you have to use what works for your strengths as a writer and/or artist.

With comic book sequential story telling we are blessed with a duel method of story telling control – not only do we have the words and pictures on the page, we also have those moments between the images, the between-panel moments, which can be used very effectively.

As a writer I learned two very important lessons working on Omnitarium - First, never ask an artist to convey two emotions or moments within one panel. Secondly, let the artist breath. Trust your artist to be able to find a composition within the panel and page that works, and give him the room to do his job. Asking for more than 5 or 6 panels on a page will restrict the artist with space, especially if you are presenting a wordy moment.

In order to get a tighter idea of the story you wish to tell, and help to perhaps condense it down, or trim the fat, first condense the idea down to it’s smallest form – go for the high concept or elevator pitch. Then plot the story out in long form, working out which beats and moments are needed. Next, edit this down. Be honest, be harsh. Do you need two moments to convey one idea? You can try to thumbnail at this stage if it helps.

If you still find the story sprawling across many issues, talk with the artist. Write a plot outline and ask the artist for breakdowns. Keep the script until the end, using this as the final tool of story control.

I consider the scripting and lettering stage almost as a final edit.

Some stories do need the room to exist, but be sure that you are using all the tools at your disposal before setting your mind to this final conclusion.

And finally, do not be afraid to use more than one idea per issue – throw everything you have got at the project, pack it in as tightly as possible. Ideas have to be used, or they wither away!

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