Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Monday, February 11, 2008

Making Your Story Stick 2

No, my projects aren't done yet, but I feel the need to continue blogging here, even if only on a sporadic basis. There may have been a few who have repeatedly visited despite my previous post, and I can only express my sincerest gratitude for your patience.

With that said, on we go...

- - - - - - - - - - -

In the first installment of "Making Your Story Stick," I outlined three of the six factors comics creators can use in developing their stories. These six factors are based on Chip and Dan Heath's book, "Made To Stick." The first three factors are simplicity, unexpectedness and concreteness. Let's move forward to the latter three.

1) Credibility. By far one of the more difficult to achieve, credibility is one of the more crucial. In a crowded industry where many comics creators hope to find their place in the sun, levels of credibility set them apart. Do you know how to piece together a compelling plot? Can you write memorable dialogue? Is your research extensive? If you're a writer/artist, are your skills balanced? Can you maximize the unique qualities of the medium?

Applying Credibility: To be able to enhance your credibility, you only need to do one thing: Hone Your Skills. If you feel you need a workshop, invest in joining one. If you can find a mentor, do so. If you can post samples on your personal website or blog, present your best work and take criticism objectively. If you get encouraging feedback, don't rest on your laurels. Push yourself to do better.

The strange thing about credibility is that you can create the illusion of credibility through deep insight. You don't have to have years of concrete artistic experience to be credible, but a unique viewpoint, and a novel manner of delivering that viewpoint. The best example I can think of right now is Diablo Cody, the lauded screenwriter of the equally lauded film Juno. Not a seasoned writer by any means, Cody put herself in an enviable position with an Academy Award nomination--and she's just in her mid-twenties. Her weapon? Honesty.

2) Emotional. Over the course of this blog, you've read about creating a central character that should speak to the reader. The emotional factor is that part of your story that effectively places the reader in the shoes of the central character. You may have heard of comic book plots that harp on concept and action, rarely touching on the protagonist's emotional base. While concept-driven stories can be cool, these stories can only sustain themselves for so long. What's cool today may not be cool tomorrow.

That's why the emotional base is important. Emotional struggles are timeless.

Applying Emotions: When you're developing your story, you would most probably start with defining what your story is about in a sentence. It's the overall plot that states who wanting what against something--that's what's your story is about. But what is your story really about? Where is your lead character coming from? Why is he or she doing all this? As an exercise, take your lead character into a room and post the question, "Why?" If your character says, "Someone's gotta do it," or "Justice must be served," then give your character a good whacking on the head. As a creator, you made the character--you have every right to probe.

So while you're plotting out the way your story physically unfolds, do involve your character's emotional journey as well. The whole essence of the emotional factor is answering the reader's need: "What's In It For Me?" Use your story to tickle something within the reader--fear, anxiety, sorrow, enthusiasm, lust, longing, celebration, etc.--and offer a payoff your reader seeks. This trumps "cool" anytime.

3) Stories. Stories not only convey ideas. Stories reinforce ideas. In almost any social setting, we use stories to drive a point across, to strengthen or dispel notions, even to manipulate. In our daily lives, stories figure into how we view our circumstances as well as those of others--whether these stories come from the evening news, or through banter over a billiard game.

Have you ever been in on a fence wherein your thoughts are conflicted because of two or more opposing takes on a situation? Your girlfriend says one thing and you best bud says another? The conflict sucks you in, and you're caught in the struggle for not just the truth, but the absolute truth. The truth that you would eventually choose to believe in, and suffer for. (Political thrillers have a lot of these little stories, since most characters are allied with an ideology which they will defend, tooth and nail. These characters believe they're right--it's the writer who decides who will win.)

Applying Stories: When you develop your story, every character you have has a story to tell, and many of these stories-within-your-story are meant to place your lead character in that tight situation of determining what's right or wrong. Some stories will have more weight than others. Some stories will be irrelevant, but will add color to the overall narrative. The idea is to make your big story a living, breathing thing. A straight line, yes, but with many coils in between, tight knots your lead character has to unravel or leave alone.

Your comments, criticism, and insight will be most appreciated.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home