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  1. #1
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    Any story writing enthusiasts out there?

    I want to start getting into comics again because they're simply fun and good practice on a variety of topics. But the one thing that's stopping me is brain farts on story. I'll make a few random pages then realize "Wow.... this isn't going anywhere.....". You can make things as pretty as you want but things have to make sense and there needs to be some kind of story/structure.

    I've read a lot of Joseph Campbell which is interesting.
    Curious if anyone else has some authors, videos, articles. Anything.
    On story structure/writing, characters, archetypes, etc etc...

    Things like the monomyth are interesting. But at the same time it's nice to see other writers approaches or observations.


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  4. #2
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    Try this guy's way of working:

    http://www.amazon.com/No-Plot-Proble.../dp/0811845052

    Works like a charm. In short, what he says is that inspiration is irrelevant, and a deadline is your friend. Switch off the inner critic and get a draft on paper, however silly it may seem while you are writing it. It is after all just a draft. Once you have a complete draft, then and only then do you start looking at it with a more critical eye. If you allow the inner critic to start whispering nasty things in your ear every time you are only a few pages in, you'll never complete anything at all.
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  6. #3
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    I don't have much writing experience but comics/graphic novels are something I want to do, and therefore I have made a number of observations about story telling. These are things I've learned both by listening to authors and analyzing stories.

    First, and I believe most important, are characters. You can have a mediocre story, and if the characters are well developed and the dialogue is believable, you can at least hold your audience' attention. Perhaps even receive their praise!
    I first observed this while watching "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (NOT SHYAMALAN'S.) Some might disagree, but I thought the story idea was mediocre and cliche. The use of the four elements, an Asian fantasy world, factions at war, kids saving the day, it's all been done a thousand times. What made the series #1 on my list was, the characters were solid. They started out well-developed, with individual personalities, but on top of that they all transformed as the seasons went on. Watching Aang become a savior, Socka awkwardly become a leader, Zuko become a humble good-guy, Aang and Katara fall in love--those things made me love them. They held me in that cliche world.
    (Side note, the idea might have been cliche but the story telling and plot twists were excellent.)

    SO! Characters. Huge. I began looking at my other favorite stories and seeing the same thing applied. If we love the characters, we will care what happens to them. If a red shirt dies in Star Trek, no one bats an eye. But when Jean Luc Picard was assimilated into a borg, it became one of the most remembered two episodes in the entire Star Trek franchise. People knew him. People cared.



    The next point is about surprises. This is something I read from an author but I can't remember who.
    He said, think of your favorite story and it will likely have an unexpected and satisfying twist. If not a twist then maybe some hints leading up to a climactic reveal. (The more the merrier, I say!) A character betrays someone, a hero steps in, a plan fails. Whatever the case, it needs to satisfy the audience. If something happens outside a character's nature, the readers might accept it but they might say, "No, it doesn't make sense!" So the surprise should have clues leading up, to suggest the twist or reveal is plausible. Not beyond the realm of possibility.

    (spoilers ahead)
    • In the remake of the Italian Job, their heist failed, so they had to use their method at the beginning of the movie as a plan B.
    • In Psycho, the hotel guy was not only a killer but he also had a split personality.
    • In Jaws, they drop hints about the shark's size, until finally the guy, dumbfounded, comes out and says, "We're gonna need a bigger boat." (such an awesome moment.)
    • Same with Hitchcock's "Birds". He spends half the movie developing characters and dropping hints that something is wrong with the birds. Finally things spin out of control and the suspense is huge as the lady walks by the jungle gym full of them.

    (end spoilers)



    I like humor. Even my favorite depressing/serious stories have humor in them. I believe it's a necessity.



    Competition and struggle are important. Characters do well with situations to challenge them and goals to work towards. It's a sure way to bring out their personality traits. Sure, if you're great at developing characters, you can have a story about people in a room talking and still captivate the audience. But struggle is generally the easiest way I think, to bring out personality. Challenging the characters' morality is good too. Morality is something the audience can identify with. Play with your character's emotions. Make them feel and the audience will feel with them.


    An interesting story is less important than the list above, but obviously it's a good way to get readers to pick your book/movie off the shelf of 100 others. Nerds are suckers for Marvel Team-ups, giant monsters, bears vs. sharks, Hulk vs. Thing. Society follows trends, vampires, zombies, ninjas, pirates, etc. When people hear a plot summary they should want more.
    Engaging opening scenes are also good. You want to hook readers from the start.


    Consider using contrasts. Hero vs. villain, love mixed with loss, laughter paired with sorrow, opposite beliefs in contention with each other, etc.



    I guess that's about all I've got for now. Those are things I try to consider when I write. Mostly it takes practice.
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  8. #4
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    If you like Campbell definitely pick up a copy of Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers". He was a Campbell student and basically filtered The Hero's Journey so writers, and other story-tellers could understand the concepts easier. It is de-riguer reading for any writer/director in Hollywood. He has had a huge influence on film over the last 20 years or so (maybe more?).

    Chris Vogler Blog...but get the book...it's a great read and resource.
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  10. #5
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    You know what? "Story" by Robert McKee... that's it. That's all you need! I work with a number of artists and writers who've been successful in the industry and they've all been pushing me to read this book. (Seriously, at one point I found two copies waiting for me on my desk.) I was pretty skeptical because I already do a fair bit of reading and wasn't looking forward to lugging that thing onto the metro every day but honestly, I can't thank them enough for forcing it on me!

    Everything you need to know in a clear, concise way-- and observations on story telling that are really not like anything you'll read anywhere else. Right now I'm reading his section on "value charges" in scene building-- had never heard of "value charges" prior to reading this book, and now can't imagine how I've been writing without using them!

    Really, I could go on and on, but I think it's honestly a very worthy read for no other reason then it teaches you how to create a really compelling story without using any sort of template, but at the same time teaching you fundamentals far beyond things like character depth or plot twists, you know? A must read.

    And of course for comics, Making Comics by Scott McCloud is invaluable if you've never read it.
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  12. #6
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    Ah, also Alan Moore wrote a short book on compelling stories in comics-- another really worthy read.
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  13. #7
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    Making a list for future reads. Thanks for all the resources and reads everyone (and feel free to share more anyone it's just an interesting topic in general )

    Actually came up with a general draft already I'm going to play with.
    It's weird finding that balance between good art for your skill level and moving story out at a snails pace and crappy art and pumping out story.

    I think the hardest part for a story though (so far), especially a visual story. Is the beginning. That's why a lot of comics start with 'One-Shots' a starting chapter which is produced to judge the response and potential. My sisters into writing and she's sent stories off to publishers and many are actually rather nice and give feedback. One of the big things they mention is drawing your readers in right from the start. Something that grabs them.

  14. #8
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    Read lots and write lots.
    Last edited by zx52hg; April 27th, 2012 at 04:15 PM. Reason: I talk too much crap.

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  16. #9
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    Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Wheel of Time, etc...) has three of his writing lectures up for free online.

    http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/home/brandon_w2012/

    I also liked this interview with George RR Martin



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  18. #10
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    I work with the conflict-based approach and so far it's been working reasonably well for me.

    I ask myself
    - what does the main character want?
    - how do they plan to get it?
    - how does this plan go horribly horribly wrong?

    I add in other characters as needed. I always keep in mind what the major characters want because that's what's going to drive them and colour all their decisions. Bonus points if they want things that clash with one another, because then you get additional conflicts. The character(s) can't get what they want until the end of the story, or if they do get what they want they must realize that they now want something else. Because it's not much of a story if you've got everything.

    When I was younger my stories used to grind to a halt after a couple pages because the characters were all very cool (or so I thought) but they didn't really have much to do. This approach has largely solved this problem.

    After you have the first draft down you can go back through and insert scenes that tie the story closer together, adding foreshadowing and intensifying any motifs that run through. Then it looks like you knew where the whole thing was going to begin with. (Actually I usually do know where it's going, it's all the stuff in between that's a big uncharted mess.)
    Last edited by vineris; April 27th, 2012 at 02:14 PM. Reason: spelling
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  20. #11
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    tobbA, your careless George RR Martin link has sent me into a downward spiral of Game of Thrones related interviews.
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  21. #12
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    Well, you're welcome ;P
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  23. #13
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    I love writing stories. Espescially laying down plot structure. The key is to start with a brainstorming session, much like thumbnailing a picture. Sort of think of a principal you'd like to convey.

    The Iain McCaig's Visual Storytelling dvd is pretty valuable. It's a solid writing process for artists. It's the same process Disney always used, so it's time tested. It's also a great method to put plot structure first while preparing yourself for some visual issues.

  24. #14
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    Reading a lot of this, have the general plot down, just generally taking notes of ideas and characters as I go to piece together things later. Actually helps quite a bit and is going better than I originally thought. Randomly will come up with another idea add it to the list then look back and suddenly a "Holy shit, that can connect over here giving this motivation. Or possibly even this over here for this reasoning".

    I like my plot layed out so far feels original enough to me where it's not "Oh well this is exactly like this story....that's boring". But the only thing bugging me is the moral conundrum. As to attain the goal I have in mind you have to do a lot of bad and things that are antihero, even if someone is innocent possibly. So finding ways to justify the acts done without tainting the main character to be a villain of sort is a difficulty. Of course at the same time moral dilemmas often add a nice tension and finding ways around them which makes you read and say at first "Oh no don't do that..." and then suddenly your thinking the opposite "Do it. Fucking do it they deserve it!".



    I know one of the biggies I have with stories is switching the scenes around that are off the main character. We all see the scenes where it might be the bad guys gathered together or a side character off doing something. I have difficulty when thinking of placement for those changes.

  25. #15
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    I dont know of the legality of it, but there was a transcript from a story meeting for raiders of the lost ark where they developed the story for the film, was really interesting to read how the ideas for the film developed.

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