Plot preparation is essential to building a readable comic. Your basic plot arc is pretty simple, our story goes from A to B to C.
Point A: The setup
This is where you let the reader know the basic facts about the situation
- What is happening
- Where is it happening
- Who is it happening to
- When is it happening
Visual elements or words can set all this u, like the narration box at the top of the page can tell us:
- “Meanwhile back at the Baxter Building” establishes a parallel time and places the reader at the home of the Fantastic Four
- “That morning” perhaps brings us back in time to preface what let up to now
- The clock face at 9:00 AM shows us time and where we see the clock can tell us where
Visual cues such as sun position or stars in the sky can tell us
Point B: The conflict
A story isn’t interesting if there isn’t a conflict and solution. It’s like the verb in a sentence, it tells us something is happening. If I told you a story like “There was a pencil.” and ended it there, you would tell me its the worst story ever. Something happens in a story. There was a pencil on the ground waiting to be found. Now we have a conflict, the pencil is lost, the pencil might be found, it might not. There’s a narrative potential in the pencil.
The previous section “The Setting” gave us Who, What, Where and When, the one thing it left out is the Why. That’s the conflict, why is this happening and what is going to resolve it. That’s the basis of your story.
Point C: The resolution
How does the conflict get resolved? That’s the story you tell. What does your character have to do or learn or achieve to resolve the conflict.
Big Picture and Little Picture
Big story arcs are made up little story arcs and those little story arcs are made up of littler story arcs. Like Zeno’s paradox you need to make the little steps to get from one place to another. If we take Pokemon as an example; Ash Ketchum has got to catch ’em all, that’s the fundamental story arc for Pokemon.
- To catch em all, he has got to catch one pokemon first
- He has got find that one pokemon to catch
- He has to learn how to catch that pokemon
- he has to fight the pokemon to catch it
And that’s all if Team Rocket doesn’t create additional conflicts and plot elements to be told.
Each one of these is a little picture that breaks up into your overall story arc. You want to keep breaking your story down into little story arcs until you know what you want to resolve on a single page. Then you can move on to layout that page, with the essential elements of the story and setting.
The prompt for the weekend:
Thinking about the plot for your comic:
- Write down the big picture arc in the briefest manner possible. “Spaceman Spiff must save Galaxy from Vogons”
- Write down three small arcs that help get him there: Must fly to moon, Eats a sandwich on Mars, Defeats a Dragon
- Pick a small arc and break it down into little tasks/conflicts: Find a spaceship, find a moon, find rocket fuel
- Keep breaking it down until you have between one two or three you can fit on a page.
- Write those down for a page layout exercise on Tuesday.