View Full Version : General Elements of a Good Story?
July 10th, 2007, 07:34 PM
I'm planning on starting a webcomic sometime during the summer, and even though it's not quite the same as a book, it still follows the general rules of storytelling, right? I have a LOT of ideas for this story, but there's so many buzzing around in my head that it's really quite hard to order them into an actual storyline... I'm hoping that if I have a sort of guideline to follow I'll finally be able to start working.
That all being said, can someone tell me what the basic rules are for making a story, or at least give me an idea of how the thought process of making a story usually works? It feels like I'm not wording this question quite right, but if anyone knows what I'm talking about it'd be great if you could answer.
July 10th, 2007, 09:45 PM
Actually, a webcomic (or any kind of comic for that matter) isn't necessarily bound to the same sort of expectations as a novel.
For starters, what kind of webcomic are you trying to make? How committed are you to following a plotline? Is it going to be a clear narrative or something more episodic with a vague continuity to it? Or are you going to live one strip at a time?
If you want a formula for storytelling, you're story's gonna end up--you guessed it--formulaic.
Once you answer the questions in the first paragraph, you then have to ask yourself how you want to plan it. Do you want to have every little detail plotted out beforehand? Is a general outline enough? Do you just want to wing it?
If you're wanting to tell a story and not just do gag strips, do you have a story to tell? A bunch of random ideas isn't a story unless you can create a continuity to string them together.
If you can create a coherent plotline that progresses at a reasonable pace, a likable cast of dynamic round charas and a satisfying conclusion, you're likely to have a winner on your hand. Yes, that's terribly vague 'cause the devil's in the details. Give us some more information if you want us to help you further.
July 11th, 2007, 12:24 AM
This is a pretty big question to just pop out on a forum. Like asking a design forum what general rules automobile manufacture has to follow.
There are a jillion web tutorials and books on this, you can just dial them up from google.
A web comic is, as the previous poster says, free from a lot of the constraints. For instance, it doesn't really have to have a climax or ending. You can just keep tripping out indefinitely until you quit doing it.
BUT, there are a couple of major concerns you should keep in mind if you want to keep people interested.
You need a good cast. Which is not just a list of characters like the Fantastic Four or something. A successful cast is a constellation. The characters fill different niches like members of a band. Not only should they be different and have different strengths, weaknesses, and characteristics (including "character tags" like accents, eyepatches, hotheadedness, etc) they also have to interact with each other in a stable, dynamic way. If you have a love affair between two of them, you need to have a third party to keep it dynamic. If you have a rivalry or enmity between two, there should be third parties who get along with both of them, for balance and communication. AND, for CONFLICT...
Which is probably the one word you need to keep in mind. It really is, in spite of all the How To Writer Gooder books saying so, the stuff of which stories are made. It's what spins out plot and draws interest.
Obviously a fight is conflict, and you can have a strip that is nothing but cool fights...do people get tired of playing video games?
But the mure subtle and intriquing conflcts are, the more ingenious and emotionally damaging the victories and compromises, the heavier work you are going to have.
Yesterday I saw a forum post about a character that is a Muslim vampire. Well, they hadn't thought it out very well because Moslems, like Jews, are not allowed to eat blood or bloody meat like rare steaks.
So the guy abandoned the idea.
My hit on it was: WOW! now THAT'S a heavy conflict. Between hunger and the word of God.
I've seen a couple of stories where vampirism conflicted with morality of taking life. In "Interview With The Vampire" the guy was eating rats and going hungry rather than kill. In "Innocent Blood" the vampiress only killed criminals and assholes who really needed killing...leading to the plot.
It's really worth working on these concepts in setting things up. It'll do more for you than dreaming up cool super powers. (Mellow Man: has the ability to avoid conflicts, no matter how powerful or basic.....)
If you get your blend of characters right (and you can always lose them and bring in new ones as you figure things out) stories arise fairly effortlessly...or at least you get some entertaining embroidery for whatever stories you do get.
The elementary tool for conflict, by the way is often not 2 opposing forces. It's a triangle. A woman choosing between two men. Each of which are choosing between her and another woman. You can keep nailing triangles together like Buckminister Fuller.
Another thing that helps is to have a character I call "Cheetah". This is the mascot, comic relief. Often Cheetah furthers the plot, starts the trouble. Often he unwittingly solves the problem.
Examples: Cheetah in the Tarzan movies, Toto in Wizard of Oz, R2D2 in Star Wars, Short Round in Indian Jones 2.
July 11th, 2007, 01:38 AM
If you're talking romance, why stop at triangles? Most Japanese romantic comedies (and a lot of other fare) have frickin' polyhedrons. Those are always fun. Gives you an excuse to make massive relationship charts. Take Urusei Yatsura, for example:
Seriously, Driz, all Infinity is spread out before you. Don't hide in your hole asking whether there are dogs out. Stick out your head and look for yourself. Then we evil beasts can snap you up in our cruel jaws and tear you to shreds. Come on. It'll be fun. ^_^
July 11th, 2007, 03:36 AM
Definitely check out www.giantitp.com for the two webcomics there.
July 11th, 2007, 08:46 AM
A good plot line looks like the himalayas and ends on Everest.
Look, I answered in one sentence! :D
July 11th, 2007, 06:58 PM
Very impressive, Rocket. Give yourself a cookie. Now the question is whether Driz understands what you mean.
July 11th, 2007, 10:25 PM
A good plot line looks like the himalayas and ends on Everest.
Even Everest doesn't end on Everest. There's always a downbeat or denouement or other side of the "dramatic pyramid" or something.
Not to get too picky or technical here, but most polyhedrons are composed of triangles. They are very basic, stable, and dynamic. Examine those plots again and see if they don't fit the pattern of permutating threesomes.
It's one of the reason the Japanese like odd numbers.
July 11th, 2007, 10:26 PM
Wow! I really didn't expect that much feedback! :D I'm used to Newgrounds where most users aren't... as friendly, I'll put nicely. Anyway, thanks!
I guess I should answer the first question then.
Well, what I have in mind is a comic with plot, and I mean a lot of it. I'd compare it to other manga like Naruto or Bleach, but I think by far the best example of the kind of story I want to make is One Piece. Most people hear "One Piece" and they start laughing or raise an eyebrow, but if you're up to date with the series you know what I'm talking about - it's got action, plot, great characters, a really interesting backstory, and will probably go on for another 5 or even 10 years (the anime's been around since 1999 and the manga 1997). If you still haven't heard a lot of good things about One Piece, I'll let you know it's the most popular anime in Japan and currently has 317 episodes.
The only problem I have is that I think at this point in time I probably have too much plot, and I can't think of a way to start the story. I think when I hadn't caught up with the series yet and I was watching at least 5 episodes a day, I saw the plot progressing and ample backstory unfolding faster than I would if I stuck to 1 show per week, so when I decided that I wanted to make a comic, too, all I could think of was "backstory, backstory, backstory!" Additionally, I planned too far ahead in the story and have everything planned out: the only thing I haven't done is figure out what catalyst I should put in the story to start it out.
So now, I have an extensively long Microsoft Word document (84 pages, though most of it is repetition and old ideas that I never discarded) on my computer, all describing the history, future and characters of the story that I just can't abandon now. The trick here is putting all that together. I was hoping that if I know how the (general or basic) thought process usually works in forming a story (like what part to think about first and when to start adding this and that and such) maybe I can retrace my steps, follow that format (if there is any) and gradually insert all those ideas from my 84 page work document that I have stored away, thus making a comic that Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece, might someday look at and say, "Huh, that's not too bad!"
July 11th, 2007, 10:34 PM
Give your noggin a little more lee-way in terms of writing the story. Why force yourself? You evidently are coming up with a bunch of ideas, so why not write them down AS they come to you, as they feel right. Even if they don't make complete sense, even if for a little while it seems to deviate awkwardly (a temporary alternative universe thing) just let yourself dream and run away with it. You can ALWAYS come back in and decide whether it makes the cut or not before you post it.
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