Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#175) -- Triangles Within Triangles

When you write a multi-issue story arc for a comic book series, how do you work in the beginning, middle and end of individual issues against that of the central story's begging, middle and end?

 Well, it looks like this.

Simple, huh? (Just kidding.)

Let's look at it closer.

I learned the basic structure for a single comic book issue from the master -- Chuck Dixon -- which is basically this: three key action sequences tied together by short interludes (when necessary for flow). So, when I do a multi-issue arc, I simply expound on that.

First I look at the full story plot (the red triangle) for the main breaks in the story (rising action, falling action, key conflict that triggers the conclusion, etc.).

Then I break those key plot points (or actions) into the number of issues required for the story (the green triangles). A three issue arc is a piece of cake because it plays right into my evil plan for world domin-- I mean my plan for breaking down a story into its parts.

Let's take an example... Say the story is about an alien who comes to earth, settles into a life of a fashion model, becomes enamored with earth culture and changes sides to stop the pending invasion from her home planet, and her subsequent sacrifice to give her own life to safe the earth. Then the first issue will be about the "before" in which our alien begins to become enamored with earth culture and at the end of the issue decides she must stop the invasion somehow. Issue two will be her failure to do so, and the action that leads to her willingness to give her life to save the earth, thus making the conflict one that actual has impact on the reader and the characters. Then the final issue will chronicle her success and her sacrifice. 

Next I break each issue down into each key scenes (the blue triangles) to convey those story beats and breaks (the blue triangles). And each scene must have its own beginning, middle, and end.

To continue our example, in issue one, we set up the status quo in scene one, create a situation that causes her to rethink her own culture in scene two (perhaps witnessing the good of humanity or something as shallow as finding the best pair of boots on the planet), and then in scene three, she comes to realize she wants to stay and not destroy all the great shopping on earth's malls. 

Then in issue two, we'll have her contact her own planet present the case for earth, then become the target of her superior officer who now considers her a traitor, then have her earthly neighbor help save her from an assassination attempt (which means that we'll need to introduce the neighbor somewhere in issue 1 -- see how that works), and then get word that her plea has been heard and overturned. Not only that, the timetable has been sped up and the invasion begins NOW!

So, now let's turn this into a workshop. You tell me what the third issue will be like. What are the three key scenes and the interlude beats to get you there?