Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Layers of a Story...

I love telling a good story.  Sometimes. I love telling several stories at the same time.  That's something that isn't as easy as it sounds.  It takes the ability to compartmentalize your ideas and keep them in your own mind as single solitary tales.

In a way, the conductor analogy comes into bear here, because I like to think of the stories as trains.
One story train will be humming along, minding its own business.  Alongside it, another story train is chugging along doing the same thing.  When I write stories like this I take care to keep all the trains going in the same direction.  It's self destructive to have the story come crashing along at some point just because my tracks got crossed a ways back because of poor planning.  Though when used for effect, this can work to your advantage.
I start this process of multi-layered stories as a single united theme.  From that theme, I branch out individial points of view.  That's how I like telling my stories...from individual accounts.  I think that the narrative comes across more efficiently in my own head as well as on the paper when it is being told by someone who is actually involved in it.

"It was a dark and stormy night..." Versus "My clothes dripped nonstop onto the floor from the rain like the ticking of the unseen clock with me in the room."  Both lines convey the points.  Rain. Dark. Time.  But the last one packs more punch in my opinion because it's being told first-hand.  I know it runs on, but it's a first draft.  That can be fine-tuned later.  We tend to believe eye-witnesses more than conjectured accounts.  This is my theory, and how I approach the narratives I craft.  So when telling the multiple stories within the story, it is key to find the individuals who are telling the story and give them their voice.

When I have these voices in mind, I begin with the story.  I like the plot of the same event seen through differing eyes giving each person a seperate outcome.  I also like the plot of past and present stories mirroring each other.  I tend to use THAT particular one a lot as it speaks to the axiom of those ignorant of history being doomed to repeat it.  I personally have a severe distaste of duplicating my efforts.  I will never dig the same hole twice if it is at all to be avoided. No matter which avenue I chose,  I want the tales to have some common thread.  That is of the greatest importance to me.  Writing these kind of stories comes across as disjointed and haphazard if I don't have a believable thread to tie them together.

In regards to comics and how I write them (seeing that as the entire point of this blog) I have several manners of using this tool.  The most commonly used one for me is the off-screen dialogue box.  This one comes in super handy for this.  With this box, I can tell a complete story off camera while the real story goes on before the reader's eyes.  I am particularly fond of the monologue within this box.  With that one, I have the ability to give voice to something off camera, and can use the pictures as backup.  Sometimes these two trains are riding side by side, sometimes they are on the same track.  Sometimes I have them going opposite directions and use this device as a way of illustrating the innevitable crash.  It's very easy to build tension when you show two opposing viewpoints at the same time and use that leadin to point to some dramatic confrontation in the future. Imagine if you will this picture. 

A lockeroom at halftime sees the coach of the losing team inspiring his boys to comeback by telling them about a can't miss strategy.  While this is what you see on screen, the opposing coach says in his dialogue box that he expects the opposition to do precisely what the coach is telling his team to do.  The entire time, the losing team is playing right into the winning team's hands only they don't know it.  YOU know it because you see both sides of the story at the same time. By the time the losing team's coach wraps things up, and you see how his words have inspired his players into doing precisely the one thing that will make their loss a certainty, you can feel the pity I intended you to feel for these doomed warriors from the start.

As I said before I like the dialogue box set against the main story, but sometimes I go one step beyond and have the piture on the page telling a third story. That's the hardest one, but it works so well if I pull it off.

This is leading the reader and some writers feel it cheats them of the brain-work necessary to figure things out for themselves.  I don't write who-dunnits.  The goal of my writing is, was and always will be to illicit a particular and specific response from you as a reader.  I craft my stories in this manner to lead the reader to an intentional emotional state.  It's manipulative, yes.  But I write stories because I get this silly idea in my head that goes something like this. "Wouldn't it be cool if....?" and then I devote myself to putting you in the setting that brought me to that conclusion.  I want the reader to find cool and interresting the things that I find cool and interresting.  Mine is the craft of sharing.  Wether I share emotion, action or comedy is immaterial.  I put pen to paper for a purpose.
If I succeed in this, the reader will walk away from the story I wrote thinking exactly what I thought about when I initially wrote that piece.  It doesn't always work, but I use any and all tricks at my disposal to insure that it does.

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