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Archive for the ‘Story Structure in Graphic Novels’ Category

Short Notes on Long Comics – TCJ.com Review

Short Notes on Long Comics was reviewed by Rob Clough at The Comics Journal!

And it’s paired with a review of L’Age Dur by Max de Radigues, the fantastic CCS Fellow from last year.

Many thanks, Rob!

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Monsters

We all have secrets. Sometimes we feel these secrets are so shameful we don’t tell anyone, but when a secret can potentially affect someone else for the rest of their life it is our responsibility to be strong enough and mature enough to be honest with that person, even if it means admitting that life has left you scared, tainted, or blemished.

This is Ken Dahl’s problem in Monsters, a graphic novel memoir (Ken Dahl is the pen name for Gabby Schulz), when he learns he has herpes.

He struggles to be a responsible, mature adult while constantly tempted to take an easier path (and live life as a monster) by keeping it a secret from friends and, more importantly, lovers.

To see how Monsters works as a three-act story, visit here: Monsters Story Structure.

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Monsters, I will be discussing the entire story.)

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean

Sometimes a person can influence and inspire us in a life-altering way. In good situations, we look up to this person and admire them. They, directly or indirectly, become our mentors and serve as a symbol for who we want to be. For Grace, the protagonist in Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, this mentor is — not a surprise due to the title — the legendary Amelia Earhart.

For young Grace, Amelia becomes a symbol for what she can become in society if she is willing to take the risk of a life-path that is more ambitious than what her hometown of Trepassey, Newfoundland would find suitable for a woman.

Written by Sarah Stewart Taylor (my teacher at The Center for Cartoon Studies) and drawn by Ben Towle, Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean is a solid graphic novel with heart, history and three full acts in just 80 pages of story!

To see how Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean works as a three-act story, visit here: Amelia Earhart Story Structure.

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, I will be discussing the entire story.)

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse

04/27/2010 2 comments

What is the curse of a superhero? Answer: Responsibility.

In Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper, Emily Hayes struggled to maintain a “normal” life after the seemingly harmless decision to tie the Amulet around her neck thrust her and her family into a life or death adventure (see how in my post Story Structure in Graphic Novels – Amulet Book One). In Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse, she will face the consequences of that decision.

By taking possession of the Amulet she became a superhero: a “gifted” (not normal) person who is destined to use their gift to save humanity by living a life of self-sacrifice. Emily is supposed to save the world. That’s a great responsibility hanging around the neck of an eleven year-old. What can she do?

What is a superhero supposed to do once they realize they can’t help but be a superhero? Answer: Commit, despite the consequences. That is what Kazu Kibuishi (shout out to a fellow UCSB Film Studies graduate!) explores in Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse.

To see how Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse works as a three-act story, visit here: Amulet Book Two Story Structure

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse, I will be discussing the entire story.)

Short Notes on Long Comics is ON SALE NOW!

At MoCCA, I premiered my new book Short Notes on Long Comics: 10 Great Examples of Story Structure in Graphic Novels, an updated collection of my blog posts on Story Structure in Graphic Novels.

It is ON SALE NOW through PayPal.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy. It’s good to see how many comics creators are determined to improve their writing.

Check out the 11th great example of Story Structure in Graphic Novels – Amulet Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse!

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper

04/03/2010 1 comment

Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Emily Hayes of Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper… They all have one thing in common. Can you guess what it is?

What does it take to be a superhero? Answer: A special ability, a dogged determination to use that ability for good not evil and an Achilles heel (which enables an arch-nemesis to gain leverage on the hero). Often that Achilles heel is family or loved ones.

What is the plight of a superhero? Answer: They can never, ever live a “normal” life. It is their destiny to live a life of thankless public service because it’s the right thing to do and typically the loved ones of the superhero will pay for their choice. This is true in Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi. Every time Emily chooses to pursue her “special ability” her family is put in more and more trouble.

Since this is a series of five books, by the end of Book One she has not yet fulfilled her destiny to save the masses with her “special ability” but this installment (her origin story) is still presented in three acts.

To see how Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper works as a three-act story, visit here: Amulet Book One Story Structure

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper, I will be discussing the entire story.)

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Night Fisher

03/21/2010 1 comment

At one point or another, we’ve all held on to something for too long.

In R. Kikuo Johnson’s graphic novel, Night Fisher, Loren Foster holds on to a relationship with his childhood best friend even though at the age of eighteen, they have become two very different people.

Instead of letting go of the relationship and being true to himself, Loren conforms his boy scout nature to a lifestyle of drugs and criminal behavior. It will take a rite of passage in three-acts to open his eyes.

To see how Night Fisher works as a three-act story, visit here: Night Fisher Story Structure.

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Night Fisher, I will be discussing the entire story.)

My First Lecture!

My first lecture on writing for graphic novels!

Last Friday, at CCS, I covered three-act structure, utilizing my plot breakdowns of Batman: Year One, Maus and Blankets.

Thanks to everyone who was there. Your questions and participation were the highlight of the talk. I had a great time and hope to do it again soon.

Though, I’ll probably wait until AFTER graduation. During this whole process I learned just how much prep goes into only one 3-hour lecture. Whew! Kudos to every teacher out there pulling-off two or more of these a week. My respect goes out to all of you.

Next week’s post will go over the story structure of Night Fisher by R. Kikuo Johnson.

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Stitches

We all have moments of putting ourselves aside in order to appease our family obligations, especially as children. You listen to grandpa tell his old college football stories… again. You see your sister play Tree #2 in the school play. You do what mother says, even if you don’t agree.

For David Small – as recounted in his critically acclaimed graphic memoir, Stitches – remaining loyal and obedient to his family almost proved fatal when at the age of fourteen he realized his parents had given him throat cancer and allowed it to go untreated for years.

In this harrowing yet ultimately hopeful graphic novel, Small presents the trials and tribulations of his childhood circumstances and the courage it took to set out on his own.

To see how Stitches works as a three-act story, visit here: Stitches Story Structure.

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Stitches, I will be discussing the entire story.)

Story Structure in Graphic Novels — Hellboy

02/23/2010 1 comment

There are questions we all ask ourselves: Why are we here? What is our purpose? Why are giant monster frogs killing people?

…Well, maybe we all don’t ask ourselves those questions. But Hellboy, the world’s greatest paranormal investigator, asks them in Seed of Destruction the first collection of Hellboy serials by Mike Mignola and John Byrne.

Not surprisingly, Seed of Destruction, which follows an investigator, is a murder mystery and as it is in most murder mysteries, it will be the desire for answers that drive the story forward and get the investigator — even the world’s greatest — into trouble.

To see how Hellboy: Seed of Destruction works as a three-act story, visit here: Hellboy Story Structure.

P.S. If you are hoping to serialize your graphic novel, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is a great example to learn from. By splitting Act 2 in half, Mignola and Byrne were able to have four “chapters”, each 24 pages long. It goes fast, but even in a 96-page story, you can create a very solid structure.

(Spoiler Alert: If you have not read Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, I will be discussing the entire story.)