Thursday, November 9

From Abstraction to Precision

I'm trying to be less abstract and really untangle the devices I'm working with. Please if you disagree with me let me know. This should be simple but for some reason it doesn't come easy for me. One good thing that has come out of this exercise is that I'm dropping the Act metaphor in favor of the Chapter metaphor that is already de facto in comic books.

A story is what we're telling the reader. A story can have a plot or it might seemingly lack a plot. While the story takes a whole comic book to tell the main plot of the story can be summarized in one or two sentences. The story can also be explained in a synopsis that omits the plot as to not create any spoilers. The synopsis is selling the story.

In short: Story > Synopsis > Plot.

A comic book scene is an event spanning one or more panels with a common purpose. A comic book scene differs from a scene in a play or a movie in terms of detail but not necessarily in length. The pattern of a comic book scene also differ from a play or a movie. A comic book has to be more to the point and efficient. The scenes are telling the story.

The purpose of a scene is tightly connected to which part of the story the scene belongs to. The scenes sets the pace of a comic book. With shorter scenes we get a faster pace. Compare this to how the size of a comic panel can effect timing and the perceived passing of time.

Following this definition a comic strip is, as far as I can see, exactly one scene long.

In short: Scene = Description of event, Purpose of event.

A comic book chapter is a number of scenes that are bundled together much like the acts of a play. I would not compare a comic book chapter to a chapter in a written book. The chapters are the carriers of the dramatic structure of the story. While the scenes tell the story each chapter represents different aspects of the story. The chapters are pacing the story.

In short: Chapter = Aspect of the story.

A comic book plot directs the string of events that is told by the story. A plot is generally a conflict that has a beginning, a number of twists and an ending. I see the plot as being vertical to the story creating the fabric of the story. With several plots we get a thicker fabric but if the subplots do not indirectly effect the main plot they work against it. The plot is explaining the story and thus must make sense. If the plot is too thin or too obvious the story gets uninteresting.

In short: Plot = String of plot elements.

Plot element
Comic book plot elements are the building blocks that create a plot. While scenes must have a purpose that tells the story a plot element pushes the plot behind the story forwards. I also want to include plot devices like foreshadowing and hooks in this term. The plot elements should be woven into the story.

In short: Characteristics of the plot, plot devices.

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