Think about this problem as in watching a movie, you see a close up of a character, and then a scene of actions and you only listen someone talk in that moment of action. Tell me that something is not off? Of course in comics there are bubbles with dialogues that tell you who says what, but aren't we being a little to confident with that?
And its also a big problem, the serialization format versus the volume format. But I think artists and writers are getting more conscious about this and are doing the comics with the hope to become volumes. Example: Ex Machina from Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, it was made as a series of comics in a beginning, but they also launch it in volumes and in extended tomes, and trust me, the work on that comic is amazing (I love both, Brian is a great writer and Tony is a great artist, I think it's one of the best team ever).
After weeks of dead, lets bring another subject.
In media Res (into the middle of things).
This is not a problem, but a decision made by writers to hook their readers, bringing the action the fastest as possible. The real deal about this is the dead of the introduction. How many comics have you read were the story begins in the Call to Adventure? (that magical moment where the monotony of the reality breaks and something magic or gigantic happens). And how many of those comics really have a introduction?
It seems they do have a introduction, they normally have a monologue of the main character doing a rant on how lame his life is, or it shows how monotonous is. But then just at the end of the first chapter somethings happens that hooks the reader to the story. Now, this is not a problem, but now it look like it is because more and more kids want this hook to happen the quickest as possible, without thinking in the introduction, in making the story grow a little before it happens.
This hurts the market and hurt writers who are forced to let the introduction die so their comic might live.
Then what is going to happen now? how are we going to deal with this every time we start writing our stories? Are we doomed to work always in a constant in media res or sacrifice the introduction to just one chapter?
EDIT: This is a very long post. TL;DR: skip to the bold stuff.
I don't want to see every book starting in medias res, but it's a powerful tool when done right. We're here to discuss, though. So here's some thoughts:
Fallout: New Vegas is a perfect example of doing it wrong. You are treated to an intro cutscene where your character is shot in the head from first person and is barely saved, but has amnesia. Now, this is all right so far, but as you get farther into the game, you start to realize that you're never gonna learn about your past. A proper act 1 is completely skipped. Yes, it's an open-world role-playing game where you're supposed to define who your character is. But didn't Fallout 3 do that with a proper act 1? Its introduction was suitably long, extending from your birth to your early adulthood.
Yes, this is a comic discussion thread. The next example is a bit better:
In the other corner, we have The Emperor's New Groove. Your parents sit you in front of the TV, skip through the previews, and BAM. There's the emperor: A sad llama lying under a leaf in the rain. He says he's actually the emperor, and you wonder, why is the emperor a llama? Why is the llama talking? Why is he alone in the rain looking sad? Only after that little cut does the movie zip back and show you the emperor's high and mighty lifestyle. Everything he wants is provided, everybody serves him, he has a guy thrown out a window for "throwing off his groove," and in a hyperbolic moment, somebody moves his jaw up and down for him because he doesn't want to chew his own food.. This guy is spoiled to the core. We know that something awaits him to throw off this lifestyle (granted: it's aimed at younger audiences and is fairly obvious) and we know where he got it. Great.
As a slightly more mature example, there's Higurashi. You double-click the file after seeing a few pictures and aren't quite sure what to expect. Some were cute and some were disturbingly gory. The first thing you see after the date being typed with a typewriter is a boy beating two young girls to death (okay, they were already dead, but he killed them) with an aluminum bat. You see blood splattering on the walls and bones snapping. You know that terrible things happen in this show. THEN, it cuts away and everything's all cutesy and happy. Personally, I would have waited and showed the murder scene later, since I like to set a reader's expectations and then slowly provide evidence suggesting they're wrong up until the call to adventure, but that's just me. The first scene in Higurashi sets the mood for the entire series. Every following arc ends in total disaster and despair, always starting out from a cutesy, innocent point.
I always feel like I have to have examples for some reason. Anyway, I've never seen an act 1 condensed into a page, panel, or even a single dialog box that I liked. A story just doesn't feel right without a first act. I played through all of Fallout 3 and dropped New Vegas after completing the tutorial missions, and at that point I didn't even know why I did either. Fallout 3 compelled me. New Vegas did not. A strong introduction, I believe, is imperative to creating a compelling story. Yeah, we all want to get into the meaty stuff: explosions, car chases, sex scenes, sword fights, etc. But how can we appreciate that stuff if we don't know the context for it? A picture of a girl in a guillotine plays with the viewer's emotions and makes them wonder, but ultimately, it would be more memorable if we knew why she was there, if she could possibly be saved, who else was involved, where it was taking place, who was benefiting from her death, who wasn't. If we're never told, we leave feeling dissatisfied.
Now that my position is clear, on to answering your questions:
1. What happens now?
Comics will continue to cut intros, avant-garde indie writers like you and I will have our own separate fanbase, albeit smaller, no doubt. Then we'll experience a surge of popularity, much like the current indie game market, and comics will see another period of satisfying intros and properly handled medias res. This tends to happen a lot in various industries. It's a cycle of:
Learning -> Knowledge -> Application -> Stagnation
Stagnation <- Application <- Knowledge <- Learning
Learn from history or be doomed to repeat it. Well, we learn from some things while we don't even imagine what we're letting happen by not applying that knowledge to everything.
2. How are we going to deal with this whenever we start our stories?
Whatever the story and medium calls for. I've written both in medias res and standard 3-act progression and never had a problem with either (aside from my inevitable slowness of writing act 2).
3. Are we doomed?
I believe not. My reasons for this are more or less the same as my response to question 1.
Please, bring up any points you notice that you question or that I have wrong. I don't feel like I know enough about literature (read: I don't read enough) to answer any of your questions with 100% or even 80% confidence. I'm even hesitant to post examples of what I believe to be properly and poorly done in medias res. I'm not an expert. I've taken just one creative writing class because it's all that's offered at my school. Everything I know about writing is self-taught through experimentation and observation.
Lastly, I have a question concerning this topic. It's not in comics (as usual for me), but in the game Cave Story. Act 1 is "collected" or "picked up" from various details in the story, both from dialog and visuals. What I want to know is if this kind of thing works well in comics. Cave Story is a game, and considered a masterpiece by many (myself included). But is that "collecting the story" element exclusive to games (Bioshock also did this, by the way)? Can a great experience translate into a great story?
Last edited by Matt; 01-05-2012 at 02:55 AM.
I didn't want to post so fast so other people might join. But as it seems, this is more like a chat between 2 persons than an actual forum discussion; sadly there is nothing much to do.
But on the subject. I think In Media Res is a powerful tool, but its blinding us to other great tools to work a interesting Introduction and stories. Let's go back to Sandman from Neil Gayman. Most of the volumes of his work are just introductions, its amazing how most of the story is just introductory and just few volumes are actually Action and Conflict, and made in way that feels that everything fits together. This because he work Introduction as a separated story, each little story of Sandman is in fact an introduction of his status, world and being and this stories are almost like 70% or more of the actual story in the comic. And the best part of all this, the introduction is entertaining, it hooks the reader and gave completely sense to the story (again, another reason why everyone interested in comics and storytelling should read this amazing comic).
And in other example we have Y: The Last Man, the first chapter, just the first chapter, is pure awesomeness. I'm not kidding, its so well done, and it is a introduction, a short introduction, but very well done. The whole first chapter is about Yorik talking to his girlfriend who is in Australia, but just in a moment every male on earth die (this is where the introduction end). But in this short dialogue we meet Yorik, we know what he likes, what he thinks, what he wants, and how he feels respecting different problems. Just a dialogue, just that, was enough to present us a good character.
This comics are prove that a introduction can be made in a smart and interesting way, that In Media Res, is good, but there are other better options for us to create a story and that everything depends on our skills and how we approach the narration. But I see, sadly, that more young "artists" have as influence stories that work in in media res, and that they are doing the same things they have read. One thing that it should be taught immediately is that you need to go out to make stories, not read in.
Well with the questions.
With Cave Story. The acts are the ones you can see, if someone tell something that happened in the past, but you weren't aware of it, it doesn't make it part of a previews act. The interesting thing with Cave Story, is that a ABC of mystery, what I mean is that the story is structural well placed to what it want to achieve. In comics this work, kinda ok.
I think its better to explain your question with something I was doing a few months ago. For sure you know Tolkien, and you have read some of his stuffs, even if its The Hobbit or Lord of The Ring. Most of his books have illustrations, with weapons, objects or architecture, all this create a background for the world, a segment for the reader to "look" what the author is talking about. The same goes with songs, poems and others that the author present, all those to create a immersion of the story. In this books it work perfectly because the book work in just one dimension which is writing, when you add a draw it break the "writing", you will identify the illustration as something different, something a part. But in a comic, both image and writing get mixed, so adding this plus gets complex, you need to add footers, asterisks and others that break the continuity of image and writing. The same problem happens in movies, you can't add a image to illustrate something in the middle of the movie, because it create noise. But directors were smart, they use "writing", so they chose to write things on the movie, to put hints and others, that work giving a background on the story. But what can we do as comic writers/artist? we can't put sound (well we can, but its hard and complex to make the relation between those in a same continuity), but we can do something, something very edgy (and idea I had a long time ago), with new technology we can create layers of images, we can create backgrounds with messages, and we can move images over others. We can break the comic, not in elements (writing, sound or drawing), but in structure, we can put messages behind and let the reader move things to look at it. Its hard, its complex, but for sure I think this is the future in Internet comics (some day I hope to do something with this idea =/).
So after this big text walls trying to answer your question, yes, we have the tools to create stories that are formed in objects and hidden messages.
PD: we need more people, this look like a chat in msn.
I don't know about comics very much but after skimming through both these massive posts I have a couple of things to add. First of all with matt's Fallout New Vegas example: I think the reason they did not create a background for the main character is because they wanted to make the player feel that they were the main character, a lot of games are like that I believe because they want the player to take on the role of the character in the world, not just tell that character's story. I think its effective but not for everyone. In new vegas I too was expecting to be able to uncover at least a little bit more of the character's story. It would have been more compelling if you could meet people that knew you before or something like that.
Most novels start with some kind of action as well because this grabs the reader's attention. Its generally a rule of thumb to start any story with an interesting part even if its not the main part because otherwise it wouldn't be attention grabbing. How boring would just a straight up description be? If the story does start out describing the character's background (an introduction) it has to be interesting. In fallout 3 for example you are going through the average growth of a child to adult hood but the setting is novel so the introduction remains interesting for players. Comparitively there wouldn't be anything interesting to seeing the messenger in fallout new vegas grow up for most players because they would have already experienced the fallout world in previous games. That said there wasn't enough content later in the game to make the character compelling.
The deal with New Vegas and Fallout 3 is that, in Fallout 3 they incorporate the introduction to the story, while in New Vegas they didn't. And even if it was to put the player in the role of the character, they could make something simple as "small memory recovers" that let you fill skills points. With this you can create a story, a character that was someone before and that you can see a echo of who he was. I know, its not the best, but its the quickest and easy decision. In a same case you have Oblivion, that is, well you know, shit, and Skyrim that work almost in the same way, killing the character and letting the player to take every decisions on who the character is between a illusory decisions.
Now, I don't want to go to much in video games, because those are fucking retarded when we talk about story (sadly, they are the strongest storyteller medias, but the worst worked). The introduction in videos games is almost retarded, only few games really care about it, and the conclusion, oh for Buddha, the conclusions are awful in most cases. I know, some games are not that bad, but they are still in a very childish level compared to other medias. I want to stick a little more with comics, because they do have very good examples and works, they have a wider illustration of experiments in narration, and because telling a story in a comic is way different than in a game (and so the problems they need to over come).
PD: Not saying we shouldn't make the analogy, but don't lets get aboard games, while the thread is comics. If we want to discuss games, we do another thread.
Last edited by ClockHand; 01-05-2012 at 12:39 AM.
Still, as I said everything I have read always says that when making a story you have to start with some action. The theory applies to all mediums including comics. I think it woud be boring if comics started with introductions. As I said, unless the introduction is very novel/unnusual its not good to put it at the start and even sometimes when it it interesting its better to have it somewhere else in the story. A mark of good writting is to be able to explain the background in great detail as the story progresses. Needing to write a special introduction is generally the mark of someone who is unskilled and clumsy in their writting/story telling. Its related to the rule 'show, don't tell'. If you you have to make an intro for your story that sets everything out then you are doing a poor job of writting, because you are just flat out telling the reader everything instead of gradually revealing the layers of the character's back story throughout the whole comic/book. That being said I think its still accpetable to have parts through out that very clearly tell the characters background. I just think its a clumsy way to tell stories with a big lump of backstory at the beginning. The only acception I would make to this is a general explanation of the world when the story takes place in an unnusual location.
Inksprout, I understand your point and agree with some of it, but I'm guessing the points I'm disagreeing with you on are going to boil down to semantics or other really minor things. When we say "introduction," (or at least when I say it), I mean the first bits of act 1: the setup of characters, setting, and initial conflict. In Black Cat, this introduced Train and Sven, their occupation, their skills, and the general setting. They were shown on the first page apprehending criminals as "Sweepers," something we don't have in our world. The next scene shows them collecting a whopping 800,000 yen reward and being disappointed with it, complaining about financial issues. It was fun. It described the world. It pulled me in. It wasn't description or just a bunch of shots of the background and/or characters. No, comics can't pull that off. I realize Black Cat isn't the best example, as it's the very definition of average (albeit with pretty awesome art, excluding the first few volumes).
The way you're seeing it, an introductory section devoted to nothing but describing the comic will be boring. Yes, I agree. What I disagreed with was your notion of an introduction being a mark of a lazy writer, and the more I think about, the more I realize what you actually mean. You don't like writers taking up pages and not pulling you in with pages and pages of this:
While this kind of introduction may appeal to some people, I would put it down after reading the first line and skimming for some action--finding none. Note that I just wrote lazily and half-actively tried to make it crappy, so actual description-style intros may be better.It was a warm summer day in the town of Springville, Illinois. The birds were singing, the children were laughing, and the sun was shining. People milled about on their daily rounds, going to and from work and school. Here and there, a car horn honked: Springville's local version of a vehicular greeting. Trees cast cool shadows on citizens at rest, having picnics or other various things. The roofs of all the houses in the neighborhood were a uniform dull red. The actual designs of the houses varied, but managed to look like cookie cutter homes all the same. Down at the local ice cream shop....
*Three pages later*
Daniel Blake, one of the schoolboys in the group of fifteen playing basketball, had shaggy black hair and light brown skin. His cheekbones were rather pronounced and his eyes were dark blue, matching the color of his varsity basketball jersey. He was a carefree, simple fellow with dreams of playing in the NBA. Beside him was Adam Mason, a year his junior: a tall, thin boy with short-cropped blond hair and an intense brown-eyed gaze that focused entirely on the faded orange ball. His jersey....
Anyway, your point. I agree. I wish my teachers would pick better books for our required reading. This is the reason for my perpetual, irrational dislike of stories about farmers out in the country. My point of disagreement is in defense of the whole idea of an introduction. I believe there's plenty of room for exposition of character, setting, and conflict early on. But there MUST be something interesting, either in the description or happening as things are being described.
Introduction on page 1, first sentence - Setting being exposed in an interesting way:
Introduction on page 1, first paragraph - Character being exposed in an interesting way:Chicago's January air was as dead and cold as the trembling hands wrapped around Brent Mann's neck.
What I'm trying to say through all this, I suppose, is that the story shouldn't slow down for description. Rather, description should be included as part of the story. The introduction, as I know it, is the first few steps in the story. So after all that, I agree with you and propose that the introduction is a legitimate part of the story and not just a few useless pages of description.Two hundred soldiers lay fast asleep in the wake of the white rider's winged mount. Some of them were probably dreaming about the last thing they'd seen while conscious: an elven girl's dark-eyed face and the flash of the green orb on top of the staff she held.
And I got off comics again somehow. In comics, I think it'd actually be pretty hard to screw up an introduction, unless the author put too much information in the hero's thought boxes. One thing I've always been bothered by is the typical, "I, Abe Ozo, am a 16-year-old student at the Ashmond Academy of Awesome" when the same information could easily be conveyed by a friend calling Abe's name and the name of the school being displayed on a billboard. The characters' ages could be shown when they make comments about both underclassmen and upperclassmen (in a 3-year high school system), conveying without narration boxes that they're second years and letting the reader infer that they're probably 16 or 17.
The weird thing is that they did that "description in thought boxes" thing in Bakuman--and the rest of Bakuman was actually fairly insightful into such things.
Clock, I know you wanna get out of games in this thread, but I need to say that in New Vegas, choosing your base skill points via nightmares of your past while you slept based on your actions in said nightmares would have been an amazing gameplay and character development experience. The player still gets to make his/her own character, points are still allocated, and the character is properly developed. Wham. There's part of act 1, all ready to go. This would be made complete, of course, by further dreams when you slept in-game, revealing more and more of your past and why you became a courier carrying something somebody would kill you for.
I think inksprout is mixing things. Yes, you are going to have to keep giving descriptions and working the characters after the introduction, the thing is that the introduction give the bases, who is the protagonist and where the protagonist stand. You will keep doing reaffirmations of the characters on the story progression and so the environment, but the Introduction is the fragment of the story that give the base.
Now, I already did a part on the thread to talk about image vs writing. The point of that, was to discuss that before discussing narrative (what we are doing now), and so we don't have to go back to the discussions about -show, don't tell- and paneling composition. I obviously agree that starting a story with a prologue of "in a galaxy far, far away..." is one of the worst things to do, but also is giving a short introduction that doesn't tell anything about our character and his world, or starting in In Media Res without giving a good track of the characters backgrounds. The point is, how can we (as writers or artists) accomplish a story that hook our readers, when they are more interesting in having everything in In Media Res or doing introductions so short that doesn't show anything about the bases of the character.
This has a equal level as "in a galaxy far, far away...". Yes writing a prologue for a sci-fi or fantasy story is quiet hard (you need to overcome context and immersion, but never to be so deep that no one can appreciate). But when you introduce your characters in monologues, you are wasting your time, and this goes back to -show, don't tell-, and the reason why I see many introductions in comics (of these days), very shallow. Again, Y: The Last Man, have one of the best first chapters ever, it state everything it need to state to believe in the characters and in the world, and it give a immediate problem, but it never use these cheap tools we are talking about."I, Abe Ozo, am a 16-year-old student at the Ashmond Academy of Awesome" when the same information could easily be conveyed by a friend calling Abe's name and the name of the school being displayed on a billboard. The characters' ages could be shown when they make comments about both underclassmen and upperclassmen (in a 3-year high school system), conveying without narration boxes that they're second years and letting the reader infer that they're probably 16 or 17.
I don't care if we use game analogies or we use it to prove some points, but I don't want to enter in game narrative, because is very different, principally because is interactive, and its become a complete different level of narrative when you try to make interactions under a story that must be lineal (yes and there are games that are not lineal, or better said, give a illusion of decisions).
With New Vegas, well, I really don't like Bethesda, they have prove many times that they are a company first and game developers second. Not saying that the people working there doesn't care about their work, but the company care more about sells than anything else, sad but that's the reality of many major companies.
Fallout 3 was a good game, still, not for me.