Saturday, February 18, 2012

Three Rules for an Intriguing Story

Here's another preview image for my graphic novel. You can read the accompanying text if you go here.

I found while I was working on the story that it had three elements that I think make for a good story:

1. A world you'd live in, if you could.

2. Characters you'd hang around with, if you could...

3. ...facing problems you'd never want to face in a million years.

Not every successful story follows these rules, of course, but whenever I see a movie trailer or read a book description that fits these criteria, I know I find myself intrigued by those elements.

We all know how hard it is to work on your own projects and come up with your own stories, so the other good thing about these rules is that, as long as you're going to go through the torture of working on your own thing, at least you'll be spending your time with characters you like and in a world you enjoy being in!


Scotland Barnes said...

OOOOOOoohhhhh - nice rules.

Love the image Mark! - Looking forward to it being posted.

Psychotime said...

I don't know about the first one, but number two is the most important to me.

The third is always good, but not always necessary.

James said...

Whenever I watch a movie and get disinterested a short while in I of course ask why... and it seems that I always arrive at number 2- cos good characters should by rights produce good stories. Even a weak story can be upheld if characters are entertaining, real and hence, make 'the' story good by simply being them.(Jungle Book)
Putting characters in extreme situations from the onset(3) can always help to quickly show/illustrate their true traits/way of thinking and allow audience to identify who that character is.
Intriguing image (and text!)-can't wait start reading!

Rodney Baker said...

Gonna hafta appropriate those rules for sure... and (hopefully) use 'em!

As for your latest preview, you just keep reeling me in. I love that even your previews are character driven.

So far so very good.

Mister Skov said...

Hi Mark, I completely agree on these "rules". I find that people often don't understand rule number one because they immiediately think of spooky places. My point is that in a film like "Alien" the spaceship Nostromo is not a place where I would like to work, but I would really like to walk around there, exploring the place for myself (without the Alien running around of course ;-)

idle. said...

Hi Mark.

I'm not so sure about these rules. I'd define them differently, maybe. I think it is important that you don't feel indifferent to the world and characters in your story. I think you can easily reverse the first two points and still end up with an engaging story.

Rex said...

the third one is just a way to work in the conflict->resolution present in any story. i wouldn't say that it's really a requirement of intriguingness. The later Saw movies aren't what you'd call intriguing, even though horrible things happen to people.

the first two might be something though- though there are a lot of genres that sidestep them pretty cleanly. horror for example. Alien is what i would consider intriguing- even though the characters are boringly average and the setting is a space truck.

Ashton said...

So simple, yet so true... I'm going to remember these rules.

Sure, there are edge cases, but I think you've hit on a basic truth here. And even if you can get good stories without all three of these (or bad stories with them) it's a good starting place to start planning your world.

First thing that pops to my mind is Harry Potter, amazing world, with (mostly) characters I would personally like to spend time with. Except Ron. lol

The only thing is, I probably would want to face the problems Harry faces... life would be a lot more meaningful and exciting if you were saving the world.

But your point stands.

mark kennedy said...

Thanks Scotland! Best name ever BTW.

Hey Psycho - to each his own. I find those rules important to me. If you're going to spend all that time drawing the should - to me - be a place you want to spend time in.

James - thanks! Good thoughts.

Rodney - great! Glad you're interested...more coming soon.

Skov - yes, exactly...I think I was unclear but you got exactly what I was saying. It doesn't have to be a world that feels comfortable or fun...but anyplace you'd love to explore. Thanks for the comment!

Idle - to each his own. Storytelling, of course, is a deeply personal thing. Just talking about what works for me. Thanks for the comment though.

Rex - It's a personal thing. Different for everyone. I find the spaceship in Alien pretty interesting - I'd love to poke around a spaceship like that and see how things work. But I also think they made the spaceship and the people "boring and average" so that when the alien comes along, the story can go to an extraordinary place. If you start with a really amazing and interesting spaceship and weird interesting characters, you can't go to an extraordinary place when the alien arrives. You want the alien to be a big curveball that disrupts their everyday lives, and making them something we relate to and take for granted (Truckers) makes us get the situation quickly and understand why they're bored, even though they're flying around in a spaceship. Thanks for commenting!

Ashton - thanks for the comment! I wouldn't want to hang with Ron're hilarious for saying you'd want Harry's problems. Are you sure?!? Giant spiders, fire breathing dragons, werewolves...personally, I'd be a bad Harry Potter!

Ebba Edenström said...

thats some nice guidelines, cheers for sharing! struggling for a long time to get started with my own comic and alot of things from this site has helped me in my way to slowly get there! :)