I'm Pouring My Heart Out #6
Recognizing A Story
Comics are a versatile medium. They can come in many forms, and one of my personal favorites is the short story. But how many people share my outlook on that? I’unno… Let’s talk about it.
A Harsh Lesson
So, here’s what really started this discussion.
I recently released a short horror comic (shameless plug, read it here :D). Anyway, after I’d finished it, I wanted to get a little feedback on this sucker. So, I took to Facebook and posted it for all to see… and critique.
That’s good, I asked for it. And I should. Here’s the thing—I thought the critique missed the mark.
BUT I’m not saying that from a defensive position. I swear. I’m all for constructive criticism. Hell, I even welcome destructive criticism, because that allows me to analyze the harshest of critiques and see if they have any merit.
However, this one got me thinking. Because the critique was that the story was “nonexistent.”
They also called the art “passable.” But we’ll ignore that one, as art is subjective… *cough-bullshit-cough*
Really, it is possibly a valid critique to say the story is nonexistent. However, in this instance, I think it’s wrong (hold on, I’ll explain why). But It made me wonder why this person would see it that way. Is it the length? The pacing? Is it too brief to glean a narrative from?
All the pieces of a story are there. To me, they’re pretty obvious, but I can’t help but wonder if the format (a short story) makes it difficult for some people to recognize them.
Are short stories impactful? Do they provide an escape in such a brief period?
Let me show you why I think that analysis was wrong.
We’ll start with the basic parts of a story. In this, I’m going with a basic setup. These parts are the Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. A fitting framework for five pages, in my opinion.
Let’s take a look at each.
The introduction, the setup, inciting incident, whatever you want to call it. In this story, it’s simple.
A courier comes to a nobleman to present the Rotten Man’s offer.
The nobleman refuses the Rotten Man’s beckoning and instead hires a group of mercenaries.
That’s it. The incitement has been facilitated. It’s quick, it’s dirty, it’s… five pages long, gimme a break.
The mercenaries accept and are hired to protect the nobleman as he is holed up in his manor. The Rotten Man arrives, alone and clearly outnumbered.
The advantage shifts as the Rotten Man uses his necromantic abilities to raise the dead around him.
Again, it’s simple. Maybe even subtle. But it’s a clear escalation.
The nobleman watches this horde of the undead rush the mercenaries and defeat them as they are overwhelmed and eviscerated.
The horde is placated after devouring the mercenaries. They stand docile as the Rotten Man steps over the corpses of the fallen mercenaries.
The Rotten Man makes his way into the manor. He slits the nobleman’s throat and takes the amulet, claiming what he came for.
Okay, so I’ve laid out the basic pieces of a story and showed why I think they’re all there, as brief as they may be. But I’d also like to highlight the little elements that add flavor. Why? Because it’s here! Geez… maybe listen next time. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get nasty.
Every good story needs conflict, right? Here’s mine.
The Rotten Man wants the amulet, either through capitulation or through force. The nobleman wants to keep the amulet, as well as his life. And so, the conflict is born.
The Rotten Man is coming for the amulet and, instead of simply handing it over to the courier and ending the conflict there, the nobleman hires a group of mercenaries to stop the Rotten Man.
The setting is clearly a certain period, and that is pertinent to the way the story unfolds. For instance, if it were a later period, the Rotten Man may be going up against firearms, which could change the dynamics.
Even more modern settings would change things drastically. The setting is purposeful and important.
Even a short story needs motivation. So, again, I went with a simple method that doesn’t need much exposition: a MacGuffin. The amulet is the object of the Rotten Man’s desire and his motivation for coming after the nobleman.
Boom. So fresh… so clean.
I dunno, you’re reading this… weirdo.
I tried to present a theme of greed and death. The Rotten Man wishes to take something he wants. You don’t know his true motivation for wanting it, only that he does. The nobleman wishes to keep it for himself, even under threat of death.
Instead of simply handing over the amulet (which, presumably, would’ve ended the conflict), the nobleman chose to attempt stopping the Rotten Man, meeting the necromancer’s ultimatum with force of his own.
The Rotten Man is guilty of murderous pursuit of something he wants. The nobleman is guilty of such greed that he’d rather risk a horrible death than give the amulet up.
The moral of this story is simple: Unflinching greed leads only to ruin.
This is important because I consider this story sort of a parable within the world of Black Rose Omen, and parables need a moral. The character of the Rotten Man will be seen again in my projects. The characters within this world have heard of this entity, and the general consensus is not to fuck with the Rotten Man. When he comes a-callin’, you’d better give it up.
This also incorporates the POV. This is a tale, a warning of sorts. So this was done in a third person POV. The panels with only captions, devoid of dialogue, helps to bring that across, imo.
So, I pose a few questions.
Is my reasoning on point? Was that person on Facebook wrong in their assessment? Or am I wrong in mine?
Are short stories good vessels for storytelling? Are they meaningful and impactful? I think it’s pretty easy to admit that they are. Some of the most famous stories in the world are short stories (Mask of the Red Death, anyone?).
However, as good as they may be, they’re also tricky. Perhaps even for both the author and the reader.
I still have this inkling that some folks just can’t pick up on these story elements within such a compact framework.
Why is that?
Well, if I’m right about that, I think it could be for many reasons. It could be that the author did a poor job of presenting the story. It could be that the reader is used to epics and the like, and simply can’t pick up on the narrative in the same way.
I don’t really know.
What do you think?
Oh, by the way, thanks for reading.
I’ll link it one more time, if you’d like to see the story in question.
Keep at it, y’all.