One of the things that Ty taught in his writing class was story maps. Basically, (in the form he was teaching us) they’re a simple device for planning a basic comic script. Obviously, story maps aren’t unique to comic writing, but Ty’s technique for using them is pretty specific to mainstream comics publishing.
Here’s an example of a story map that he filled out — I’ve seen this particular example used to provide a visual aid for his Writing Comics course. He also hands out blank versions in his class — I scanned one and redrew it in Illustrator because I like doing stuff electronically.
So there I am at the sports bar, surrounded by televisions. I sooo love being surrounded by televisions. Televisions barfing out sports.
But one of my colleagues recently resigned — he’s one of the long-time folks, so there’s a do. At a sports bar. I show up because it’d be crass not to, but it’s basically a social event, and I kinda suck at those. I figure I’ll show up, put in twenty minutes of face time and then sneak away.
“You know that there’s no hockey on, right?” one of my colleagues says to me, to make conversation. I figure the sports-themed surroundings have infected him.
“Hockey. That’s the one with the sticks, right?” I reply, dryly. I’m accustomed to people rolling their eyes at me.
After being so excited to get to class tonight, actually attending pissed me off. Mostly because I feel like we were asked to do a bunch of prep that never got used. And I think I’m going to hate next week — it sounds like we’re being asked to work out partial scripts in class. I’m beyond the point of wanting to toy around with structure and skeletons; I want to do the hard work of actually bringing the story to fruition now, and I doubt that working that out in class is a productive way to do that.
Bah. I want real homework.
I must have really turned a corner on my apprehensions of my Writing class because I’m really excited about tomorrow’s class and I CAN’T WAIT.
Tonight was “pitch night” at Writing for Comics Part 2. We were instructed to bring 3 ideas for new on-going series (or, perhaps, a longish graphic novel), and we’d each pitch our ideas to the class. Ty gave us a bunch of key things that our pitches needed to cover off, and he’d critique how well we “sold” the ideas, and the class would ultimately vote on one of the three pitches. The winning pitch essentially becomes the idea you hafta run with for the final two classes (and final writing exercises).
Some of the ideas were grounded in exercises we’d done in other classes. For example, one of my favourite ideas from a classmate involves a group of Catholic priests/exorcists who fight demons and perform martial arts. The guy who presented this idea had sketched out elements of this particular story world in the world building exercise, and fleshed out some characters for the world in our character archetypes exercise. Tonight, he pitched it, more formally, as “The Exorcist from U.N.C.L.E.” and it’s the one I voted for (and, conveniently, the idea of his that “won”, so I look forward to seeing the actual story).
The course description for my Monday night “Writing For Comics, Part 2” class reads thusly:
A master class on practical writing. Students will learn the standard applications of tropes and genres, the rules of pacing and scene work, the secrets of world building, character bibles, supporting casts, sub-plots, comedy writing, ongoing series and much more.
So. “Standard applications of tropes and genres.” That could be a very freighted thing. Last class we were freighting World Building.
As I said, before, Ty’s approach to teaching writing is very much about, “here is the template; fill it in, and you’ll have a sturdy foundation for your story.” His approach to world building for stories is no different. We spent the first third of the class working on the Successful World Building Formula. He wrote nine points on the board, and said, essentially, “make interesting decisions around these nine points that really speak to the story you want to tell, and you’ll have a compelling world.” Points number four and five were the ones that I thought were interesting.
One of the things that was especially exciting about this year’s WisCon was the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of this year’s WisCon Chronicles. And it’s all about vanity, I admit: I have an essay in the book about the way panels over the last few cons have struggled with talking about class.