Coronation Street has been going for fifty five years. FIFTY FIVE YEARS. Why? Because even though the stories might not be fantastic the idea of a continuous story is incredibly captivating. The ability to tell a long story, or set of stories, that follow on from other stories and lead into other stories creates a unique narrative. There are three genres which attempt this type of narrative; TV Soaps, Book series and Comicbooks. If fifty five years seems like a long time for a piece of continuous storytelling, how about seventy five? That’s how long the DC universe has been established, it is arguably the longest running fictional canon followed quickly by the Marvel universe at around sixty years.
Picture source: http://fc03.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/298/5/2/dc_universe_ross_wallpaper_by_spitfire666xxxxx-d31h3gj.jpg [Acessed 1/06/2015]
So why is this important? Well a narrative of this length is worthy of study in itself, but I the area I wish to delve into is why this appeals and how the way the comicbook industry work. The appeal is simple, sequential narrative mirrors life it’s self , in life when a story ends the characters continue to live on and inhabit more stories. For example, a story in which I go down to the pub and wear a bear mat as a hat could be a self contained narrative but in reality the next day I might go shopping and be part of a new narrative set around a can of bake beans. Life is made up of multiple stories in the same why a comic book series is made up of multiple stories made up of a group of recurring characters.
The way that comic books capitalise on this mirroring of real life is through a weekly release schedule. By releasing instalments every week or couple of weeks a degree of anticipation is created meaning that, unlike soap opera viewers, readers don’t get as bored or find the stories as repetitive. This is something that is key in maintaining a universe and it also allows the writers to spend more time on the craft of storytelling, making for more compelling scenarios and drama.
This anticipation is crucial to maintaining a fan base which means that comicbooks are written in such a way to maximise this factor. As a reader this can be a lot of fun and sometimes frustrating, but as a writer it’s something to be constantly baring in mind. If you are intending on writing comics try looking for ways to incorporate the idea of running themes and cliff hangers between issues. Your story arcs should feel like a long story made up of smaller stories with the potential to grow into more stories, this is the true art of sequential narrative and when done well it is impossible not to start the next story!