Grr(aphic) Mondays: Fun, Flavour and Character Development

Writing any work of fiction is difficult. Personally, I believe that difficulty increases with the length of the piece you are creating; whether it’s a film, a book or a graphic novel it can be very hard to create a substantial piece when your narrative is essentially ‘there is a conflict that needs to be resolved, this is how it’s resolved’. Most first-time writers often find that their first drafts come in under their target word count as they just focus on telling the main bullet points of the story. 

The process of narrative creation is a hard one and it can make the difference between an amazing piece and a terrible one. Many writers start off with the same basic narrative that they then choose to make their own using fantastic settings, interesting characters and fun interactions. Everyone has to go through this process whether it’s a young novelists working on their first fantasy novel or Joss Whedon writing Avengers Assemble. Just consider the basic plot points of Avengers Assemble:

  • Loki comes to earth
  • Fury gets a team together
  • The Team defeat Loki

When Joss Whedon and co. got together to write the film they probably started with these three bullet points on a big white board as they tried to work out how they could flesh them out into a blockbuster hit. The answer lies in fun, flavour and character development. Throughout the piece, Whedon will have tried to construct moments that contribute to one of these categories.

   

Picture Source: http://i2.wp.com/www.4ye.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/joss-whedon-the-avengers.jpg  [Acccessed: 10/08/2015]

Fun scenes are moments of comedy or action filled mayhem. Flavour consists of anything that isn’t necessary but adds to the story, such as background information on the setting. Character development scenes are the most common and although they sound easy and expository they can be very subtle. Now consider a more advanced breakdown of the Avengers Assemble plot:

  • Loki comes to earth
  • Loki possesses Hawkeye (Character Development)
  • Fury visits Steve Rogers (Character Development)
  • Natasha brings in Bruce (Character Development)
  • Tony Stark is recruited by Agent Coulson (Character Development)
  • The Steve Rogers fights Loki and is supported by Tony Stark (Fun)
  • Thor turns up and debates with Loki (Filler and Character Development)
  • Thor and Tony fight (Fun and Character Development)
  • Loki is captured and is taken to Shield (Character Development)
  • Natasha interrogates Loki (Character Development)
  • Hawkeye attacks as the team breaks apart (Fun, Filler and Character Development)
  • Coulson fights Loki and dies (Character Development)
  • Fury uses Coulson’s death the rally the team (Filler and Character Development)
  • The team assemble (fun)
  • Stark and Loki debate in New York (Fun and Character Development)
  • The battle for New York (Fun and Character Development)
  • The team defeat Loki

It’s pretty easy to see that character development is the main aspect of narrative construction, this is mostly because readers and audiences connect with characters far better than they do a setting or a singular moment in the plot. By mixing fun, flavour and character development you can create a much longer piece that still feels fresh and engaging. It’s important to mix it up as a lack of any one type of development can make a piece feel lob-sided.

There are a lot of conflicting theories on creating an extended narrative but this is my personal favourite way of fleshing out my work as I prefer to take a reasonably logical approach to my writing. It makes sense to me to allocate different scenes different roles, but it’s equally valid to use any other method of narrative development. My main advice is to use something, attempt to give your work narrative structure, as many pieces will just insert useless waffling that serves little purpose. Waffles may be tasty but they are terrible to read.

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