Whether you’re telling a two-book tale or a sprawling epic that would impress even Eiichiro Oda, you’re going to need to know how to draw up the blueprints for a story arc. Fred Van Lente‘s (The Astonishing Spider-Man, Marvel Zombies) upcoming Story Arcs and the Art of Serialized Storytelling course, beginning April 9 and running every Wednesday until May 15, teaches you how to become the architect of your own rich worlds.
We spoke with Fred briefly about his intentions for the class, and what students can expect to learn from his expertise!
Comics Experience: What are your goals for the story arc class? What do you hope your students get out of the experience?
Fred Van Lente: So much of comics storytelling is about pacing — on the page between panels, and between pages within a story unit. What I want students to learn is how to pace an entire story “arc,” whether that’s a multi-issue story within an on-going series, or a completely self-contained graphic novel, and how to use pacing to for effective reveals, enhance individual character arcs, and maximize reader interest, to keep them coming back for more and giving you the commitment to see your story through to its end.
CE: What are some of the unique challenges to writing out serialized arcs vs. more episodic or procedural stories?
FVL: Planning is the main thing, and it’s those kind of plotting skills we want to teach in this course. We get very wrapped up in scene-to-scene storytelling, and you need that too, but we want to tackle the next level, which is looking at the whole piece from a high altitude and figuring out the best way to order those scenes. Is this a monthly comics series with 20-pages issues, or a weekly web comic with 20 panels per chapter? The skills you need to tackle both are basically the same (it’s the decisions that are different), and that’s those skills that we want students to come away with.
CE: What are some of the most common misconceptions about writing serialized stories?
FVL: “Decompression” is a term that has been bandied about a lot since I’ve been in a comics, usually as a derogatory term, but some of the most popular comics of the last twenty years have been “decompressed.” What’s important is to pick a pace that’s right not just for your own story, but how best expresses your own voice and style.
CE: What are some of the most common mistakes writers make when writing and mapping serialized stories? How will your course address them?
FVL: I’m going to try and take people from a completely blank slate, so hopefully we’ll “unlearn” bad practices during that process, but I think more than anything else new folks focus too much time and effort on Chapter One, or Episode One, to the neglect of the remainder of the piece. From the jump we’re going to get people to spread that love around their entire story, not just the beginning.
You can sign up for Fred’s Story Arcs and the Art of Serialized Storytelling course here. Remember, our slots fill up fast, so make sure to secure your spot as soon as you’re able!