What makes or breaks a comic book? Is it the art or the story?

Personally, we believe it’s the story.

You can have amazing art all throughout your comic book, but then have a story that doesn’t go anywhere. You could also draw simply and yet have this amazing story that really captures your readers’ hearts and imaginations.

But what IS a story?

Some people believe that if you simply string a series of events together, you’ve got yourself a story.

That may be so—in a way—but stories in their natural form and habitat always have a point that they’re trying to make. If you listen to people talk and tell stories, there is always a point to their narration.

Think about the last time you had a chat with your friends. Every story they tell always has a message, an argument, or a point.

“I’m just so tired recently. It’s the kids. Tommy’s just turned 3, and Janice is only starting to walk. Add to that the fact that we can’t find a decent babysitter in this neighborhood. Denise and I can’t find the time or the opportunity to take a break. Are you sure you don’t know anyone that can watch the kids for a few days while we wind down?”

That’s how we tell stories. We often have a point that we’re trying to make (we’re tired and need a break; we really need to take some time away from the kids).

We backup our points with examples (Tommy is 3, and Janice is starting to walk).

And we often have a purpose for telling our stories (do you know someone that can take care of the kids for a while).

When we argue and debate with friends on certain topics, this pattern also comes out quite often.

Now think about people who talk to you for no reason at all but to make small talk? Oftentimes, those are the most boring conversations. Think about all the people that argue for the sake of arguing, or for the sake of being able to participate in the conversation.

We have to think of our stories in the same way.

Without a point, without an argument, our stories will fall flat.

However, even if you did have a point, that doesn’t automatically make your story stand above the rest. Some of the most dragging and mind-boggling stories all have great themes and arguments that they want to address. The question, then, is: is such a story compelling enough to actually make an impression.

You can be all lofty and philosophical about your story, but if it doesn’t make sense dramatically, it also falls short.

The best stories are never the overly-complicated ones. I was blown away watching 2001: A Space Odyssey much like a lot of other people, but I don’t feel as though I would like to sit through that experience over and over again.

Compare that to the original Star Wars trilogy, wherein you’ve got prevalent themes all throughout, plus you’ve got an amazing dramatic flow to it. You’re moved emotionally. You would willingly watch the movies again and again despite their length.

The ancient Greeks have this term called catharsis, which is the “purification and purgation of emotions.” In simpler terms, it’s a kind of emotional release that one gets at the end of a story. It was a term originally used by Aristotle in his Poetics that describe the emotional effects a tragedy would have on its audience. What were people’s reactions to Oedipus Rex? How did this affect the audience in the end?

More so than just a display of emotions, catharsis is aimed to result in renewal and restoration. In a sense, this means that stories should empower the audience to make a change in their lives.

What stories do you remember have had this effect on you throughout your life?

Are there still stories today that are able to help you arrive at that same cathartic resolution?

Our chief aim here, then, is to figure out just what makes an audience tick. How do we get them to feel, to experience, and to change? If that’s something that you want from your own story, then stick around and maybe you’ll be able to pick up something along the way.

 Featured Image Credit: Sharon Drummond via Compfight cc