by Bryan Patrick Avery
I got stuck a few weeks ago.
It happens to every writer, eventually. Characters refuse to cooperate, dialogue sounds like something created by poorly programmed AI, or plot points get swallowed up by gaping plot holes. So, what to do when this happens to you? I found the answer to my latest literary crisis in an unexpected place: Japanese comics.
Yonkoma, sometimes called 4 Koma, is a comic strip technique popularized in Japan which has become a staple in comic strips. The intent of Yonkoma is to tell a story using four panels of equal size and structure. This gives equal space to each part of the story. The plot is broken down like this:
This is the introduction. It sets the stage for everything that follows by introducing the setting, the characters, and anything else we need to know.
The second panel kicks of the action. Once we’ve learned where we are and who we’re with, we can set everything on motion. That happens in this panel.
Once everything is set in motion, this panel reveals a surprise or twist that moves the story in a new direction.
This panel is the punchline, the payoff, or the conclusion. It wraps up the story in a satisfying way.
And that’s it. It’s a key format in many comics including Nathan W. Pyle’s Strange Planet and Charles Schultz’s Peanuts.
You may be wondering, “How can this help me with my writing?" Here’s how:
If you’re struggling with entire plot of your work in progress, try boiling the plot down to those four panels. If you write using the three act structure, think of Panel 1 as your Act I, Panels 2 and 3 as Act II, Panel 4 as Act III. This will help you boil your story down to its essential pieces.
If you’re struggling with a particular scene, try breaking the scene down into panels. Again, this will help you locate the key parts of your scene. Obviously, when it comes to writing, you’ll be able to embellish a bit, but you’re have a blueprint for the scene that will keep you on track.
If you're struggling to develop your characters, you can create a four panel plot that shows two or more of your characters interacting. The restricted space will, again, help you focus on what’s essential for your story.
Give a try and see if this approach can help you like it helped me.
That’s all for this month, Happy writing and have a magical month.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome Aussie debut author and former student Amanda Lieber who will be focusing on Aussie kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
4th Mondays will be a mystery for right now.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break