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Successful Graphic Novels: Plot Development Basics

The market for graphic novels is rapidly expanding in the United States as the genre makes a move from specialty comic book stores to the end caps of even the most mainstream bookstores. As the variety of graphic novels available expands, readers expect higher quality works. Some artists feel like they should leave the development of plot to professional writers, and should focus solely on developing the associated art. However, as creatives, artists are well-situated to translate their skill into successful storytelling.

As with any piece of literature, the plot of the work is the key to its success in the market. An engaging story is the backbone of any work of fiction. Here are six tips to guide you in developing a plot that will leave readers asking for more:

  • Begin with the end in mind. Too often beginning writers start writing a story as they would start reading one- with page one. Instead, when you are developing a story, you must know where you plan for the story to end before you even begin. Write, or at least outline, the end of the story before you begin drafting the rest of the piece.
  • Don’t wait too long before the action begins. You want to give your reader time to get to know your characters, but if your story has a dull beginning, your readers won’t make it through your piece. Within the first few pages, you should begin setting the stage for the main characters’ first conflict.
  • Keep the experiences realistic. It doesn’t matter if your piece is set in 1800’s England or 4500 A.D. Mars, the major plot points will need to be realistic. Even your most likable characters will need to be engaged in conflict at some point.
  • Don’t overstimulate the reader. You want your story to be exciting, but you can’t have a high-drama conflict on every other page. Pace yourself. Plan out in advance where your conflicts will occur.
  • Make sure the climax is sufficiently explored. You have taken your reader on an amazing journey to get them to the climax of the plot. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to give the climax a few choppy pages that don’t do the journey justice. This portion of your plot should be written, rewritten, revised, edited, and then rewritten some more. Expand on what is happening. Make sure you show what the characters are feeling at this point in the story. Your readers have waited for this moment. Make it last.
  • There has to be an ending. There will need to be some closure at the end of the piece even if you plan on releasing a series of novels using the same characters and overarching plot. Readers need to have a payoff at the end of a piece. Leaving a cliffhanger of some sort is fine, but you can’t leave them with too many unanswered questions, or you will have a very angry group of fans.