Dennis O’Neil: Graphic Storytelling… and Excess

Comics great Dennis O’Neil is here to give us a whoopass lesson in storytelling:

ONeil Art 130815 Dennis ONeil: Graphic Storytelling... and Excess

by Dennis O’Neil

A big black hole –

The galaxy’s bowl?

Captain Power’s goal?

Enough poesy. What we’re dissertating on today is not verse, which I’m pretty sure I don’t quite understand, but goals.

But first, a brief look at what are widely considered the seven basic plots. I’ll be courteous enough to add, under each one, an example of what it is. This I will do in italics.

Here we go:

Overcoming the Monster – Gilgamesh

Rags to Riches – Cinderella

The Quest – Lord of the Rings 

Voyage and Return – Wizard of Oz

Comedy – Modern Times

Tragedy – Oedipus Rex

Rebirth – Christmas Carol

Most of what I’ve just tossed at you are narrative germs that involve somebody trying to get or accomplish something – somebody with goals to achieve. (Tragedy and Rebirth are hereby excused. And Comedy can take a nap, if it wants.)

That’s mostly the stuff we see at the monsterplex and it is a sturdy beast that’s been transfixing audiences for…I don’t know – fifteen centuries?

But, I shall now claim, to be as effective as they can be, goalish-stories must have clarity: the goal itself must be clear and the obstacles between the hero and his goal must also be clear. In order to pull us to the edge of our seats, the storyteller has to let us see and know exactly what the hero has to overcome and in so doing, generate and the suspense and thrills and chills that we’ve paid for.

And here comes the kvetch: Some of our storytellers are failing, just a bit, by giving us too much.

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