Storytelling Scrutiny Squared

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Beyond The Trailer, By & With Grace Randolph

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to talk about the YouTube channel Beyond The Trailer, which is created and hosted by Grace Randolph. On that YouTube channel you’ll find a plethora of videos about movies, especially geeky ones – whatever that’s supposed to mean – that are coming out now or are in development.

Grace’s speciality, as the title indicates, is to look at movie trailers with critical intellect and fully engaged heart.

She does quite interesting movie trailer reviews, e.g. Minions and The Martian, but she also talks about details that are leaked or otherwise much discussed. There is a whole series of videos that I’d call Suicide Squad Speculations, about who’s gonna behave good versus bad or about who’s gonna die?

Most interesting are Grace’s breakdowns or shot-by-shot trailer reviews, for example Suicide Squad and (the Netflix show) Jessica Jones. She goes into incredible detail, describes everything as it appears on the screen, and gives us her mind. She talks about artistic choices, speaks with great enthusiasm about all the stuff she likes in the movies, but also discusses problematic aspects, like pitfalls with the origin stories of female superheroes.

Grace also does full movie reviews. She loves to cheer movies and glee over them, she clearly loves great film-making and great stories, but she also looks into the deeper context. Her review of The Martian brims with optimism, but she doesn’t shy away from discussion of history and politics where it is important for the movie, like in her review of Sufragettes.

And if I don’t fully agree with all of her opinions when it comes to movies like Kingsman and Spy – for example I do not think that Miranda Hart’s performance in Spy was unfunny – I always find her comments thoughtful and interesting.

Check out Grace Randolph’s Beyond The Trailer!

Where do you look for information about upcoming movies? Tell us in the comments!

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Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Kelci D Crawford

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to talk about Kelci D Crawford, who is the skillfull artist, and often also the writer, behind a couple of cool webcomics, the best known of which is probably Validation, which is written by Christian Beranek. (Both answered my Seven Questions About Validation here.

The reason that I write about her in Storytelling Scrutiny Squared is that she also writes a blog full of cool stuff about comics, making comics, creating art, and pretty much anything that influences these endeavors, up to and including life, the universe, and everything.

Plus, she talks the talk, and she also walks the walk, by sharing her work-in-progress.

Another favorite topic of her are reviews of comics she reads, which she regularly features both on her blog and in a series of fascinating video blogs. Her reviews are short, concise, well-thought-out, engaged and engaging.

So if you do love reading about comics – and given that you read my blog, chances are you do – you will do well to check her out.

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Erin Perry’s Cell By Cell

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to introduce you to Erin Perry and her Cell By Cell feature, which she writes for Popoptiq.

The first installment of Cell By Cell is an in-depth analysis of #5 of Bitch Planet.

As the name suggests Erin Perry takes the first page of that issue, and looks at every single panel, and explains how it works in the context of that page, and with regard to the whole story.

Being someone who loves to analyze storytelling in comics, and to look in depth at single pages and panels on occasion, I really like the way she shows us the fine details and broadens our overall understanding at the same time.

I’m looking forward to see more installments of Cell By Cell!

Who else do you go for to learn about in depth understanding of great comics? Tell us in the comments!

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Jim Zub

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to introduce you to the Jim Zub, who does a lot of different things, but is mostly known as a comic writer and an educator, and writes about comics on his website Zub Tales.

If you are only interested in comics as a consumer, you should check out what he writes about his famous comics Skullkickers and Wayward.

If you want to know more about how the comics business works, e.g. about how much of the money you pay actually ends up in the creator’s hand, you may want to read Jim’s articles about the Economics of Creator Owned Comics.

If you are also interested in creating comics, have a look at Jim’s Tutorials.

Jim Zub is especially famous for his advice on Writing Comics.

Listen to the man, for he speaks from experience!

Who else do you go for to learn about the secrets of making comics? Tell us in the comments!

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Trekker Talk

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to introduce you to the Trekker Talk folks, Darrin and Ruth Sutherland, who are busy on Twitter (and probably elsewhere) to promote things related to comics, podcasts, and other nerdy stuff, and most importantly, publish the monthly Trekker Talk Podcast.

As the name suggests, on that podcast they talk about the very cool Trekker. I love that comic, too, and have written about it occasionally, but where I have Trekker in my quiver as one of many arrows, they focus very much on it; they may very well be most avid Trekker fans ever.

Listening to them, and appreciating their enthusiasm as well as their eye for detail, is a joy.

The episode that I find most interesting is their live interview with Ron Randall, the creator of Trekker.

But I’m probably biased, because I’ve got an interview with Ron scheduled for next week as part of my Seven Questions About feature. Of course, I didn’t have the benefit of meeting Ron in person, and could not do an interactive interview, but I hope you will find my questions and Ron’s answers interesting, too. See you next Wednesday.

Do you have recommendations for webcomic related fan podcasts? Tell us in the comments!

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: How It Should Have Ended

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to introduce you to How It Should Have Ended, which is pretty much a sister channel, at least in spirit, to Honest Trailers, which I introduced last month.

They both make fun of movies, especially those they love, and point out the plot-holes and idiosyncrasies to be found therein. But as its name suggests, How It Should Have Ended is very focused on the end game.

As I’ve mentioned before, I think that the big problem with many stories, and especially movies, is that they fail to Terminate With Extreme Prejudice. It seems that the folks at How It Should Have Ended agree, and instead of just complaining, they show us one ore more alternate endings.

My favorite is How Guardians of the Galaxy Should Have Ended.

What are your favorite installments of How It Should Have Ended? Tell us in the comments!

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Story Structure Models

This is the latest installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Normally, i focus on one person or website or podcast or whatever, but once a month I will talk about a storytelling theme instead, link to multiple sources, and give you my own thoughts.

Today I talk about Story Structure, and the models (theories) and methods that I find particularly interesting and helpful for understanding (scrutinizing) how superb storytelling works.

Note that I’m interested in understanding story structure for two reasons: It helps me to better appreciate great storytelling in novels, movies, TV shows, and of course comics, and it also helps me with my own writing projects (none of which is far beyond the preparation steps yet). You may have either reason, both, or another completely different one, to be interested in story structure, but no matter what, if you are interested, you will probably find the following hints useful.

My first contact with Story Structure, like with everything else concerning taking Storytelling seriously (meaning, writing it with a capital S), was when I started listening to the Writing Excuses podcast. Those knowlegdeable folks often talk about hot to achieve good structure, either by Outlining or through Discovery Writing. If you check out the episodes under each tag, you’ll find that tehre is a lot of overlap, because they discuss the pro and cons of either method, and also explain how the techniques are not mutually exclusive, and they fall on a spectrum. Outlining means planning the structure in advance, Discovery Writing means figuring it out on the go, but many people mix-n-match these approaches. Myself, I tend to switch back and forth between planning and experimenting, each step informing the next one.

As to the actual structure one can use, Writing Excuses mentions the Three Act Structure as a formal method, but focus rather more on the general idea that any story makes promises in the beginning, and those have to be fulfilled, often in unexpected ways, in the end, to avoid leaving the audience unsatisfied. I concur absolutely; I have talked before about how important it is to Terminate With Extreme Prejudice.

One of the podcasters, Dan Wells, also talked about a more complex Story Structure Model, the Seven Point System. He taught a session about this, a video of which, plus the Powerpoint presentation, can be found on his website under the tag How To Build A Story.

I was very impressed by his presentation, even though I almost immediately abandoned the actual Seven Point System model. This is because I consider his lessons about the interweaving of multiple plot strands really outstanding. He explains it using The Matrix as an example.

To understand – or create – the overall structure of a story, I prefer the model that Alexandra Sokoloff explains on her Screenwriting Tricks for Authors website, where she has many articles that explore and explain Story Structure.

Her key idea is the Three Act Eight Sequence Structure, which is kind of a standard in movie script writing, but also extremely useful for any othe rkind of – long form – storytelling.

But at the end of the day, these models are only tools to understand Story Structure, and they are very helpful, but when the story is more complex, and possibly also more fluid, as tends to happen in webcomics, these models can inform the actual structure, but should not constrain it. If I look at all of my favorite webcomics, I can see that they vary greatly, from more regular chapter structure to almost none. And I don’t find any correlation between the regularity and the entertainment they provide. As long as the creator(s) know what they are doing, or at least make believe they do, the story rocks, no matter what.

Now I ask you: What method or model do you use to understand story structure? Tell us in the comments!