Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Divinity 1, originally released February 11th, 2015.
My feeling is, story is the apple, plot is the arrow through it. (Or, story = mountain, plot = path through the mountain.)
Drew: I’ve often attempted to distinguish between the “story” and “plot” of a narrative, but because those terms are often used interchangeably, I’ve never felt like I was being totally clear. Little did I know that Russian formalist Vladimir Propp had actually coined the specific terms I needed almost a century ago: fabula is the chronological events of the “story”, while syuzhet is the narrative arc as laid out in the “plot”. There are a great many stories where the distinction is trivial — the events of the story are presented in chronological order — but in a world full of flashbacks, flashforwards, and other chronological twists and turns, it’s helpful to be able to differentiate the two.
In most cases, the syuzhet is crafted to enhance the audience’s experience (to obscure a key detail of a mystery or to remind us of a detail as it becomes important), but it can also be used to reflect a character’s subjective experience of the fabula. LOST did this well, showing the audience proustian memories brought about by triggers on the island, but there are a few stories that take that concept a step further, where the character’s experience of the fabula is more explicitly achronological, allowing the syuzhet to track the fabula, even though neither is arranged chronologically. The “backwards” order of Memento simulates Leonard’s anterograde amnesia, and the “Watchmaker” chapter of Watchmen simulates Dr. Manhattan’s omnipotent experience of time. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine’s new Divinity clearly has a great deal in common with that latter example, even if the subjectivity of the syuzhet is less explicit. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and guest writer Pivitor are discussing the Flash 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Drew: “Move forward” are the words the Flash lives by — both the man and the title. We’ve seen both accept rather profound changes, from the newfound abilities of the Rogues to his own death, rolling with the punches where most superheroes (and their series) might work to return things to their status quo. At the same time, writers Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are ever committed to their own continuity, recalling and building upon details first mentioned months earlier. The fact that those elements don’t come into play until long after they are introduced gives the series a propulsive sense of forward motion, allowing it to build incrementally. Thus, issue 17 can resolve plot elements first established in issue 6, as the Rogues, Gorillas, and the victims lost in the Speed Force finally get their due. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing the Flash 16, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Patrick: We expect our heroes to bravely sacrifice themselves for the greater good. If we’re blessed with complex characters, we can even expect this of our anti-heroes. But what about our ancillary characters? With the smoke-screen of a superheroic battle for the fate of city, real-world sacrifices tend to go unnoticed. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato deliver plenty of that bombastic hero action, but bury under it the sad, frustrated story of Iris West. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing the Flash 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Patrick: Whenever a writer keeps up several narrative threads at one time, one of us will say that he or she is “spinning a lot of plates.” It’s an odd metaphor. I mean — “juggling” works just as well to express the same thing and it’s a much more common activity. My friend Pete Pfarr had a KLUTZ book that taught him how to juggle, but there sure as shit wasn’t any KLUTZ book to teach him plate spinning. So what makes that turn-of-phrase so useful in describing the storytelling in The Flash 15? Possibly because we get the sense that the stories continue (the plates continue to spin) even when we’re not watching them. But I think the real reason we use the metaphor — and the only reason we’d want to see someone spinning plates (because: boring, amirite?) — is because we can’t wait to see what happens when too many plates are spinning and they all come crashing down. Boldly, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato give us just that. Continue reading →
Drew: Last month, we took Batwing to task for its bat-family cameos; when the hero is still winning over an audience, placing him alongside one of comicbookdom’s biggest draws will necessarily divert our interest. As I looked ahead to reading this issue, I wondered how removing Batman from the equation would work. Batwing is still in Batman’s city, and is now fighting one of Batman’s villains, but without Batman’s presence, would the issue feel lacking? Continue reading →