Computer says Spectacle is “a visually striking performance or display”.
In comic writing (story) terms, it is a narrative that while may contain all the elements of genuine story, does not fully develop them, relying on superficial/surface elements (action, visual eye-candy, gratuitous genre convention, obligatory scenes and tropes) to engage the audience.
Often spectacle fiction is particularly weak in thematic expression (Master Theme), character development and plot. And often serves as the vehicle to showcase unchanging (non-arcing) protagonists, like James Bond, Indiana Jones, Mad Max and the like…
I’m not really a fan of pure spectacle fiction, as I feel there’s always room to add substance to a story.
That said, I am a big fan of genre fiction, Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror being three of the primary genres I work in. Because many elements and practices of writing good spectacle overlap into genuine story, understanding some of the mechanics of spectacle will serve to improve your writing whether or not you embark on a spectacle heavy script.
Ok, grab your mocha and let’s get into it…
The spectacle hurdle.
Without the real substance of genuine story, all the superficial elements are pushed front and center. Instead of taking the time to assemble a fine wardrobe, offer an intellectual greeting and discuss what makes you tick, you’re stripping off your story’s clothes in the middle of gym class and screaming as loud as you can “Yo, check me out!” (gratutious 80’s movie reference)
Only above average content survives this level of scrutiny.
Plainly put, if your material isn’t above average, you’re sunk.
So if you’re about to set sail into spectacle comic writing waters, you better put down the rum, and look to the horizon with every ounce of objectivity and honesty.
The waters of genuine story telling are forgiving, the seas of spectacle take no prisoners.