A Cornerstone of Good Story

In Storycraft for Comics I discuss the three fundamentals of “good” (or genuine) story.

One of them is unpredictability.

If you’ve ever read a story that was bad (for any number of reasons), but still felt compelled to read it… there’s a good chance the story’s unpredictability was pulling you along. Any time we read a story we’re looking to learn something. The learning comes from the message of the story itself and the execution of how the message is expressed.

Once a reader has even a slight level of engagement in a story, it’s rare they can put it down unless they’re convinced they know the message AND how the writer is going to express that message. Even with a bad story, if we don’t know the message or exactly how the writer is going to express it, there is usually some level of compulsion to figure it out.

It’s all psychological. Validation of what we know (or think we know), how we see the world and justification for our own behaviors. Nobody likes to be wrong, or feel unintelligent.

In contrast, no matter how good a story/comic is, once it becomes predictable, there is immediate reader disengagement.

That’s not to say a reader will immediately put down a fantastic story that’s become predictable… but there’s always a good chance, especially if their engagement is tested in any fashion. And even if they stick around, the experience is going to be watered down. Much of the impact and punch of the story, lost as the reader gets ahead of the writer in anticipation.

If for some reason you can only remember one fundamental of good story when you sit down to write, make it unpredictability.

Unpredictability makes pages turn.

About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.

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