Monday, February 9, 2015

Story Structure and Story Arc

Story Structure
Story One
- the chain of events that brings the protagonist to their knees.
Heart of the Story - death of the old belief system accompanied by insights into one's higher nature.
Story Two - the far side of the crisis, where the protagonist demonstrates a new worldview.

Story Arc
Exposition - the protagonist's normal life, up to the point of the "inciting incident" or "call to action" hat pushes them into conflict.

Rising Action - The conflicts, struggles, and pitfalls that the protagonist faces while trying to achieve their goals. In three act structure, the second act, and usually the longest portion of the story.

Climax - The point at which all seems possible or impossible, and the protagonist must decide whether to go for the win or take a graceful failure. The turning point of the story where conflict occurs.

Falling Action - The unfolding events after the climax. The protagonist wins or loses, all loose ends are tied up.

Denouement - The return to normal life once again (different from or same as exposition?)

Seven Basic Plots

Overcoming the Monster
The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force that threatens the protagonist and/or their homeland.

Rags to Riches
The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.

The Quest
The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.

Voyage and Return
The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to them, returns with nothing but experience.

The protagonists are destined to be in love, but something is keeping them from being together, which is resolved by the end of the story.

The protagonist is a villain who falls from grace and whose death is a happy ending.


The protagonist is a villain or otherwise unlikable character who redeems themselves over the course of the story.

The Monomyth

1.      THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience or reader can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

2.       THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.

3.       REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.

4.       MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.  Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.

5.       CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.

6.       TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.

7.       APPROACH.  The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.

8.       THE ORDEAL.  Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.  Out of the moment of death comes a new life.

9.       THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.  There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

10.   THE ROAD BACK.  About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.

11.   THE RESURRECTION.  At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.

12.   RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Project Schedule


8/23         First Day of Class – Project 1 - Collaborative Comic character design exercise

                  Homework – Write Short Story based on Collaborative Comic Character

8/25         Switch short stories – create storyline – create 2-page Collaborative Comic script

Homework – Finish storyline and script for Collaborative Comic,

Begin developing a brief 5 to 7-minute presentation about your ideal comic project for the semester. Include sketches, drawings, notes, and a one-sentence elevator pitch for your comic. You may include two different potential comic projects for the semester in your presentation, but cannot exceed 7 minutes.

8/30         Switch Scripts – Begin thumbnails and pencils

Homework – Pencil 2-page Collaborative Comic

9/1           Writing Exercise, Introduce GPAC River Comic, work in class on 2-page Collaborative Comic

                  Homework – Finish 2-page Collaborative Comic

9/6           Review Collaborative Comic (emailed to me by 2pm)

9/8           Lecture – Story Structure, Three Acts, Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” (Monomyth), and Back to The Future

Comic Presentation Demonstration, Write Story Synopsis for one or two potential comic projects and create a one sentence elevator pitch for each comic.

Homework – Complete Comic Project Presentation!

9/13         Comic Project Presentations Due  Review River Comic

9/15         Worksheet Demonstration, Begin Character Design & Development Worksheets

                  Homework – Keep working on Character Design & Development Worksheets

9/20         Characters 1 and 2 Design and Development Worksheets are due along with character turn around sheet containing front, side, and rear view as well as 5 expressions. Begin Comic 1

9/22         Work in class on Comic 1

9/27         Traditional and Digital thumbnailing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering demonstration

9/29         Check Progress on GPAC River Comic Work in Class
10/4         Comic 1 due, switch, Begin Comic 2

                  Homework: Critique Comic 1

10/6         Critique Comic 1

10/11      Characters 3 and 4 Design and Development Worksheets are due along with character turn around sheet containing front, side, and rear view as well as 5 expressions.

10/13      Work in Class

10/18      Fall Break

10/20      Check Progress on GPAC River Comic, Work in Class

10/25      Comic 2 due, switch, Begin Comic 3

10/27      Critique Comic 2

                Homework - Begin Writing Short Story or Bullet Point Storyline for a 16-Page Comic Project

11/1       Characters 5 and 6 Design and Development Worksheets are due along with character turn around sheet containing front, side, and rear view as well as 5 expressions.

                  Work in Class

11/3         Work in Class

11/8         GPAC River Comic Due, Work in Class

11/10      Work in Class

11/15      In depth critique/discussion/workshop of Final Script or Thumbnail/Script

11/17      In depth critique/discussion/workshop of Final Script or Thumbnail/Script
Last Day of Class

11/22      Work in class – Comic 3 due by 11/27 (switch with pre-determined critique partner)

11/24      Thanksgiving Holiday! No Class

11/29      Critique Comic 3

12/1         Critique Comic 3

12/6         Liberal Arts Exam Day (No Class)

12/8         Liberal Arts Exam Day (No Class)

12/12      Last Day for Academic Work

Project 1 – Collaborative Comic
Project 2 – Comic Project Presentation
Project 3 – Character Worksheets
Project 4 – Character Comic 1
Project 5 – Character Comic 2
Project 6 – Character Comic 3

Project 7 – Journal Comic (Optional)

*Project 8 - GPAC River Comic Project

F16 IL320 Comics 2: Developing Story and Character T/TR 2-5:30

Instructor: Shane McDermott           
Office: Gibson Hall # 156                        Hours: M/W 12-1:30pm

IL320 Comics 2: Developing Story and Character                                                                  F16 T/TR 2-4:30pm

Course Objectives
Students develop an original script and a unique cast of characters for a 16-page comic book. Professional techniques are strengthened and personal styles are developed through the creation of engaging stories and interesting characters. Prerequisites: IL220

Course Outcomes

The successful student will achieve the following course outcomes:

• Students will strengthen their formal understanding of Comics Theory and vocabulary.

• Students will explore various storytelling methods through specialized collaborative exercises
• Students will develop an individual approach to storytelling through specialized assignments.


Comics Projects (out of class) Including Participation (50%)
This course involves both in-class and out-of-class assignments. Out-of-class comics will be graded on creativity (is the story original and compelling), visual storytelling (clarity of content), draftsmanship (are the characters and environments thoughtfully and effectively rendered), and lastly, technique (the professional design and presentation of the comic).

  • Incomplete work is work that is not completed according to project specifications and not completed for critique.  Incomplete work is lowered by 15 points, but can be raised 10 points upon completion.

  • Late work is any work not presented at all at the scheduled time for review or critique.  Late work receives zero points, but can be turned in before the next class with an irreversible 10 point penalty.  The project is lowered an additional 10 points for each week it is late.  It is the student’s responsibility to present late work.  The instructor will not ask for it.

  • Projects are deducted 10 points when they do not adhere to assignment guidelines.  This is eligible for, but not guaranteed a 10-point increase upon rework.

  • Additional points may be deducted for imagery that is unclear, compositional oversights, misspellings, or an unprofessional presentation.

  • Every student is expected to participate in critique and to offer objective feedback ( both positive and negative reactions) for a balanced and constructive critique.

Execution and Presentation of Comics
See separate handout for specific instructions on print and digital output.

Comics Projects (in class -50%)
There are several in-class Comics Projects, and participation is required.  These assignments are not designed to produce beautiful, completed comics, but rather for the student to engage in editing and collaborative efforts that reinforce different story building methods.

  • Arriving late to class or leaving early can be marked as a tardy.
  • Three tardies equal one absence.
  • Being tardy for critique irreversibly lowers the project grade by 10 points
  • When possible and as soon as possible, notify your instructor of impending tardies or absences.   

  • There is no penalty for 2 absences in a T/TR class
  • The final semester grade is lowered by one half letter upon a third absence
  • The final semester grade is lowered a full letter upon a fourth absence
  • The fifth absence results in automatic failure of the class
  • Absences during critique irreversibly lower the project grade 5 points unless it is turned in before 2pm on the afternoon of critique

Classroom Etiquette

Cell phones: Make sure that your cell phones are turned off during class.  You may set your phone to vibrate if you have an ongoing emergency (meaning birth, death, or catastrophic illness).  DO NOT answer your phone in class.  It’s rude.  In the event of an emergency call you may exit class and then answer or return the call. 

Music: Headphones are permitted, but ONLY during in-class work when I am not instructing and ONLY if low enough that you can still hear me if I address you.  Do not play music through the speakers.

Media: I don’t care if you occasionally check your email or watch someone’s bulldog skateboard on YouTube, but it MUST NOT interfere with your work and it should never be through the speakers.

The best way to contact me is at Please give your email a clear, descriptive subject line to avoid confusion. In turn, be sure to check your MCA email account regularly because I will contact you if there are any last minute changes to an assignment.

Class materials
1.)    A sketchbook!  (it can contain work for other classes, but in a separate section)
2.)    Good quality paper for penciling and inking
3.)    Pencils, pens, brushes, sharpies
4.)    A pack of index cards and post-it notes
5.)    Pushpins
6.)    18 inch metal ruler (cork back)
7.)    Ames lettering guide (suggested)

Materials Binder
Maintain a notebook or binder in which you will keep any handouts presented in class (including this syllabus), in-class exercises, and visual research from each project. 

Suggested Texts
  Making Comics by Scott McCLoud
  Chris Schweizer Sketchbooks by Chris Schweizer
  Mastering Comics by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
  Drawing Words & Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden

Class Blog
The syllabus, schedule, and assignments are posted to the class blog at
I will also post instructions here if assignments are altered, if the schedule is adjusted or in the event of a class cancellation. I will notify you of changes via email as well. NEVER TELL ME YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHEN OR WHAT IS DUE!

Class Folder, Naming Conventions, and Critiques
The folder for this class is labeled IL320 on the server. Each of you will have a folder where they are required to keep your work. Create a subfolder labeled “in-class exercises” to store your in-class exercises. Some of them may not be easily scanned, but cell phone pictures are acceptable!

All Projects should be named “Lastname_Firstname_Project.number.jpg” (i.e. Doe_Jane_Project.1.jpg).

Project critiques will be on the projector so all traditional work must be scanned and placed in your folder. Critique partners will be assigned just like they were in Visual Storytelling.

Health and Safety
All students must comply with health and safety regulations.  Of particular relevance to this class will be disposal of art materials.  The classroom is provided with a sink, but only water should be poured down the sink’s drain.  All other materials should be collected for appropriate processing.  You will be required to have an MSDS (material safety data sheet) with any and all materials you bring to class.  MSDS sheets can be found online at  Keep the sheets with your materials when you bring them to class.  Some materials require latex gloves, goggles, or even masks.  When using such materials you will be required to take the necessary safety measures in class.  If you have turned in MSDS for materials used in a previous semester then you need only update existing supplies and record any new materials you use in class this semester.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Students with a special learning need are encouraged to let their instructor know at the beginning of the course. Reasonable accommodations (such as extended time for exams, readers, scribes, and interpreters) are provided on an individual basis as determined by documented need. It is the student’s responsibility to provide authorized documentation to Student Affairs or Achievement Center Support Staff as early in the semester as possible.

Course Content and Title IX Reporting

Students should be aware that information disclosed to faculty (whether through assignments or as a personal disclosure) that indicate experiencing sexual harassment, abuse, or violence while a student at Memphis College of Art, requires that your instructor as a “mandatory reporter” disclose this information to Student Affairs staff to ensure students’ safety and welfare are addressed. Student Affairs staff will contact you, and/or those involved, to make you aware of accommodations, remedies, and resources available at Memphis College of Art.