Graphic Narratives

A graphic narrative is a form of graphical/ pictorial storytelling where images are combined with text.

  • Comics/ Manga: are in a issue format usually published every week or month. Involving multiple stories; mostly with a continuous storyline that will carry out through the issues and another that will come to an end in that issue as to keep the audience’s interest.
  • Graphic Novels: are usually a collection of short narratives but are typically more book like than comics though they can resemble each other.
  • Cartoon Strips: are short sequences, typically 3-5 frames that are found in magazines or papers.
  • Children’s books: Stories that are used to help reinforce an older child’s reading or make the book better relatable to someone younger. Will be used to increase vocabulary and as a learning tool.
  • Photo stories: are photographs that have been combined with captions/ speech bubbles in a comic book format that can include framing and labels. Usually now seen cheap newspapers or  tabloids.

All graphic narratives will have a plot and the 3 act structure which has a beginning, middle and end.

The beginning is the “first act” where:

  • Characters are introduced,
  • Locations are identified,
  • The mood is set,
  • Dynamics and relationships are established,
  • Conflict is made.

The Middle or “second act” will have:

  • Conflict occur,
  • Character development,
  • Main part of action taking place,
  • Building of drama/ tension.

The end or “third act” will include:

  • Resolution,
  • The climax of dramatic story or the where the punch line of comedy happens,
  • The message of the story is seen if there is one.

Narratives can also be non-linear like Pulp Fiction, Pan’s Labyrinth or Sin City, where it has not been made or proceeds in a chronological order. However, it has hard to do this well as:

  • This technique is not easy to do,
  • The story can be unclear or confusing which can lead to a loss of the audience’s attention.

To this end, a narrative should:

  • Be clear,
  • Make a point,
  • Use visual clues,
  • Pace the information flow,
  • Build up pace towards the end,
  • Try not to give away the ending or make it too obvious.

As an example of graphic narratives in our first lesson we were put into groups and asked to make our own graphic narrative which we had to complete in 25 minutes. I was given the job of drawing while Sharni made the story and Ben contributed things like character’s names.


Above is the end result. Sharni’s story was to have an interview with a presenter and an author where the presenter had feelings for the author although he was horrible to her, and she gets very upset from this.

I wanted to keep things simple in order to fit into our time limit and just give an idea of what the story is, without going too crazy about it. I have tried to keep the word flow limited but still have context and the imagery clear so it would tell a short story to the audience even if it is just one page.

What we didn’t realise was that, with our teacher just asking for a graphic narrative, didn’t mean we had to draw it or flesh it out as much as we did. Really, we just needed to come up with an idea for a graphic narrative.

In a professional in environment we would have needed to listen more carefully to understand what was asked of us as to not make such mistakes in the work place.


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