Why “Exploratory Storytelling” Is Such An Awesome Genre

2014 Artwork Exploratory Storytelling Sketch

Yes, I’ve already written about my favourite genre when it comes to writing comics and stories. But, since I’m short of ideas at the moment, I thought that I’d revisit this whole subject.

Plus, I’ve come up with a fancy new name for it too – “Exploratory Storytelling”.

So, what is “exploratory storytelling”?

As the name suggests, “exploratory storytelling” just means stories which revolve around exploring strange and/or new places. But, it’s more than that because, not only do the characters get to explore somewhere interesting – so does the writer.

In other words, these are stories which are more focused on settings, characters and journeys than on any kind of complex plot. No, they aren’t plotless stories (since the journey and/or exploration is usually the plot of the story) but the plot itself is a lot less important than it is in “traditional” stories. An old example of exploratory fiction would probably be Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland”.

One of the advantages of writing exploratory fiction (whether in prose or in comics) is that it requires a lot less planning and it is a lot more resistant to writer’s block too. Since you don’t have a complex, multi-layered plot to work with – it’s very easy to launch into an exploratory story and, if you get blocked, then you can just introduce a new character or a new location without worrying too much about how it will impact the rest of the story.

Yes, in one sense, it is a much simpler form of storytelling (which is probably why it has historically been more prominent in works aimed at younger audiences). But, on the other hand, it can still be a fairly challenging genre to write in and a rewarding genre to read – for the simple reason that, because exploratory stories are more focused on the settings and the characters than in a traditional plot-driven story, then these have to be more interesting and fascinating than usual.

Another advantage of writing exploratory fiction is that you, the writer, get to explore interesting places along with your characters too. After all, you’ll probably be mostly making it up as you go along. If writing a traditional story is like watching a movie, then writing an exploratory story is like playing a videogame. You have a lot more freedom.

But, although you have a lot more freedom, you should still be mindful of your readers. Even though you’re making things up as you’re going along and the plot is fairly simple, your story still has to make at least some kind of sense. Not only that, as I said, you will still need to focus on things like interesting settings, interesting characters and interesting dialogue.

If you’re an artist who is making a comic, then exploratory stories are also the perfect way to practice your art. After all, if there’s a lot more emphasis on interesting settings and unusual characters in exploratory stories, then your art will be a lot more important and central to the story than it may be in more traditional comics. In other words, if you want your comic to be more of an art project than anything else, then you can’t go wrong with an exploratory story.

Not only that, since exploratory stories involve a large range of different locations, you probably won’t end up drawing the same settings over and over again too. Trust me, there can be nothing worse than monotony when you’re drawing a comic.

Yet another great thing about exploratory storytelling is that it can work in every genre – except one. The only genre it probably won’t work in is in totally realistic fiction and, even then, travel writing is an example of realistic explorative non-fiction.

But, even then, realism and exploratory fiction don’t really mix that well. After all, virtually all of the Earth has already been charted, explored and/or mapped by someone or other over the years.

In other words, if you want to tell a truly interesting exploratory story, then it can’t be fully set in the world that we all know and live in – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a horror story, a comedy story, a sci-fi story, a surreal detective story, a fantasy story, a cyberpunk story, a steampunk story etc…As long as it is set in another world or an altered version of our world, then it’s possible to write an exploratory story. It’s an extremely versatile genre.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

3 comments on “Why “Exploratory Storytelling” Is Such An Awesome Genre

  1. […] Talk)” – “One Quick Trick For Quick Art” – “Show, Don’t Tell” – “Why ‘Explorative Storytelling’ Is Such An Awesome Genre” – “Should You Try To Be Controversial?” – “Keep Going – It All Builds […]

  2. […] addition to this, the very format of the show itself is designed for exploratory storytelling too – this allows the show to stay fresh and interesting in every episode and cover more […]

  3. […] suited to one of my favourite genres of fiction – I am, of course, talking about “exploratory storytelling“. In case you’ve never heard of this genre before, it’s pretty much exactly what […]

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