Three Ways To Avoid “Spectacle Fatigue” In Your Stories And Comics

2014 Artwork Spectacle Fatigue Sketch

I can’t remember where I first saw or heard this term, but I thought that I’d talk about “spectacle fatigue” today. All it really means is when your audience becomes bored or less impressed with spectacularly dramatic scenes in a comic, movie, game or novel.

I’m sure that you’ve probably experienced this yourself when watching one of those mega-budget special effects tech demo movies that Hollywood likes to churn out these days. When you start watching the film, you think “wow! That looks cool!” and, by the end of the film, the flashy multi-million dollar special effects just seem kind of “ordinary” and slightly boring.

Although there’s much more of a risk of spectacle fatigue in visual-based storytelling mediums (like comics and movies), spectacle fatigue can happen in any form of storytelling.

So, I thought that I’d provide a few tips to help you avoid causing spectacle fatigue in your own comics or stories. So that, when you add something dramatic and/or visually stunning, it will actually be dramatic or visually stunning.

1) Pacing: This one should be pretty obvious, but you should treat your “spectacular” scenes in the same way that good writers treat fanservice and profanity. In other words, less is often more. One well-placed four-letter word or risque scene can have far more dramatic impact than a hundred carelessly-placed ones. The same is true for “spectacular” scenes too.

It’s all about contrast really – in this case, the contrast between the “ordinary” and the “spectacular”. Every time you add a spectacular scene, you make the gap between “spectacular” and “ordinary” slightly smaller. So, if you have a spectacular scene on literally every other page, then it’s quickly going to become “ordinary” and it won’t impress your audience as much.

So, make sure that you leave a reasonable gap between your “spectacular” scenes so that they they don’t become “ordinary”.

2) Don’t rely on spectacle alone: This is a mistake which mega-budget Hollywood movies make all of the time – because they have a large SFX budget, they think that they can keep their audience interested by just throwing flashy special effects at them on a regular basis.

This might work for some people, but it’s quite telling that most of these mega-budget movies don’t have a cult following in the way that many lower-budget TV shows do.

The reason for this is because lower-budget TV shows have to rely on more than just spectacular scenes to keep people interested. They need to use things like good characterisation, interesting writing, humour and a compelling story to keep people interested.

The same holds true for comics and fiction too – yes, you can get away with adding lots of action and explosions to your story if it’s backed up by a fascinating story, good writing and interesting characters. This way, even if your audience becomes bored with all of the constant action in your story, then there’s still plenty of other stuff there to keep them reading.

3) Emotions: This is probably the best way to avoid “spectacle fatigue” in your story or comic. Basically, in order for a spectacular scene to really impress your audience, there needs to be some emotion behind it.

Your dramatic scene either has to make the audience feel something directly (eg: if one of their favourite characters dies heroically) or it needs to make the characters in your story feel something (eg: one of your characters’ dreams comes true in a spectacular way and they start weeping with joy).

Yes, you can possibly get away with one or two “emotionless” spectacles in your story. But if you want your dramatic scenes to be consistently dramatic, then you need to make sure that they evoke emotions in someone, even if that someone is just one of your characters.

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Sorry for another short and basic article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

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