Raising Hell: Narration

There's a belief in screenwriting that the use of narration is a cheap way to get exposition across. It's lazy storytelling, some people will tell you. In some cases, they're right. Film is a visual medium and when we sit back in a theater for two hours of staring at these larger than life characters, we expect to see what happens to them, not just hear about what happened to them.

That's where, I think, a lot of films go wrong with voiceover. First, it's that we're filled in on important things in a way that doesn't represent the point of going to see a film. We hear about something while looking at something else.

It can be done right. It often isn't.

The second interesting thing is that voiceover is often used to tell us what happened. Past tense. It's already over. There's no drama in something that's already over because it can no longer change. It happened. The end.

Comics do an interesting thing, and I've encountered hundreds of times where they do it particularly well.

See, comics is a visual medium too. Your imagination plays a role of filling in the blanks, but there are also big pictures splashed across the page to help you along.

But tons of comics have narration that works, and not just works, makes the story. Rick Remender's Black Science comes to mind. Scott Snyder's Batman too. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction.

What works is that this is not narration filling us in on past events as an "oh by the way." It's an ongoing, thoughts-as-they-come coverage of the action we're seeing on the page. Knowing the heroes thoughts as he's in life-threatening situations doesn't take us out of the action. It pulls us in.

I'm not saying this is a method that could or would work for film. What I'm saying is that comics have made me like narration. I like reading them.

I like writing them. And Raise Hell is going to have them in spades.