On RabbitHoling

If you had a hundred conversations about the role of an
audience in a story, I’d bet without a second thought that they’d be a top
priority. They’re an utter necessity. In fact, fantasy and sci-fi dedicate
themselves to providing an escape for an audience, and they’re up front about
letting them know they’ll be in a dramatically different place while
participating.

But Batman 011 drops this week and it’s
not doing any of that. While not quite fantasy or sci-fi, it’s still hard to
believe given that Batman is a grownup zipping around wearing a pointy cowl.
Instead, Tom King is telling a story that doesn’t hold the audience’s hand as
exposition gives play by play. He isn’t telegraphing it just so they know it’s interesting.

Sounds like he’s making it difficult, doesn’t it? Bizarre, even –
telling a story where you’re not prioritizing the audience? The hell?

But it’s working! And there are a few snazzy reasons why.

image

First, instead of referring to this kind of storytelling
as “it” the rest of the post, let’s call it RabbitHoling,
because going down the rabbit hole is exactly what the writer gets you to do.
Now that we’ve got that out the way, let’s talk.

The main reason why RabbitHoling works is it lets the
reader go right to the heart of the story all by themselves. Without the
exposition that tells readers exactly why they’re hooked, they plunge freely
into questioning right along with the characters in the midst of an event. This
is big: questions are what spark real conversation. It also assures readers that they’re not going to be told what’s important, so they better buckle up. 

The whole process mimics
escapism but is way more fun because it’s sneakier. Readers might not even realize
until well into the arc. That’s why when the reveal comes in Batman 010, where we find that [SPOILER]
Batman wanted to get caught by Bane,
you can smile and say, “Ohhhhh. Neat!”

With RabbitHoling, readers can also completely forget
about themselves. The ever-replenished to-do list doesn’t exist. The headache
dissipates. The mile-a-minute mantra slows to a graceful stroll because they’re
suddenly not feeling as if the demands around them are the most important
requirements that could possibly exist.

image

On that note, it’s important to acknowledge that if the
readers aren’t priority number one, then the characters are. And that’s
beautiful. They’re revealed to exist as natural entities and beyond only a need for them in the current event. They’re not medicine
prescribed for the aches of a storyline but pieces of cloth sewing together a
whole world, which makes for a richer story and enables readers to more easily
forget about themselves.  

Tom King isn’t just doing this with Batman, either. He’s
been at it for a while and Vision and
Sheriff of Babylon are recent proof.
Knowing how these stories come together now doesn’t spoil them, though – you’ll still
step down the rabbit hole and not even realize, so the fun is still there.

Know any other stories that do this? I’d love to hear
about them.  

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