My favorite genres in both literature and film are horrors, thrillers, crime and suspense pieces. Throughout my life, and as a student studying film, I have digested hundreds of these types of stories, so consequently I have become a pretty harsh critic of the genre. This being said, I noticed a few drawbacks within the issues of Crime SuspenStories that I believe, if slightly modified, could make these stories more suspenseful.
The main issue for me was the nature of over-narrating. Each page is consumed by text. The narration describes every little detail, and where it doesn’t, the blanks are filled in through the characters mostly having conversations with themselves in both speech balloons and thought balloons. The text entirely dictates our interpretation, imagination, and ultimately allows for very little closure. There’s too much “telling” here, but also too much “showing.” I find that, in horror and suspense stories, most of the fear and adrenaline we experience is generated not from presence, but absence. The things we cannot see are what is truly scary, as our imagination runs wild with possibilities for what may be just around the corner, for what lies in wait for the character, for the sounds and smells and all other senses presented. Reading Crime SuspenStories, I never had any sort of visceral feelings; I felt no suspense. The amount of text disengaged me from what I was reading. I didn’t get to write my own stories between the panels. It all became predictable and that tension was lost for me.
In addition, I found the text to be so overwhelming that I was completely distracted from the pictures. My eyes would move directly to the text, and work so hard to absorb all of it that I found myself neglecting the pictures. This, to me, is pretty unfortunate, because I consider this artwork to be some of the most intriguing that we’ve studied thus far. The images are beautifully intricate, but I felt that I couldn’t really appreciate any of that detail because I was distracted by the amount of text.
I understand that in such short, separate stories that text is important in setting up the backstory for each, providing some context, and in these stories in particular it seems to serve as a technique to constantly check in with the fragile psyche of their characters. However, I feel that if the amount of text was drastically reduced and some of the imagery was drawn out into more panels, in addition to maybe visually concealing some of the more suspenseful scenes and allowing the reader to get wrapped up in their own thoughts, Crime SuspenStories would be significantly more suspenseful.
Did you find these stories suspenseful? Where do you think they were successful and unsuccessful in creating tension?
1 comment on "The Secret to Suspense: Drawbacks in Crime SuspenStories"
I think that these stories can be suspenseful, but the similar, horrific endings for each of these stories certainly eliminated any sentiment of tension for me because I knew what to expect from each story: a gruesome, horrifying end. Alongside that, I agree with that the extensive amount of text can cause problems with both the tension and closure in these comics. For instance, the ending for some of the stories starring female characters is the final panel depicting the women waiting in prison for their execution. Rather than give the audience a chance to interpret for themselves what will happen to these women, these ladies explain exactly what will happen to them, usually to highlight the irony between their crimes and their punishments. With this explanation of how these women will meet their end, these endings don’t bestow readers with the chance to imagine the ending for themselves. This then raises the question of whether knowing the exact cause of death is more horrifying than the uncertainty of one’s ultimate fate. I’d argue the latter is more terrifying, but I guess Crime SuspenStories would argue the opposite, based on the endings for several of these stories.