Constructing Your Manga Plot
Following are the basic stages that a manga-ka (a manga artist) uses to create an original plot. The basic stages are widely embraced by the manga-ka community today, and they originate from classical Chinese poetry.
Stage 1: Ki — Introduction of an idea
Stage 1 basically sets up the context and scene so that the story can begin and the characters can begin to interact. To start this Ki (introduction) stage, a manga-ka draws the opening frame, called an establishing shot, to give the readers a sense of the location where the story takes place. These shots are usually larger than the average-sized frame the manga-ka draws because he wants to include more detail in the setting. By the time this stage is complete, readers should have a good sense of who the important characters are, as well as the time and location of the story.
Stage 2: Sho — Developing the idea
In the second stage, you focus on building up the suspense of the story based upon the characters and concepts you introduced in the Ki stage. You introduced your readers to your characters and briefed them on the context of your story, and now you build up their curiosity. In this Sho (development) stage, the tempo of the story should steadily increase. What kind of conflicts are your characters taking on to achieve their goal? Do you leave clues to the readers about possible dangers that the main characters themselves don’t know about? What are the perils or challenges ahead? In most manga, this section is crucial because if the readers don’t care about your characters, they don’t care about what happens to them.
Stage 3: Ten — The dramatic, unexpected turn of events
In the third stage, you want a surprise development in which your characters face a situation that throws the readers off guard.
Note that it’s the readers and not necessarily the characters that you want to engage. In the Ten (turn) stage, the result of all the building up since Stage 2 leads to the ultimate climax where readers are sitting on the edge of their seats holding their collective breath. If you want to reveal to the readers the largest showdown of your story sequence, this is the right time and place to do so!
Stage 4: Ketsu — Conclusion
Stage 4 (or Ketsu) finishes the story. While some episodes may end by fully resolving an issue, others end by opening another can of worms, leaving the readers hanging from a cliff, wanting to know what happens in the next issue.