99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style
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99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  340 ratings  ·  51 reviews
99 Ways to Tell a Story is a series of engrossing one-page comics that tell the same story ninety-nine different ways. Inspired by Raymond Queneau’s 1947 Exercises in Style, a mainstay of creative writing courses, Madden’s project demonstrates the expansive range of possibilities available to all storytellers. Readers are taken on an enlightening tour—sometimes amusing, al...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Chamberlain Bros.
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Understanding Comics by Scott McCloudThe Ten-Cent Plague by David HajduMen of Tomorrow by Gerard JonesMaking Comics by Scott McCloudKirby by Mark Evanier
books about comics
85th out of 110 books — 56 voters
Exercises in Style by Raymond QueneauLolita by Vladimir NabokovThe Aesthetics of Resistance, Vol. 1 by Peter WeissThe Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert BurtonArcadia by Tom Stoppard
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57th out of 100 books — 2 voters

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This is Raymond Queneau's "Exercises in Style" reimagined as 99 variants of the same visual narrative. It's the kind of project that (I suspect) will leave most people scratching their head and asking WTF, but that will prove irresistible to a certain very specialized subset of readers. You know who you are. I'm not saying it's a given that you attend Comicon, have an unsettling mastery of Star Wars arcana, or work in Information Technology. On the other hand, the reader most likely to enjoy Mad...more
Queneau-lite, for people who can't be bothered to read the French original; Madden draws 99 one-page cartoons, all presenting variants on this basic story:

Some of the ideas are very funny! I particularly liked Manga, Superhero, Bayeux Tapestry, Map, Political Cartoon, How-To (he explains the process of drawing a comic strip) and most of the parody/homage pieces in honour of famous graphic artists. The Crumb parody is spot-on:


A few entries do give the impression of being there to make up the numb...more
This book is an imitation and homage to Raymond Queneau’s legendary Exercises in Style. Both works in turn reflect the tradition of books of etudes that teach and explore composition and keyboard techniques running from Bach at least to Shostakovich. Like Exercise in Style, 99 Ways To Tell a Story takes a very small incident: a man in what is evidently a two-story apartment leaves his workspace to go to the kitchen. He is interrupted by someone upstairs asking him what time it is. He then reache...more
Geoffrey Fox
This is a lot of fun, especially for fans (like me) of comic book art. Madden has a skillful pen (and brush and photographer's eye, because he uses various media), and is good at imitating the styles of other cartoonists he admires. The question he poses (as did Raymond Queneau, whose 1947 book Exercices de style inspired this one) is whether, by changing point of view, tense and tone, we are really telling the same story. Like Queneau, he begins with a very simple (rather silly) anecdote: comic...more
Alec Chalmers
A fantastic book for inspiration as it gets you to think about how sequential images are represented. It does wonders for the imagination and I'll be keeping it at hand for future reference, as it can be picked up and flipped through without regard to the context.

The premise is a simple story, told in comic form over one page. The author interprets this single story repeatedly using different styles, allowing the reader to understand each style's particular qualities, and how they form the same...more
Inna Komarovsky
Some variations of the simple story are in the style of specific people, and others are in the author's style but with some kind of twist in the way he would normally tell it. Some examples are "Unreliable Narrator," "Photocomic," "One Panel," "Thirty Panels," "Cento," "Map," "Storyboard," "Personification," "The Next Day," "Too Much Text," "Minimalist," "Horizontal," "Vertical"...

Some of them seem kind of just some way to change the comic, like "What's Wrong with this Comic?" and "Inking Outsid...more
This is tagged as "an exploration of storytelling that will amuse and delight you, and inspire your own creative work--your novel, your comic, even your film."

I picked it up as a creative inspiration piece. Reading it reminded me of watching improv theater.

Every spread in the book has the same script. But every spread in the book tells the story in a different way. Some are slight differences, such as altering the POV, others change the genre (space fiction, western, detective novel), others pl...more
In concept this book is fascinating. In execution, it's rather limited -- more of a quick-read companion piece to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics than essential study. A few of Madden's exercises like "Anime" and "Dailies" are interesting, revealing the way artistic genres influence the reader's expectations and subtle emotional reactions.

It seems like the only real limits to this project are book production costs and Madden's technique, so it's a shame that Madden didn't go further into t...more
Travis Mueller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2013 Bruce rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everybody
This is definitely in the ouerve of Scott McCloud. It's variations-on-a-one-page-theme, 99 comics retelling a scenelet about a cartoonist who goes downstairs to check the fridge, only to discover he's forgotten what the heck he wanted.

The book seemed a bit familiar, but after seeing I hadn't reviewed it, I figured I hadn't read it. So I checked it out in anticipation of reading it together with Raymond Queneau's book (still on hold at the library).

Left the office in the rain and picked it up on...more
Peter E.  Frangel
An original perspective on writing points of view. It is presented through comic style images and formats, but the lessons are universal and can be applied to any form of writing, regardless of genre. It quite clearly proves that changing the point of view, style or setting of a piece completely changes it's tone, and even the story itself.
Meh. I liked it, but I can't help but think the author cheated more than a few times. Often Madden changes the characters, or the dialogue to have the man refer to someone else rather than himself. These seem to be different stories, not just stylistic variations. And for the most part Madden doesn't explore the use of layout as a style point. There is one example each of layouts of only horizontal and only vertical panels, but what about and example of, say, one panel covering the left side of...more
The finding of Judith Shakespeare
Entretenido, fácil de leer e inspirador. No es que sea una obra maestra, pero es interesante como idea.
Louis Rondeau
A very interesting book based on Raymond Queneau's "Exercices de style". There are only a handful of exercises here that don't really work well. Most of them are fascinating and a few are real eye-openers, and reveal the power of comics as a worthy art form.

"99 Ways..." is actually a very compelling look at various "comic book" techniques, and as such, could serve as a complement to Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art".

It definitely wants to make you re-read Queneau's "Exerc...more
Matt Madden takes a simple one page story--he gets up, a woman asks him for the time, and he forgets what he wanted from the fridge--and tells it over and over again, in 99 different ways. It's a hard thing to rate, because it doesn't really exist to be rated--it's more of, as the title says, a series of aesthetic exercises. Madden says in the introduction that he wants to look into how story is rooted in the way it's told, and from the sheer variety of images here, I think he picked a good medi...more
Clever, clever, clever. A really great book for anyone interested in visual narrative as Madden recreates one simple banal scene in, you guessed it, ninety-nine different ways. More than just a heady exercise, it had me laughing out loud with certain parodies like Little Nemo in Slumberland and those Chick gospel tracts. And I had no trouble dipping in and out of the book when able, a must for the mother of an eight-month-old. :)
Serendipitous find as I searched Amazon for books related to one of my favorites: Exercises de Style de Raymond Queneau. The premise, take the same 2 events, and retell them in 95 different ways, varying the style each time. This version is all about graphically, visually, retelling the same story. In my quest to get more visually intelligent about graphic novels, this was definitely a step in the right direction.
One scene, told in comics format in 99 different styles. Some of them are a little sillier than others, but all in all this is a fantastic resource for any writer, comics or not. It's fascinating to consider re-writing a piece from a completely different perspective, and although Madden doesn't change the outcome of his single scene, one could certainly use this method to explore plot development.
Worth a quick glance. Maybe useful if you've never heard of the 99 Exercises in Style.... Seeing comic interpretations of them was interesting, but not groundbreaking or anything. I was actually surprised at the overall narrative style of most of them - I mean the whole point of doing the 99 exercises in the language of comics is to explore the language of comics. Clearly we have a long way to go.
Fuzzy Gerdes
Matt Madden's 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style is a great execution of a simple idea. He creates a simple six-panel comic and then reinterprets that story over and over in 99 different styles. It's a great inspiration to think of different ways that you might approach your own creative endeavors.
This is one of those books where you're all like "I could've done this so much better," and you probably could, but you didn't think of it first. Sucker.

That said, it's interesting, and I did like it. Although I do wish he was a little more technical in terms of talking about why he pairs specific story modes with certain art. So it was only OK. Although good idea for a book, dude.
Jul 24, 2007 Brad rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who liked Understanding Comics
Shelves: comics
This is a great experimental book. Madden takes a really simple, one page story, and finds 98 other ways to tell it. A bunch of them are simple larks or homages to other writers and artists (like Kirby, Herriman, and others), but a bunch of them are really appealing and well-told. I'm not much of an artist, but it's an inspirational book that made me want to draw more.
Victoria Haf
Este libro es muy interesante porque parte de un comic que explica una situación super sencilla y hace muchísimas variaciones sobre el mismo, te hace ver que cuando trabajas con elementos visuales, tienes muchísimas más opciones para explicar una cosa porque que las imágenes son más subjetivas. Bonus point: hizo este comic mientras vivía en México, D.F.
Brilliant. Just brilliant. A good lesson in comics, yes but so much more--beneficial to any writer, I think, as they ponder the thousand possibilities of HOW to tell a story. This one's going on my reference shelf b/c I know I'm going to come back to it again and again as I think about style and perspective as it relates to story.
Jonathan H.
A fun book exploring different ways to tell the same story in comics format. Came across the book while watching the "Brainstorm" interviews at OMSI - one guy from Wieden+Kennedy was talking about it. Only later discovered that author Matt Madden is married to Jessica Abel, and the book cover was done by Charles Orr.
Aug 20, 2008 Marc rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: aspiring comic book writers.
Recommended to Marc by: the universe
I picked this up on a whim at the local library, but it's really an amazing little book. As the title suggests, it takes a simple incident and examines 99 different approaches to portraying it in sequential graphic form. I highly recommend this title to anyone who's a writer, especially in the comic book medium.
Trixie Fontaine
Feb 15, 2013 Trixie Fontaine marked it as started-resume-later
I love the idea of this book and thought I would read a couple of pages a day, but then it just sat on a shelf. Hope to try again another time. I wanted to look at it really mindfully because the concept is so cool and inspiring (and affirming) for the kind of work I do.
This is actually a pretty cool book. I read it for a creative writing class that I took in college (my all-time favorite college class, actually). It's one short little story told 99 different ways (in 99 different writing styles). It's pretty entertaining.
Robin Conley
This book was really interesting to look through. If you enjoy writing or art I think you'll find this a useful book in looking at style. I enjoy writing and this book helped me think of new exercises I can do to play with different styles.
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MATT MADDEN is a cartoonist and the author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. Together, they are the authors of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures.
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