99 Ways to Tell A Story…Again

99 Ways To Tell A Story Exercises in Style, by Matt Madden is a graphic novel tells the story of Matt and his friend Jessica’s late night working.  Seems like a standard story, however, it is told 99 different and unique ways.  The 99 ways range from: Superhero, How-To, a map, point of view from a voyeur, parodies of other comics, and many, many more. I was not only intrigued by someone retelling a story 99 different ways, but I was curious as to where Madden got his idea from.  Researching this answer, I stumbled upon Madden’s website and found my answer.  Madden states he was inspired by an author who had already came up with the idea to retell a story multiple ways.  French author Raymond Queneau published in 1947 his book titled Exercises in Style where he tells a story 99 ways as well.

My first thought was that Madden wasn’t inspired but copied Queneau’s idea, but then I had to remind myself that Madden’s is a graphic novel and Queneau’s is a novel.  According to Matt Madden, Raymond Queneau’s version is a “two-part text about two chance encounters with a mildly irritating character during the course of a day”.  His variations of storytelling are: different tenses, free verse, a sonnet, a telegram, in pig latin, and many others.  Just those examples alone made me want to read his novel.  I was able to look up the book on Amazon and found a preview of the book.  Thanks Amazon for that great feature!


The cover surprised me right away because there are two three-letter words form by naked people, but I couldn’t seem to figure out what they spell or mean.  Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places; if you find out let me know! Back to the novel.  Amazon gives a more detailed plot line than Madden’s website, a man on a bus gets into an argument with another passenger and sees him two hours later; repeating 99 ways.  Along with the front cover, the titles to each chapter changed the first letter to a naked person in the shape of the letter, very interesting.


Matt Madden’s goal was to do the same thing, but in a graphic novel using the many different points I stated in an earlier paragraph.  I really liked these two novels because it’s interesting for both authors to want to write a novel 99 different ways.  On one hand it seems fun, to do it anyway you want, but on the other hand I would get annoyed with writing the same plot over and over again.  One other thing that’s pretty cool about the graphic novel one is going back to reread it and spotting things you might have missed the first time.



If you want to learn more about Raymond Queneau you can checkout his Wikipedia page or this website themodernword that’s where I found this funny picture of him!

  2 comments for “99 Ways to Tell A Story…Again

  1. DesireeSW
    February 8, 2013 at 12:36 am

    I agree, it would get annoying to have to use the same template for 99 different ways, but I think that it would be a great exercise as a writer or artist to go through all of them. It would be a great way to find out what style works best for you and teach yourself how to look at things from a different perspective. They also seem like ways to test your imagination. There is an activity that comes up in theatre where you are given a piece of paper with two characters and their lines. Nothing else is given, there isn’t a setting or emotional cues, the characters don’t even have names. It is up to the actors to determine everything and there are many different possibilities.

    As a side note, I tried to figure out what the naked people were spelling out and I didn’t have any luck. This is really going to bother me. I’ll have to file that away with Madden’s page of binary code.

  2. olingo
    February 8, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Any idea what the naked people have to do with the story of the annoying person on the bus? I haven’t been able to figure that out yet. My best guess is that the figures serve as a play on the word ‘exercise’, since tthey sort of look like they might be stretching or performing weird exercises.

    As to what the letters the people on the cover are spelling, the author is French and the book was originally written in French, so maybe the letters stand for something in French and the people who translated the book didn’t want to or didn’t bother to change the cover illustration? That’s just a guess. I have no idea. To me the letters just look like ‘RIN BLF’.

    I looked up ‘Exercises in Style’ on Wikipedia and got a link to another article on a book called ‘Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style’. According to the Wikipedia article, one of the chapters of this book includes 195 ways to say “Your letter pleased me greatly”. Just another exercise in taking a simple idea and presenting it in as many ways as you can think of.

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