Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

dos and don'ts of writing a story comic
JillyFoo at 6:41PM, Sept. 29, 2007
(online)
posts: 626
joined: 1-2-2006
dos and don't s of writing a story comic

What things should you do and not do in writing a non-strip comic? Prefer for a drama or not completely a gag comic.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:08PM
angry_black_guy at 8:37PM, Sept. 29, 2007
(offline)
posts: 317
joined: 5-1-2007
DO keep things simple. Real dialog is quick and snappy. People usually don't think over their words before talking, they speak in fragments, or have a little bit of an accent. Someone from a high upbringing can speak properly, but most common folk talk very informally.

DON'T have characters comment on things off screen unless it's going to be shown in the next panel. Comics are a visual experience as well as literary, but some people who can't draw well will have their characters narrarate an action instead of illustrating an action. If my friend is picking up his car keys, my mind instantly tells me “He's going to hop in his car and drive.” A poorly written comic will simply show a static shot of my face with a big speach bubble above my head saying “lol why are you picking up your car keys off that table there??”

last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
unhappystar at 12:39AM, Sept. 30, 2007
(offline)
posts: 21
joined: 9-3-2007
One of the big mistakes I see in a lot of dramatic comics is that the author has a lot of great ideas in his head for a whole cast of characters, so he starts the comic off with every one of these characters and ends up with a cast of 8+ characters and only ends up confusing the reader with it all.

Please, please, please, just start out with a few characters and develop them so that the reader empathizes with them and knows them like a friend. Any idea you can think of will be so much better if it's done with characters that the reader can empathize with.

Then you can start adding characters.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:36PM
Darth Mongoose at 2:30AM, Sept. 30, 2007
(online)
posts: 488
joined: 1-7-2006
DON'T:

-Start your comic off with an intro that's three pages filled up with paragraphs of text. This is common in fantasy comics and is a pain. Instead of three pages of ‘Blah blah ancient war between kingdom of Fysgard and empire of Gnark…blah blah Chosen one…angels fought devils…blah blah blah…dragons…’ try to introduce plot elements in the dialogue and stuff as you go along. A comic is meant to tell stories with pictures and words together, so try not to rely too much on words where possible.

-Post loads of fillers. Especially if they're in your first five pages. If there are too many fillers, it breaks up the flow of the story, and this is worse when it's happening in the early pages when you're trying to hook in readers.

-Create really complex character designs. They might look nice, but you'll come to regret it when you have a main character who takes half an hour to draw because he's covered in buckles, zips, pendants, tattoos etc. like a Final Fantasy 10 character. Keep designs simple and iconic where possible.

-Keep rebooting over and over. Ugh. Okay, I know you hate your old pages. I know that with the experience you've got now you could create a far better comic. I know that there's a new style you're itching to try out/you read a cool comic and now want to change the genre of your comic…but seriously…starting from scratch will annoy more people than it pleases. Also, if you keep starting over you'll never get anywhere. If people are dumb and want to judge you on your old pages rather than reading the whole thing and appreciating how much you've improved…well, they're stupid. Forget them. Keep going with the comic you already have and let it evolve naturally over time. OK?

-Threaten to stop your comic if you don't get enough comments. It's really lame and makes you seem like an arrogant prat.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
JustNoPoint at 3:18AM, Sept. 30, 2007
(online)
posts: 1,325
joined: 3-16-2007
Darth Mongoose
-Threaten to stop your comic if you don't get enough comments. It's really lame and makes you seem like an arrogant prat.
HAHA
People do this?! o_O That is hilarious!

Darth Mongoose
-Create really complex character designs
I don't think this is an absolute here. You can develop really complex designs if you know what you are getting yourself into. This person probably should not as they do not seem too knowledgeable in the area… I'm assuming or they wouldn't ask this :P

This can be fun if you are up to it. And is very good practice. But if you don't have the time to invest or patients, it is best not to do this. At times some of my aliens can be a real pain on those “off” days I don't have the urg to draw lots of stuff.

DO Experiment
Try not to do it on every page, usually by chapter. To me it throws a book off when a person tries a new look or something drastic with their style on each page. Try new stuff when it would be applicable. All of a sudden everything is dark? A good reason to try new shade techniques. New chapter? Try a new drawing style you have been tinkering with.

Experiment with camera angles, panel layouts, etc as much and as often as you like from page to page.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:12PM
spacehamster at 10:35AM, Sept. 30, 2007
(online)
posts: 504
joined: 8-3-2007
Darth Mongoose
-Create really complex character designs. They might look nice, but you'll come to regret it when you have a main character who takes half an hour to draw because he's covered in buckles, zips, pendants, tattoos etc. like a Final Fantasy 10 character. Keep designs simple and iconic where possible.

I'd rephrase this as “don't put stuff on your characters that you can't draw.” Involved designs, while they slow you down, are also a good way to, well, make your pages look good. However, if your main character is wearing a loose-fitting black leather jacket and the one thing you stink at drawing is loose-fitting leather clothes, well, that's a bad idea right there.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
Darth Mongoose at 11:04AM, Sept. 30, 2007
(online)
posts: 488
joined: 1-7-2006
JustNoPoint
I don't think this is an absolute here. You can develop really complex designs if you know what you are getting yourself into. This person probably should not as they do not seem too knowledgeable in the area… I'm assuming or they wouldn't ask this :P

This can be fun if you are up to it. And is very good practice. But if you don't have the time to invest or patients, it is best not to do this. At times some of my aliens can be a real pain on those “off” days I don't have the urg to draw lots of stuff.

Hmm, well maybe some people are willing to actually spend half an hour drawing a character. Rob Liefeld seems to manage to do really detailed characters (and some actual good artists also manage it). I still personally think it's a bad idea for most people. But I guess I should rephrase it as ‘don’t make character designs that you can't draw 3-6 times in a row without getting sick of drawing them'. If you're chibifying or simplifying a character every other appearance they make, or deliberately avoiding drawing them fully on panels, it probably means the design is too complex for your patience level.
I, on the other hand, have had experience back when I started out doing comics, of making Final Fantasy style characters, covered in zips, buckles, chains, pockets, one sleeve longer than the other, really complicated hairdos etc….I just kept adding details to my characters. When I got two pages into it though, I just started getting really sick of drawing them. I've seen other people make really detailed characters who then spend most of their time on panel drawn as just blobs or chibis. Some people are just exceptional in that they're willing to spend longer on character detail, but it's important to know your limits.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
SarahN at 11:48AM, Sept. 30, 2007
(online)
posts: 1,581
joined: 1-1-2006
DO plan out your story at least a LITTLE bit before jumping head-first into things. Doing so can cause plot-holes or want of a removal of something.

DON'T restart three times like I have. XD Unless for reasons like you want to publish and can't with what you have. If most people say your comic is great, then it's probably best to leave it as is. Or at least leave it at three, eh?


Apparently I need to take my own advice. =P
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:23PM
JillyFoo at 12:30PM, Sept. 30, 2007
(online)
posts: 626
joined: 1-2-2006
EDIT: I was more so looking for writing tips as in plot, scenes and character balance than the artsy form like character designs.



What can I contribute…?

For character driven stories do try to have characters arcs with at least your main character/s.

This is establishing what the main character wants and later what they need.
Example: A cop in training wants to be a perfect righteous hero. A lonely girl wants a boyfriend.
In the story the character is trying to get what they want. The wants could be realistic wants or not. Also if the character gets his/her want: are they always happy with that?

The need is what the character really needs. Like the cop in training needs to find satisfaction doing the little things that help the town be peaceful. A lonely girl needs companionship.

Conflicts bring about the character getting what they want or get in the way.

Then later in the story the character finds what they need and become satisfied (or not. Stories doesn't always have to end all happy).
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:08PM
kyupol at 8:25AM, Oct. 1, 2007
(online)
posts: 3,712
joined: 1-12-2006
Do something that you can best relate to or have knowledge about

Don't try writing something you dont have knowledge on. Or you'll get lazy in the long run and you'd just stop it.
NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:25PM
Kohdok at 1:30PM, Oct. 1, 2007
(online)
posts: 776
joined: 5-18-2007
DON'T- Have a long backstory explaining the universe. People want to read a story, not get educated (At least, most of the time) Heck, the only words George Lucas used to introduce his universe were “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” He developed this idea from watching films by Akira Kurosawa and how the thing he found the most fascinating was that because he didn't understand the culture, he felt immersed in the stories and had more of the sensation of being in a far away place. You can afford to be stingy with your background information occasionally.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:20PM
ShadowsMyst at 1:39PM, Oct. 1, 2007
(online)
posts: 218
joined: 1-9-2006
From an artists who has had to learn to write…

1) draft your story a few times, in writing first. Don't worry about the art right away. Make sure you've got a really strong outline if not a full on manuscript to work from. This avoids a lot of problems later when you end up with amazing plotholes and loose ends and don't know how to tie them up. Its easier to screw up and fix it behind the scenes than when you are faced with an audience.

2) Research. If your story is at all based in something real, science, history, occult practices, religion, etc. Research it. Research it well. You shouldn't draw without reference, you shouldn't write without research.

3) Figure out how to break your story into digestable chunks. This isn't just for you, this is also for the reader. Comics are typically delivered in 20-30 pages. You generally want to make sure the plot arc works in that space.

4) Plots are tricky things. You need to foreshadow, build suspense all the way to the climax, then the denument, or as I like to call it ‘fallout’, of the story, letting the characters react to the events that have happened. There is a kind of overall ‘super plot’ but you have to build in a lot of mini plots to sort of tie things all together and build into the over all plot. However, you should try to have a purpose for each one, don't do things pointlessly. Character development is not pointless btw, especially if it is very important to the overall plot. My personal philosophy is to try to put at least one element of the superplot into each subplot, even if its really subtle. This makes sure I don't forget to foreshadow things. Also, don't forget that the ‘fallout’ phase continues for the story even if you move into another plot arc, so you either have to have a plot art to resolve the fallout, or you have to carry it around like luggage.

5) Make sure your antagonists are antagonistic enough. Its really hard to write the badguys, but you really gotta have em. If you can't do a person, make it the environment or something simple an archetypal, but make sure whatever it is really does mess with your character. IMO, you should love your villains as much as your main characters and treat them with the same measure of love, hate, and coolification as you do your main characters. There should be REAL conflict between them, or you aren't using your antagonist correctly.

6) Try not to have more than one main character and two main supporting characters. Its easy, particularly in long stories to build up a lot of characters. Its okay to some degree, but you have to really maintain your focus. Each character serves a purpose in the story, if they aren't serving a definitive purpose (antagonist, supporting character, mook, etc) They don't have to be in there. As cool as they might be, drop them. They will just cause confusion. a good trick is only to name characters that are actually relevant to the story.

7) Get feedback on the writing in the form of beta reading before you start turning it into script. Its handy to catch major problems before you spend time drawing the pages.

8) Do not be afraid to cut your work for punchiness. One of the main things writers tend to do is be wordy. For a comic, you tell a story with pictures, not words. Keep the dialogue to a minimum. You shouldn't have to ‘infodump’ for three pages just to tell them important story or world information you should have been including as part of the plot and or background art.

9)Conflict is good and necessary. Among the protagonists as well as the antagonists. Make sure you keep lots of conflicts boiling around their lives. A character with a good and easy life is a boring character. Allow your characters to fail. Failure is an important part of human growth. While we like happy endings and such, failure pushes characters to go to greater lengths to achieve their goals.

10) Don't overcomplicate your plot and writing with a lot of useless (but perhaps interesting) information. You have to streamline your plot so that the information that you are giving the readers is what they need to follow the dots. Give them too much and you are wasting your time and theirs, plus it dilutes the power of the story. If you have a lot of info to dump, use a part of your comic site to talk about the world and other information like that. Its a little like a movie that some scenes just have to end up on the cutting room floor, just make sure its the right ones.

_____________________________________________________
I have a webcomic making blog! Check it out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
mlai at 3:03PM, Oct. 1, 2007
(online)
posts: 3,035
joined: 12-28-2006
Wow, SMyst. Did you actually type all that or did you already have it as a doc on your HD somewhere?

(I read all of it. Good stuff.)

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:05PM
Celtic_Minstrel at 5:11PM, Oct. 1, 2007
(online)
posts: 125
joined: 9-25-2007
Kohdok
DON'T- Have a long backstory explaining the universe. People want to read a story, not get educated (At least, most of the time) Heck, the only words George Lucas used to introduce his universe were “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” He developed this idea from watching films by Akira Kurosawa and how the thing he found the most fascinating was that because he didn't understand the culture, he felt immersed in the stories and had more of the sensation of being in a far away place. You can afford to be stingy with your background information occasionally.

Whoa… there's nothing wrong with having a long backstory, just keep in mind that you don't have to reveal it all at once. You also may not have to reveal all of it. If you really feel you must reveal it, don't do it in the comic. Create a separate “info” page for that purpose. (That's what Tolkien did with his appendices! :) )
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:39AM
ShadowsMyst at 4:15PM, Oct. 2, 2007
(online)
posts: 218
joined: 1-9-2006
mlai
Wow, SMyst. Did you actually type all that or did you already have it as a doc on your HD somewhere?

(I read all of it. Good stuff.)

No, I just typed that up on the spot… at work… covertly.

:)

_____________________________________________________
I have a webcomic making blog! Check it out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
kyupol at 5:52PM, Oct. 2, 2007
(online)
posts: 3,712
joined: 1-12-2006

!!!EXAGERRATION IS YOUR FRIEND!!!

1) Read read read read read the news. Make sure you read those “commentary” and “editorial” sections… as those are opinionated. After exposure to lots of it, your brain will just start forming ideas and blowing out of proportion. I've read a few of Tom Clancy's books… I think thats how he managed to write those books.

And these ‘conspiracy theorists’. I think thats what happened to them about being exposed to too much news. Now we have this all-powerful-super-evil-super-secret new world illuminati order hell bent on total global domination.


2) A story that happened in your real life or you have witnessed happen to someone. Take it… then exagerrate and make up stuff. For example, you had to go to this girl's dorm during college breaktime that is 5 hours long. Its just you and the girl… and there. Insert your fictional sexual escapades!!! lol!

Or suddenly insert superhero superpowers in there. Or angels… or devils… or goblins… or ghosts… or mutants… meh… whatever. :)

NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:25PM
kyupol at 4:29PM, Oct. 8, 2007
(online)
posts: 3,712
joined: 1-12-2006

WHAT IF?!?

Answer that question. “What if x happens?” Where x can be any event in your life or a current event in the world.

Example?

1) What if you have a dysfunctional family? What if you're a 12 year old kid who run away from home?

2) What if USA invades North Korea?

3) What if I meet this super pretty girl of my dreams?

lol!
NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:25PM
cartoonprofessor at 4:23AM, Oct. 9, 2007
(online)
posts: 396
joined: 9-2-2007
Great stuff everyone, especially Shadowsmyst!

I'll emphasise the fact of cutting your words down to a minimum. Less is better not only because a comic is largely a visual medium but also because less words adds more ‘punch’ to the words you do use.
And Wordy text makes it hard to fit the visuals around.

The biggest tip I can think of is to read lots and lots of ‘great’ comics. The more recent spiderman stuff is great. Read and study the flow of action and text.
If you can find it get a copy of ‘HeroBear and The Kid’. You will learn lots from this one comic alone.
And don't forget the ‘classics’… anything done by Carl Barks (Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge adventures (Don Rosa is great too)),
Asterix, TinTin etc.

Visually, there are lots of rules like the 180 degree rule (don't jump across the action so elements are on opposite side) etc. But these rules have been ‘broken’ many times to some success by various artists to achieve certain effects.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
okamimako at 9:24PM, Oct. 18, 2007
(offline)
posts: 118
joined: 10-10-2007
Make sure you pace your story well. I like to think in the terms of “Something happens once every page”. Granted, if yours is a slower comic, with more dialogue than physical action, make sure you don't spend pages on one conversation. Comicking is not the medium for verbose characters. :)

Oh, and also make sure you introduce each of your characters in some way. I tend to do this in a very dramatic manner, but I have a weird hypocrisy where I demand some sort of formal introduction from characters in comics that I read, yet I could care less if my own readers know the names of the characters in my comics…

And don't have lulls in your plots. Keep them inspired and interesting if you can. Nobody cares about your characters BS-ing around for twenty pages. I also personally find the monster a week (for a fantasy comic, which could be translated into a conflict a week, I suppose) a little dull. Don't just have it episodic, but have an underpulling plot pulling it all together (or most of it, if you have technically unimportant but interesting subplot).

And this just may be something I personally like, but you could mention stuff happening outside the universe of your comic, like off-comments of political status or economic growth or Oh, my, god, what the hell is she wearing? It provides something outside of what's normally seen, hinting at the world beyond what you've created. You could also use this as foreshadowing, like having a couple characters talk about how the stockmarket is doing crap recently, then having your main character realize that she's gone bankrupt. But don't use those types of things as the subject of your conversation, but maybe in off handed hints and allusions…?

Bleh, whatever. It's bedtime.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:20PM
Frostflowers at 10:33AM, Oct. 19, 2007
(online)
posts: 689
joined: 10-8-2006
I thought I'd add a bit, and perhaps repeat the advice given by previous posters (because it's better to say it one time too many than one time too few).

1. Pace your story well. Even if “transportation” pages (i.e; the pages where little to nothing happens) are sometimes a necessary evil, to explain how characters move from one room to another, or from one place on the map to another, try to keep them to a bare minimum. I have trouble with this, since I have this bad habit of wanting to show readers exactly how the characters move about (it's something I've picked up through writing prose), but I'm trying to wean myself off those nothing's-happening-pages.

2. Like people have said before me; cut down on the text. Don't have pages upon pages in the beginning of the story, explaining stuff that happened a thousand years ago - which is a bad habit many fantasy-comic-ers have. If it can be dropped into conversation, or put into the narrative boxes a little at the time as the story goes on, then do that instead. Jump straight to the part where things are happening.

3. Try to make the world around your characters seem alive. This is another one I have trouble with myself, since I'm usually too lazy, or too out of ideas, to fill the background with people, but it is an important point. If the only characters on the pages of your epic story-comic are your main characters, and perhaps one or two more, your world is going to seem unpopulated and slightly dull. It doesn't have to be a lot - it can be a random person sitting on a park-bench who only passes by in the background - but as long as there's someone else there but your characters, it's going to be a comic that doesn't feel so empty.

4. Don't let your main character be the center of the universe. While making him/her the center of her own life is only common sense, making him/her the center of the universe is a bad idea; it's related to the point above. In any story, regardless of what medium you are using, there are going to be people in the background, who are living their own lives and taking no notice of the protagonists. If your hero is dashing through a crowded marketplace, in hot pursuit of the villain, and he happens to stumble across an old lady and fall, then let that old lady be just an old lady. She doesn't need to be in employ of the villain, and bound and determined to ruin the hero's life.

Perhaps that wasn't the best example, but hopefully you'll understand what I mean.
The Continued Misadventures of Bonebird - a poor bird's quest for the ever-elusive and delicious apples.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:31PM
darkeyedneko at 11:37AM, Oct. 19, 2007
(offline)
posts: 10
joined: 9-6-2007
unhappystar
One of the big mistakes I see in a lot of dramatic comics is that the author has a lot of great ideas in his head for a whole cast of characters, so he starts the comic off with every one of these characters and ends up with a cast of 8+ characters and only ends up confusing the reader with it all.

Please, please, please, just start out with a few characters and develop them so that the reader empathizes with them and knows them like a friend. Any idea you can think of will be so much better if it's done with characters that the reader can empathize with.

Then you can start adding characters.
yes i agree too. keep characters to a minimum at first. kinda the same way when watching an anime. usually the main characters are introduced, then friends, then villains, then extra characters, etc.
also keep text to minimun. i dont like reading huge paragraphs of dialogue, it kinda makes it boring since the reader stays in the same panel. if the dialgue needs to be long, then draw more panels or pages to give readers different things to look at :kitty:
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:07PM

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved