Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Writing Tips?
Hunchdebunch at 10:41AM, Jan. 19, 2010
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Does anyone have any tips for writing the storylines for comics? And also tips for writing a character?
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:51PM
BlkKnight at 4:27AM, Jan. 20, 2010
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You may want to check out this article for writing characters.

http://forum.webcomicscommunity.com/index.php/topic,177.0/topicseen.html
That's “Dr. BlkKnight” to all of you.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:26AM
Darth Mongoose at 2:20AM, Jan. 21, 2010
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Well, I usually write characters as a cast rather than on their own, and try to deliberately set up differences in their personality and speech by contrasting them against each other.
So if, for example, I have a character who's very motivated and energetic, I'll probably make one of the cast members either lazy, chilled out, demotivated, depressed or defeatist. I try not to ever side with one of my character's point of view if I can. I hate ‘straw man’ writing, where the story has a bias against characters who show traits the writer doesn't approve of or relate to.

The number one thing to remember when writing characters, for me, is that EVERY character is the hero to themselves. If they have a flawed personality, they will either:
-Be completely unaware of their flaws. Basically be deluded and think they are marvellous. They may even see what's annoying about themselves as a proudly-held virtue, for example, a loud, obnoxious or overly talkative person may describe themselves as ‘fun’, ‘gregarious’ or ‘bubbly’. In some annoying people this often equates to thinking that being a rude arse all the time makes them ‘badass’, or being sarcastic and pessimistic as being ‘witty’ ¬_¬

-Be aware of their flaws but give excuses and blame outside factors for them; “I'm only an asshole because everybody else is to me”, “It's not my fault society doesn't recognise how great I am!” or try to justify them “I'm just trying to make the world a more fun place!” or “I'm only cold hearted because I have to stay objective to do my job”

-Be aware of their flaws and try to keep control of them. This often turns up in ‘reformed villain’ characters. The character has a bad temper perhaps, or a sociopathic streak, and tries to consciously suppress or redirect it. It'll probably come to the surface in an extremely trying situation or at times where their self control is compromised (such as if they're drunk).
Generally people spend a lot of their time trying to keep control over primitive instincts. The desire to hit things, to run away, to seize what's in front of you (ie. you're really hungry and you see a delicious looking sandwich on a shop counter. Somewhere deep down a primitive part of the brain is saying ‘grab now. eat.’ but it is mediated by social structures and learned behaviour so that you will wait in the queue and pay money for it, or otherwise control yourself.)

Most of the time, people think they are right, and justified in what they're doing. This is important when writing villains in particular. We think of Hitler as ‘evil’, for example, but in his mind, he was a heroic figure, restoring a country which was in financial ruin and heavily compromised by its losses in a previous war, bringing about the rule of the Aryan race, who in his mind deserved to rule the world (he was convinced Aryans were the original ‘master race’ of humans). He was, of course, a complete monster, but he wouldn't have stood around going ‘muahaha! I am SO EVIL!’ because the most horrifying thing is, he believed everything he was doing was justified, and worse, people agreed! When people are powerless, they will often fall back on primitive behaviour, lashing out at outsiders, persecuting those who are different etc.
A very strong character, no matter how they are compromised, will not break from their higher goals and values. This can apply to a hero or villain. It could be that they won't give in and act selfishly, even if it means sacrificing their life, but could also mean they won't hesitate to kill thousands of people for their vision. Most people aren't this driven, and will hesitate or capitulate if the situation is too awful to bear. Some characters have higher breaking points than others. Also consider that a person may well have some kind of irrational seeming fear or phobia, even if they're generally very strong.

Whether you're writing a hero, a villain, or a very minor character, remember that they need to have motivation. We, the readers, don't necessarily need to know what that motivation is, but you, the writer, should know it. It gives you a consistent base from which their actions will grow organically. Remember though, sometimes people make mistakes, or just act irrationally for whatever reason. We're not robots, we all have these moments where we misjudge and do something stupid, so allow yourself a little freedom, while generally staying consistent.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
LOOKIS at 1:58PM, Jan. 21, 2010
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Your question kind of implies that there is some “standard” that must be adhered to. There are, after all, comics with no writing in them at all, just completely a visual story.

If you like what you are writing then there is almost sure to be at least a few other people who also like it.

(Or maybe somebody who totally hates it, which is at least better than indifference.)

How to write so millions of people like your writing is another question entirely, probably one that has giant elements of chance and fate intermingled in it. It probably helps to be an average person or at least to be completely tuned in to what the average person would like to read.

I know what I don't like to read - stuff that is completely predictable.

But I also don't like to read stuff that is completely unpredictable. You know, just too strange and random to make any sense.

I like to read something in the middle: I can understand it, but it surprises me, too.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:39PM
The Gravekeeper at 10:04PM, March 9, 2010
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Here're a few tips I've gotten from a few professional writers and editors (who gave me advice via a rejection letter).

1. Your characters must drive the plot. Characters who just have things happen to them will come off as passive and boring. That's acceptable for secondary characters, but not for your protagonist(s).

2. Don't be afraid of rewriting. A story that's been revised and rewritten several times will be better written than one that's just been typed up then published. Revising will help to eleminate many obvious mistakes in your first draft.

3. Be ruthless in your editing. In the professional world this makes your actual editor's job much easier and helps to keep as much of your material in the finished work as possible. We, on the other hand, have no editors that will send our work back if it's not up to snuff, so we have to be our own editors. Sit down with your writing and read it with a brutally honest, critical eye. Even the best writers have put terrible ideas to paper that were removed by editors.

Get rid of anything that doesn't move the plot forward or help with character development. With bits that help with character development, be honest with yourself about whether or not that bit really needs to be said. It can be easy to get caught up in character development and forget that there's supposed to be a plot in there and vice versa.

When you think you've finished editing, do it again. Really well-written and pretty dialogue may need to be cut if it's interrupting the pacing the of the work.

4. Show, don't tell as often as possible. It's much more interesting to watch a character showing their compassion, anger, etc. than to have someone say they're nice. It also makes them much more believable. If you're going to say that a character has a certain skill or attribute provide evidence in the narrative to back it up. For example, you can say a character is “well-read” ‘till the cows come home, but your audience might not believe you. If you say they “well-read” and then have them make references to some of the great works (and showing some understanding of them – many people make the mistake of saying that their romance is like “Romeo and Juliet” while conveniently forgetting that the protagonists were teenagers who commited suicide over someone they’d known for a very short time).

Be aware, however, that sometimes it really is better to just tell us things. For example, we don't necessarily need to see two characters meeting in the military or all the adventures they've had together. That in of itself could make up another novel/short story/comic/what have you. Flashbacks and exposition can be good for showing just why an event traumatized a character, but too many just gets tedious.

5. Do some research if you're going to touch on or feature a real-world topic you honestly don't know that much about. You don't have to do extensive research; just do enough to get some of the facts straight. A character with a strong interest in biology, for example, should understand things like the theory of evolution should it come up. By extention, you should know a little about it, too. This is exactly where wikipedia really shines; while it's nowhere near reliable as a research tool for school reports, it's extremely helpful for checking up on facts.

6. Don't try too hard to be avant-garde; you're going to use elements that have shown up multiple times and this is not a bad thing. Instead, look at how others have used them. This can give you an idea of how those elements have been used well and how they've been completely mishandled. www.tvtropes.com is a great place to look. Heck, reading about all these concepts and seeing how they've been used can actually be a great source of inspiration and can introduce you to works you'd never have heard of otherwise. It can also give you ideas for how to use them in ways that no one else has or that have only rarely been used.

7. Get critiqued once in a while. Getting outside input will help you to identify your weaknesses and bad habits. There are hundreds of online writing groups that can help you with this, but you have to be prepared to get some negative feedback. This is a normal part of developing into an effective writer because you have to come to realize that a criticism on your work is NOT an attack against you as a person. Your critics are simply pointing out what they feel is wrong with the work in question and, if they're any good as critics, will provide suggestion for how to fix it. A good critique will provide suggestions for how to improve the work itself; a bad one will either provide no advice or will essentially suggest that you change the work into something else completely (eg: suggesting that the emotional moments between two characters from a romance comic be removed, which would result in the comic ceasing to be a romance.)

And no, asking for feedback from your fans isn't the same thing. It's a bad habit of fans in general to be unwilling to point out the flaws in a work they like even when the author asks for help in identifying the work's flaws. Unconditional praise also has the risk of overinflating your ego, which in turn can really turn off newcomers to the your work. Praise is certainly nice and a sign that you're doing something right since someone likes what you've created, but don't let it go to your head and convince you that your work is perfect. Remember, every great movie, book and comic has its flaws, however minor they might be. Yes, even that one.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:14PM

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