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Mumblecore in Webcomics

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, April 20, 2015

There is a slightly odd trend in screenwriting for indie films called Mumblecore where the actors are given a very minimal to non-existent script to work from and are forced into creating natural dialogue on the spot. I believe the director has a general story outline of where he or she wants the characters to end up, but the tiny nuances of conversations are given to the actors. It is a liberating way to create a film. It is also a hit-or-miss genre for film viewers.

There have already been previous Quackcast discussion topics and a tutorial on tips for Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! screen writing method (compliments to Banes). Screenwriting definitely does have its perks for organization and making the most of the limited comic panels for more fully fleshed out dialogue.

Realistically, I feel there is a time at the start of any budding comic creator's career when comic pages are created with very little structure and the dialogue is made up right on the spot and the bubbles get filled in randomly after the panels are drawn. Many beginner comics share many dialogue similarities with Mumblecore films. Eventually the comic writer enters a crossroads to either begin drafting more thought-out outlines with rough sketches for pages or continue down the random road of whimsical comic creation.

When I first ventured into comics, I was very much accustomed to the "Mumblecomics" school of thought where I had a loose plan of where I wanted the story to end up in ten pages without any clear road map to get there. After more time and dedication started being poured into each comic page, I decided to create really rough outlines with the character poses in a smaller notebook before starting a new page and the final pages ended up being really tight with advanced dialogue.

It is difficult to compare the two creation methods and select a superior style because it all depends on whether the goal is to create a gag-a-day comic strip versus a comic story. The Mumblecore technique applies to both styles and it will guarantee a small, yet devoted following of indie readers (that is, until your comic gets too cool and goes mainstream).


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Banes at 4:46AM, April 22, 2015

This is a perfect image too, kawaii! Forgot to give the kudos n that!

Panman at 11:38PM, April 20, 2015

I definitely have a full script before I start drawing. Then I break it down into individual panels, doing my best to avoid large chunks of text, then into pages. Then I try to match scenes, facial expressions, body language, etc with what's happening in the script. I often include the occasional panel of no dialogue, especially in scenes that have a slower pace. I do sometimes do rewrites or cut scenes altogether. I spent a lot of today rewriting a whole short story comic from scratch for the third time. Think I got it this time.

kawaiidaigakusei at 5:25PM, April 20, 2015

@Ironscarf- I had a feeling that Awfully Decent Fellows required an awfully large amount of pre-planning given its Clue-like nature.

wildcard at 2:57PM, April 20, 2015

I definitely used to have the 'mumblecore' approach which was a lot of fun to make but I suspect a bit of a bore to read given the lack of story structure! That said even though I usually do detailed scripts these days they often end up getting rewrites, amendments and new ideas pushed in all the way through so I'd say I'm happiest in the middle ground between planned and improvised.

HippieVan at 1:44PM, April 20, 2015

I had no idea that anyone went into comics without a script! I even like to divide my script roughly into panels before I start drawing, that way it's a lot easier to do a quick mock-up of what a number of pages will look like all at once.

Banes at 10:36AM, April 20, 2015

What I've been looking at lately is the creation of individual scenes and what the elements of a scene are. Dialogue is an element, but it kind of sits on top of the characters emotions and objectives. Knowing that subtext well is important. Maybe that's why so many of us work out the dialogue so near the end of the process; drawing the page gives a much clearer idea of what's happening in the scene.

Banes at 10:32AM, April 20, 2015

Very interesting to see the process people are using! I fall in with most, having outlines that change quite a bit, and dialogue that comes late in the game, while drawing. I agree that working out the specific dialogue late can keep things from getting too wordy. My recent pages were delayed, which gave me lots of time to figure the pages out better and cut the dialogue WAY back from my original page outline.

KimLuster at 10:16AM, April 20, 2015

I think a big difference in 'mumblecore' filmshooting vs comicing is that in the comic you can 'reshoot' over and over and over if the dialogue isn't working (well, if you're putting in your dialogue digitally), where as in filming you will lose the spontaneity of what you're trying to get if you do too many reshoots (not to mention I bet it can be get expensive in time and money)!

El Cid at 9:17AM, April 20, 2015

I've learned that, for me at least, writing out an entire script ahead of time is a big waste of effort, because I always end up changing it at the last minute, and I also tend to write way too much dialogue when I type it up in advance and end up with text-cluttered pages. These days I just treat dialogue as more or less part of the art/paneling process. I'll usually have tons of completed pages sitting around with no dialogue, and then add it right before I post a page.

Ozoneocean at 7:45AM, April 20, 2015

One of the main benefits of not doing the dialogue till last is that it constrains you from writing too much. Whenever I've done the writing early I add too much blather and it's so painful to cut that down to make room for the imagery.

toondoctor at 5:58AM, April 20, 2015

To put things in a larger perspective, Marvel and DC Comics both used the Marvel script writing way for years, originally developed by Stan Lee. He would give his artists a rough outline. The artists would craft the story. Then Stan Lee would add the dialogues. The only difference with what you're describing is that process is internalized when only one cartoonist is working on a project.

KimLuster at 5:01AM, April 20, 2015

Fascinating stuff... To continue a theme, I also do like several others here mention and sort of 'mumblecomic' my dialogue last, after everything else is done. I'll have a rough idea of the dialogue and I make room for the speech balloons, but the exact words the characters are gonna say... Often don't know until I get to that panel! It certainly makes them feel more organic, more alive!

usedbooks at 4:40AM, April 20, 2015

When I go to draft the actual comic page, I either alter/combine favorite scripts to best fit the panels/page or I toss out all the scripts and write whatever comes to mind. Script writing for many of my pages isn't so much the blueprints for the comic pages as they are an exercise in thought organization, merely practice to get my brain focused when I write the final page without the scripts.

usedbooks at 4:37AM, April 20, 2015

I always start with scripts (after I make outlines for big picture stuff). Actually, I start with fragments of scripts. I jot down good dialogue any time it hits my brain. That's why I carry a notepad everywhere. Then I write a complete script if I can. Usually, I write half a script, get terribly blocked, start over, lose the script somewhere, write a new one, read it a few months later, hate it, write a new one, write scripts for other arcs which fundamentally alter the scenario, revisit my original arc and rewrite it. I usually have a minimum of half a dozen drafts for each complete story. I find if I get blocked, simply dumping the story objectives and letting the dialogue (and actions!) manifest from the characters really gets it working. It often changes big chunks of plot, but it works out better 99% of the time.

KAM at 3:12AM, April 20, 2015

I usually have a script beforehand, either typed up on the computer or in my head. I prefer it typed since I been known to forget what the dialogue was going to be. Sometimes when drawing I'll draw something that forces me to change the script (like drawing someone talking when they had no dialogue, or an expression that doesn't match what I wrote). Sometimes I've realized the dialogue doesn't work for some reason. Rarely I have drawn something with no script and figured out what to say afterwards.

Ironscarf at 3:01AM, April 20, 2015

Similar - I have everything plotted and thumbnailed, I know who's saying what and where their balloons will go in the panel. I used to leave the exact dialogue until last, but I've amended that now. As soon as I start the page I open up a reduced version in a vector program and begin lettering. As the page progresses I import the newer version and continue to refine the dialogue so when the art is finished, all I usually need to do is shape the balloons a little and add tails. This way I find I have more time to edit down and perfect the dialogue and better still, the dialogue and facial expressions of the speakers can evolve together.

Genejoke at 2:21AM, April 20, 2015

I do much the same as ozone. I know the gist of what will be said, but the exact wording changes. even if I write a full script it changes.

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:55AM, April 20, 2015

Oz, your art in Pinky TA and Bottomless Waitress does A LOT of the talking.

Ozoneocean at 12:41AM, April 20, 2015

It's also easier to make characters "play of off" each other when you can see exactly what their facial expressions and body movements/poses are. The right dialogue can work really well with that! Though I realise that's going about things backwards. :D

Ozoneocean at 12:38AM, April 20, 2015

My comics have their story written and the panels thumbnailed but all dialogue is done as the very last step. I don't know for sure what the characters will say till I finish a page. It's a bit different from an improvised film because it's all me and I'm not playing off of someone else like an actor would... I get in the mind of the character for the scene, say what's appropriate to them and to the situation AND what I have room for on the panel around the artwork. Sometimes a scene needs an extra kick or trick to add emphasis or to better explain the events to the viewer, so flexible dialogue is useful for that to.

Ozoneocean at 12:31AM, April 20, 2015

I tried that with Quackcasts for a while... it didn't work out. -_-

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