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Turning an Idea into a Comic

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Jan. 23, 2015
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I was sitting in a boring Canadian politics lecture the other day (I'm not sure what else I expected from that class, really…) when inspiration struck - a comic idea! Unfortunately it's the first good idea I've had since approximately 2008, and I'm a few years removed now from any creative writing lessons I got in school. I've got no real idea of how to transform my brain waves into a full comic!

What are the first steps for you when you're starting fresh, especially in terms of the writing? Do you start with characters? Setting? Conflict? Do you know the end right away, or do you work your way from start to finish?

I'm interested to know everyone's processes - hopefully I can take in some ideas from you guys and get my own project jumpstarted!



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anonymous?

Banes at 12:05PM, Jan. 26, 2015

I think we're gonna do another 'Cast on this topic, and maybe another one going over the Save the Cat method (aka "the Banes")

Ironscarf at 4:35AM, Jan. 26, 2015

Same problem here. Seems like the older casts are missing - somewhere around 70 is the cutoff point. T_T

irrevenant at 12:27AM, Jan. 26, 2015

Episode 68 doesn't seem to work for me. When I hit 'play' it says 'file not found'. And when I go to iTunes it only seems to display the latest 100 quackcasts. :(

maskdt at 5:03PM, Jan. 25, 2015

What I did with this most recent comic was to write down notes about my characters and the basic setting first. Once I had a rough idea of who these people were and what sort of world they lived in, I started jotting down ideas for the plot: how these characters would meet, how their interactions would drive the plot, where I wanted it to go (which is not precisely where it went -- sometimes what you want and what your plot needs are very different things!). Then I moved on to actually designing my characters: how they look, how they sound, how they act, and how they interact. I found that writing a very short script with my characters talking over coffee helped very much with figuring out how they speak and interact, even though that scene will never be illustrated and is completely non-cannon. I found that sort of preparation to be invaluable when I was working on the script proper; I already had a good idea of whose these characters were, so they started to write themselves.

usedbooks at 12:10PM, Jan. 24, 2015

When it comes to individual stories in my project(s), I have scenes/interactions come to me at odd times and write them down whenever it happens. I collect the scenes in folders. Every now and then, I sit down to assemble my scripts, make outlines for what direction the story needs to take, and piece my scenes together like a jigsaw puzzle. -- Then I usually toss it all out and rewrite everything all in one sitting based on stream-of-consciousness. And later I rewrite the rewrites to fit the flow and pacing of a webcomic format (often Frankensteining different versions of drafts together).

usedbooks at 12:05PM, Jan. 24, 2015

I only have one real comic project at the moment, but in terms of writing, my projects always start with the characters. When I was younger, I wrote based on concepts/plot, but starting in college, my focus is fixed on characters. With Used Books as an example, it started by taking my two roommates and making exaggerated anime characters out of them. I had rough drawings and lists of traits for them, and then I made up a third character to mediate and groan at them. Then I filled in relationships. I get most excited to create new characters for my story, and the plotlines follow their personal agendas and relationships. Admittedly, it is a TERRIBLE way to create a solid concise project, but my writing (and "art" ) is a personal stress-relief, so it's a "run-on" story, a saga, a drama, a serial. It's not intended to have a set beginning and ending but a series of story arcs I can add to, and the character-centered and driven method works well for that.

HippieVan at 9:42AM, Jan. 24, 2015

Thanks, Banes! I'm definitely going to have to check that out when I get a chance!

Ironscarf at 9:36AM, Jan. 24, 2015

Thanks Banes! This could be a good quackcast topic I think, even if it's been covered before.

Banes at 6:58AM, Jan. 24, 2015

I found it...episode 68 !

ozoneocean at 6:56AM, Jan. 24, 2015

Maybe use this as another Quackcast? MMmmmmmm :D

Ironscarf at 4:01AM, Jan. 24, 2015

Can you recall which quackcast featured The Banes Method? I'd like to give it a spin.

Banes at 5:32PM, Jan. 23, 2015

Iron scarf - I also have to know the ending, at least roughly, or I get confused and frustrated. Knowing vaguely where things are heading helps a lot (again, even if it ends up changing later).

Abt_Nihil at 5:26PM, Jan. 23, 2015

When I'm done with the first chapter I have a better sense of what I want, of what the style and mood of the comic is going to be, and then the journey of delineating everything begins, until it organically comes to a close. Well, that's my hope, in any case. (Only recommended if you can afford to figure things out as you go along - sometimes it's better to have everything figured out beforehand, of course.)

Abt_Nihil at 5:25PM, Jan. 23, 2015

The Banes method works wonders! Since I'm also more of a random-bits-and-pieces kind of creator, I try to make the first chapter a springboard for all the things I'm guessing I'll need later on, but am not sure about yet. The first chapter should open up the story's entire universe. I usually don't know where I'm really gonna go - I don't know the individual towns, to stay with Ironscarf's picture -, but I know the general direction, and the first chapter can just tease that roadmap. There has to be a little, more or less contained situation which can set up the characters and their environment, which makes for a satisfying read - that's gonna be the first chapter. (Except if it's a big mythological narrative, then the first chapter is probably going to be more of a "and for two and a half thousand years the ring passed out of all knowledge" kind of thing).

Ironscarf at 4:57PM, Jan. 23, 2015

If you listen to By The Time I Get To Phoenix, it's about a guy who's on a journey and he's focused on where he's got to get to, town by town. As he's driving, he's thinking about the girl he's leaving behind, picturing what she'll be doing, scene by scene as he keeps on driving. It's obvious he really loves this girl, but he knows it can't work out. Time after time he's tried to tell her so, but this time we know he'll really go, because he keeps ticking off those towns, one by one, until he gets to where he's going. This feels very much like writing a story to me: you're in love with that story, but you know you'll have to break your heart to end it.

Ironscarf at 4:42PM, Jan. 23, 2015

My method is similar to your random sporadic approach, because that's how my mind works. I'll have some pieces of the puzzle, like a beginning, some sketchy characters, maybe a well defined one and some odd scenes with no real order. The trick is to impose order and fit those pieces together. It's not like a regular jigsaw. You keep finding new pieces and some of the pieces turn out to be for a completely different puzzle. You don't want to leave them out because they're the prettiest pieces, but you have to be ruthless! Force yourself to sit down and draw up some kind of page by page, or chapter breakdown. You can always change it or throw it away afterwards, but you'll learn a lot just from doing that. Personally, I have to find the ending. Once I have the ending, then I can write every character or scene with that in mind. I'll know what to leave behind, however much I like it. Like in the song By The Time I Get To Phoenix?

bravo1102 at 3:41PM, Jan. 23, 2015

I also use the Banes method. Never knew it until just now, I always thought it was just how I did things.

HippieVan at 3:24PM, Jan. 23, 2015

Lots of interesting ideas here! I think my problem is that I tend to work at things in a sort of random, sporadic way. I've never written an essay working from intro to conclusion - it's always a paragraph here and there until I've covered all my points, add an intro and then edit for cohesion and clarity. The problem with that technique is that until a project is totally done, I don't have anything to show for my work because it's all in bits and pieces.

fallopiancrusader at 12:50PM, Jan. 23, 2015

I should point out that my writing workflow is quite possibly the worst way to write a story that one could ever come up with, but that's the way I do it :O

fallopiancrusader at 12:41PM, Jan. 23, 2015

I always start out with a one-sentence concept, like "pole dancer ninjas in space" or something like that. Then I work out all the design content. For most of my older comics, I have had many pages of detailed costume, vehicle, and architectural studies worked out before I ever started the first page. That gives ms a good idea of how many plot twists are needed to show all the designs that I want to show. Then I lay out the entire comic as page thumbnails, about 5x9 cm in size. These determine where the plot points happen. This phase comes from the days when I did printed comics, which had page number limitations (multiples of 24). They also determine how much dialogue I should write. If I come up with lots of exciting visuals, then the dialogue will have to become more spartan in order to make room for the pictures. Since web-comics don't have page number restrictions, I will often add pages at whim to accommodate new ideas that come to me when I am in the production phase.

tupapayon at 11:27AM, Jan. 23, 2015

This is great!! I'm taking notes!!

Banes at 10:06AM, Jan. 23, 2015

This subject always makes me think of the Sandman and his library that contained all the books that were never written.

Banes at 10:03AM, Jan. 23, 2015

Another approach I heard of is to start by writing the scenes you WANT to write. Like, what are the scenes you're most excited about? Write those! Then worry about stitching it all together later. I haven't finished much using that method personally, but it seems like something that could work if one gave it a real go! Figuring out the whole structure seems to work better for me. Even if a lot of things end up changing, I've finished a lot more using that approach.

Banes at 10:00AM, Jan. 23, 2015

Great topic! I used to find ideas had to percolate in my mind for quite awhile...like months... before getting written. In recent years its been helped by the...ahem...Banes method and other methods I've read about. Knowing the underlying structure of a story helps a LOT.

KimLuster at 4:37AM, Jan. 23, 2015

I've completed a very long novel (never sold), a few short-stories, and my current webcomic has reached a good length. I can say that in each of them I had pretty much the entire story, setting, main characters, etc.. in my head before I started. I got tons of complete stories in my head that never see the light of day, but they play over and over like movies in my mind! No wonder I never get any work done!


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