So last week we started off talkin' about rules and why we might need em, right? But what exactly do these rules apply to, ya might wonder. Ya might not wonder, actually, but too bad, I'ma tell ya anyway. We'll start where any comic starts: with your basic concept; The who/what/when/where business of your idea and how that idea plays out.
Let's break it down into five easy pieces:
THEME: what's it about? The basic premise, that is.
SETTING: where does the action occur?
CHARACTERS: who are the agents around whom the action unfolds, or who are the catalysts for the action?
ACTION: what happens here?
TONE: how should this make the reader feel?
Now, my humble suggestion is that for a comic to work, at least one of these elements oughta be real on-point consistent. Something needs to stay the same here to give readers an idea of what to expect from strip to strip or page to page or however you wanna make and present your work.
You could have a strip with no reoccurring characters, setting, theme, where anything is actually possible, but your tone remains the same. Look at “The Far Side”, for one- it's Larson's very specific sense of dry, absurdist humor that makes it work. Or your theme and tone might vary, but the characters delivering your sometimes funny, sometimes philosophical, sometimes heartbreaking lines behave in a consistent and predictable way. Lookit “Peanuts”, for example. Point being you oughta have at least one instantly recognizable, cohesive element that ties it all together. Most comics have more than one of these elements, if not all, that stay consistent.
We can break these elements down further, though, as far as rules or guidelines for consistency. Of course everything ain't always gonna stay the same or it'd be pretty boring, right? But like I may have mentioned before, you gotta establish order before you can go about the kinda disruptions to that order that makes for good stories. So once we've decided what stays the same, let's look at it this way, for each of these five elements- THEME, SETTING, CHARACTERS, ACTION, TONE- first off, what can and cannot happen? Secondly, what (if any) are the exceptions? And finally, what does a divergence from those parameters signify? Er, in other words, when somethin what ain't suppose to happen does happen: “how, why, and to what effect?”, that is.
Now, hold that thought, on account of we're coming back to it. Next week we'll examine how these rules play out in some familiar strips, and talk about more specific kinds of rule making you can do to give your work more structure and continuity.
Full size pic here:
HyenaHell at 12:00AM, March 10, 2017
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