Feedback from your audience has always been important- from the renaissance palace parlors to enlightenment salons to the modern art galleries, how much the audience is pleased by what the creator procures is central.
But in the age of the internet and webcomics, where comics are updated page by page, comments take on a whole different element of importance. Works of art in webcomics are presented “in progress” rather than “complete” as in print comics. That means that the audience, one way or the other, whether we admit it or not, takes part in the creative process in a much more active way than ever before.
So how do comments affect us as creators of webcomics, and should we let them?
From my experience both as a creator and as a commenter, I’ve seen them potentially affect:
Feedback on how the comic’s art is being made is one of the things most affected in webcomics, especially if they are created by non-professionals. When I first started to dabble, and knew nothing about making a comic, I basically had comments by other far more skilled artists about how to do this or that guide me. In this case, the commenters became the teachers or the mentors in my learning process, and helped make my learning curve steeper.
But also in cases of professional comic creators I’ve seen the art tweaked to please. Use of shadows, creative choices in cartoon anatomy, layouts or background detail have been changed to please the audience.
In most cases, such feedback (if given constructively) can only help to improve the end product, which is the webcomic. Sometimes though, especially if the urging is to imitate or simulate something that is popular just for the sake of it, or if the feedback goes directly against a conscious choice that serves a specific purpose in the comic (like, for example the choice to not use color, or the choice to use a cartoony style, etc) it might be undermining to the end result to take the comments into consideration.
In comments, people guess ahead, or comment on a plot twist, or generally evaluate the believability of a story premise or setting. The creator often might incorporate the ideas into the story, shifting and changing the plot to fit.
This might happen if the commenter’s idea makes the plot development more efficient or more exciting or more realistic. It might also happen if the creator just thinks it’s cool!
The pitfall in this is that the story might be completely thrown off its course if the creator opts for something based on popular demand, but which cannot work within the story’s premises or previous sequence of events. It also may completely alter the character of the story itself. Losing control of how the story goes is tantamount to losing the reins to the carriage’s horses. It’s bound to end in tears.
What I do, when I read about an idea that appeals to me but I can’t incorporate in the story, is I make a little entry in my log of ideas and save it for another day, another story or another episode.
Another pitfall is that the commenters might guess at what you’re building up to- a great reveal might be correctly guessed by a commenter who doesn’t care to spoil it for everyone (including the creator). Temptation to alter the great reveal and make it into something else just to prove the comment wrong sets in. But that shouldn’t be done- a well crafted story must give the chance to the audience to guess right before the reveal. If the creator changes it just because it’s been found, the story will lose in integrity, and all the buildup that specifically pointed to the original reveal will now be misleading without any other clues pre-built in to point to the right direction. That makes for a lesser story in quality, and less connection to the audience.
What I do is ask the commenter to delete the comment. Simple as that.
The most infamous example about how much and how absolutely commenters might affect a character comes way before the internet, from the mainstream.
If the audience like a character that’s secondary in the story, that character might take center stage and become the protagonist. If the audience hates a character, that character might be killed off, or assume a different role in the story.
If the audience is interested in a character, that character might become more fleshed out as the creator focuses more on him/her and gives him/her more detail.
Is that good or bad? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 23, 2017
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