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Structural Integrity

Banes at 12:00AM, Sept. 26, 2019
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We've talked many times about story structure and different elements of it. But what about structure that's specific to web comics?

If someone does a “gag” or standalone series of strips, it's one thing - but there are still questions to answer. Like, do you have a character sheet on every page, or a link to such a page, so people know who all the characters are? Do you leave it to the readers to understand the characters and the basics of their relationships?

In a longer-form story I think there are many more questions. Each page is an individual scene, or part of a scene. Do you leave it to your readers to understand the nuances of what's happening? How do you make it as user-friendly as possible for people to understand the context of each page, without alienating the people who are reading every page and know what's going on? It's impossible to understand every nuance of the history of a long-running series…so how do you find that line? Or how do you want it done when you're a reader?

There are more “structural” concepts to talk about, but let's start here, at the individual page level. Do you try to make each page its own mini-story? Or do you leave it to your dialogue and artwork to entice new readers (or forgetful readers) to click back and put the puzzle together?

Have a good day,

Banes


On a sad note…

Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Deep Space Nine, one of my favorite shows, passed away far too young. RiP to this great actor and many thanks to him for his wonderful character. A very sad time for his family, loved ones and many fans.

comment

anonymous?

hushicho at 3:29PM, Sept. 27, 2019

It's usually best just to try to tell your story the best you can. Some of the audience will always be completely unable to understand it, even if it's the simplest thing in the world. If you're telling a long-term story, you usually just have to remind them to go back and read it all the way through once it's done, and even then plenty of them still will complain about it being hard to follow. You could tell the story of Jack and Jill and people would still be determined to be confused. So just please yourself more than anyone else, I find is the best way to do it. If you try to make sure everyone understands every update to the same level, you'll usually never get anything done!

Avart at 11:52AM, Sept. 26, 2019

Excellent article Banes! When I was using the traditional comic page layout, I tried to make every page a bit engaging, but in a long story it is difficult. Now that I switched to a webcomic format, I could manage a better pacing and make a "page" with more substance, because I have more freedom and make them as mini-episodes.

marcorossi at 6:21AM, Sept. 26, 2019

Generally I try to have a charachter that explains what is going on at the beginning of each "scene". For example if some charachters are going to enter ia a haunted house for a midnight party, I'll have something like: A: so that is the old witch mansion, huh... not really my favoured place for a party! B: what you scared? how old are you, six? chicken chicken! A: no I'm not scared! it's just... oh, sod off! But in pratice I can't put something like this in every page, and sometimes "scenes" are very short, like 2 pages, sometimes are longer. Also I realized that I often need some character to say out loudly what's happening, because otherwise from the drawings alone it wouldn't be very clear; this sort of mixes with the infodump at the beginning of each scene.

Banes at 5:36AM, Sept. 26, 2019

Beyond that, I split the stories into individual "issues" and the stories mostly stand alone.

Banes at 5:35AM, Sept. 26, 2019

I try and work anything important to understanding the current page into the page itself. It's not always possible, because most people are reading the pages as they come out and I don't want to annoy them. If something is a callback to a setup from much earlier, I'll either leave it as an Easter Egg, or sometimes mention it in the author notes.

usedbooks at 4:08AM, Sept. 26, 2019

I use focused recaps between "episodes" and have a variety of reference resources. I use them myself to keep things in line. My most helpful resource (for my writing/art) is that my WordPress site lets me tag characters and locations. I link from bios to the tagged pages and can pull up every page a character appears on.

bravo1102 at 2:39AM, Sept. 26, 2019

This is one reason I split up the comics rather than do one big SAGA. I keep referring back to earlier stuff but you can still wander in at any place and pick things up. I'll always explain things again because there are always people who weren't around for the first few explanations. As far as "mansplaining" goes, more than once I stopped myself because that was what I thought I was doing only to be told "I didn't know that!" One never knows.

bravo1102 at 2:34AM, Sept. 26, 2019

Loved when DS9 did the pulp science fiction magazine episode and Aron was the newspaper vender on the corner. Too young. Younger than me. Yipe.

Genejoke at 12:53AM, Sept. 26, 2019

Sad news about Aron Eisenberg. As for structural integrity, well I generally expect the audience to keep up. That said having a side page about characters certainly doesn't hurt matters, but I haven't done one for mine. I so try to put reminders in the script about things, but not if it's too much like mansplaining. All in all I'd say I don't make it easy for new comers, they should just start at the beginning.


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