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Outlining the foundation of your webcomic

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Jan. 15, 2021
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An outline for a story, whether it be a one-shot or a serialised epic, needs a strong foundation. The building blocks that will become your comic must be able to stand firm on the themes, concepts, story beats and character moments explored in your outline. “I need an outline?” you might ask? Having written by the seat of my pants and created a story that has been detailed right up until the ending I can assure you the latter is, in the end, easy to write to because the ideas are all there. So today I’ll be taking you through some tips on creating a strong and engaging outline.

Start with a brainstorm
When inspiration hits you, it’s a good idea to strike while the iron is hot. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind be that conversations, plot points, twists, conflicts, romance, eldritch abominations, whatever is in that brain of yours, get it out and down on the page. Don’t worry so much about the order or formatting, or handwriting for that matter. This is your opportunity to let the creativity flow.

Refine your ideas by writing down key points using the brainstorm as a base
Not every idea will be gold but there’s a good chance that, with a bit of spit polish, a few of them will be glittering jewels. Concentrate on ideas that move the plot along. These can be inciting incidents, plot twists, snarky conversations or fluttering first kisses; if it forwards the plot forward write it down. You can expand those points by writing a sentence or two about them, thus test running the idea without getting too bogged down in the details.

plug the holes
As you go along you’re bound to notice gaps. These are your are plot holes. This would be a good time to take a step back, maybe for a day or two (or even a week) and let your mind work in the background and come back with fresh eyes. Write out any ideas that occur to you. If they don’t work, toss em. Do they fit well? Then you’ve filled in the gap.

Write down your outline
Now it’s time to pace your story in either chapters, issues or episodes. Whatever method you prefer, divide your story up. It’s important to consider the emotional momentum throughout your outline as that will retain the reader’s engagement. This is also a good time to go back to your thought dump and see if any of the ideas there fit into your outline. Got some good lines of dialog? Figure out where those might fit. Wanna include that cool sword fight? Slip that in too. This will help you flesh out the details now before you start working on your story.

Cut the fat
Once you’re happy with it, time to get out the scissors. Try and cut 10-15% away. Have a scene that is falling flat? Get rid of it. Is there a named character who turns up only once? Cut them out. Make your outline a lean, mean plot machine. And remember, you’ll be doing this process throughout the comic making process.

How often do you use outlines for your stories? Do you struggle to write outlines? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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anonymous?

bravo1102 at 7:31AM, Jan. 17, 2021

And now the voice of reason. Do not obsess over plot holes. Do not obsess over folks obsessing over what you didn't cover. Why? Life is messy. Things are never ever ever neatly tied up. So your story doesn't have to be if you don't want it to be. That being said; know your plot holes and if someone wants them all out, have explanations. Some things aren't important in the flow of a story so they can be ignored. But be consistent. The world has to work the same way unless you invent a plausible reason why it suddenly doesn't. But most of all. Write. And write. If your story is never planned it'll never be written. So write.

GearDrag0n at 3:53PM, Jan. 15, 2021

generally I just keep track of what each character wants and then try to fit that into what I want to write, if it doesn't work then I take a step back and reexamine what I'm doing and how I got there in order to work it out.

hushicho at 2:30PM, Jan. 15, 2021

Plot holes are usually best not becoming plot hooks, and in any case, the world of Harry Potter is a massive collection of plot holes that are even more noticeable by their poor (lack of) address. Don't do that! Though I don't usually do a concerted outline anymore, I do think it's good to at least be organized in your production flow, and never, ever do something as a one-off joke or deus ex machina if it's going to be something that introduces a significant element of the setting. The original series of Charmed did this horribly and constantly, ending up with a huge mess that didn't even manage to be consistent with itself. Remember what you establish!

Corruption at 2:18PM, Jan. 15, 2021

Plot holes can become plot hooks. Figure out the essential world elements. (In the first Harry Potter book, Albus flew to London, and latter there were Floos, Portkeys and Apperition. Fanfict writter have him setting things up so Harry would fight Qurill/Voldemort) Keep track of the plots/subplots and keep things focused. If you don't then plots get forgotten and dropped, or the focus of the comic shifts. Never include a plot twist that undermines all that came before, except at the end if end (and even then only if you wish to troll them) I think of story ideas partly by seeing how differnt things can fit together and try to make them fit (currently designing a D&D team involving a catgirl, magical Schoolgirl, a cheerleader, barroom brawler, SJW, a Hippy and some others.) Then I look at the implications of my strange ideas

bravo1102 at 12:40AM, Jan. 15, 2021

Worry about handwriting. Nothing is worse than going back to a scribbled outline and there's indecipherable gibberish in the middle of every phrase. :)


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