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To Keep or Not to Keep?

damehelsing at 12:00AM, March 21, 2021

that is the question, right?

Hey, hi – hello, I’m damehelsing and this is my first article.
I’m new to this but I have a lot of thoughts and instead of talking to myself, I can talk to you.

There’s always a spark of joy and a roller coaster of emotions when you’re writing your own story, aaaaand some times we can get really carried away, right? To the point we want to write down the tiny details of our characters’ lives; from getting up in the morning to them maybe going on shopping sprees and random banters they might have with their friends. These details are always nice and in a way comforting – when you imagine this all it’s like a movie going through your brain and it’s a great feeling.

Unfortunately this doesn’t always apply best to webcomics.

Normally with webcomics, we can’t really afford the luxury of too many pit stops. (Of course this highly depends on the story too.) Webcomics are slow paced by nature because of our one/two/three-update-per week schedule or the “Once in a Blue Moon” update, and because of this I, personally, just want to get to telling the story ASAP but of course I also want to show my readers the little bits of it too.

I’ll use my own comic, SCORNED, as an example.
Even though we’re still really early into the story, it’s already established that there’s a friendship between the main cast except for one character in particular, who is Annie. She’s brand new and because of this, showing the bonding moments between her and the others would be great and is essential to a point, how else will she develop a connection if there are no moments to establish one?
I can’t show everything and that eats at me. I’m always stuck in a limbo of “What can I keep and what should be removed?” SCORNED is by no means, a long story, it’s actually a rather short one and because of this I have less time to show the many pit stops that I imagine – and I’m left wondering, “How can I make Annie and the characters bond without dragging out the story?”

So here we are, to keep or not to keep.

When I was in high-school I had an English teacher who was writing his own novel so I went to him looking for assistance, “how do I make these little journeys actually enjoyable and part of the story, a journey where the reader won’t roll their eyes and skip a few pages?” or possibly in a webcomic sort of case, just eventually not return?
If I’m being honest, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I recall being told to find a way to let the story make these pit stops happen. Basically… don’t force things to happen. If the pacing isn’t right, don’t do it and if I’m really trying to make it happen, don’t feel urged to do it right away and risk putting it in a spot of the story where it’s completely messy and the pacing is sloppy.

I carried that advice with me and its helped me decide on what to keep and what not to keep. Details such as someone’s favorite food or color? I don’t need to have my character say it, it’s not a dating show ;) but I can show it by drawing it in an appropriate scene. Someone’s past? Especially with a past as long as 1000 years? I don’t need to reveal it all or force-feed it to my readers, I can reveal the tidbits when relevant and it will be relevant at some point. (There’s just no way you can write a character with a 1000 years on them and NOT show some of it.)
So all these pit-stops, unnecessary outings and more, can be decided with the pacing of your story and if it fits or doesn’t. This doesn’t mean don’t do it at all or scrap all those little things you’ve written, just hold it and see if it works, heck, maybe all those small details can be worked into the story in a completely unexpected way.

I know that Annie and my characters will bond as the story goes on, some times it’s not the amount of time you spend together but the way you spend it. Or maybe Annie won’t bond with any of them and she’s secretly the big bad. WHO KNOWS? I’m not telling ;]

I’m not a professional and my article is not meant to be a concrete answer to writing but instead just an opinion on one of the many subjects to writing.

What are your thoughts on this and how do you decide what details you want to keep? Or are you a majestic beast who just writes everything they want because it’s your story and you do you? ;)

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ChipperChartreuse at 5:37AM, March 22, 2021

Thanks for the great article, Damehelsing! Many great points being made here.

skyangel at 3:07AM, March 22, 2021

I always feel the story is THE most important thing and anything that helps enhance it is good but at the same time some things will have more impact than others. When it comes to fleshing out characters I think something like a morbid fear of spiders or being self conscious about ones appearance can be both exciting and entertaining which also leads the writer to play more with those ideas as the story progresses, both seriously and humourously even to the point where maybe they put the character in a huge dilemma at some point where they have to suffer their fear to resolve a situation. I was once invited to take part in an online RPG which sounded fun but when my friend presented me with a full page description of their character covering every minute detail imaginable and prompted me to do the same for mine I just baled out! As writers we all love to explore our characters but I think we should also be aware that being too self indulgent about them can backfire.

Ozoneocean at 9:25PM, March 21, 2021

Great first newspost!!!!!

Avart at 8:23PM, March 21, 2021

Excellent article Damehelsing! I really appreciate all your comments :)

kawaiidaigakusei at 7:51PM, March 21, 2021

Welcome, Damehelsing! 😃

PIT_FACE at 5:42PM, March 21, 2021

Good food for thought, welcome to the rogue's gallery!

Xade at 3:34PM, March 21, 2021

My script is constantly evolving and changing. When I have characters with clothing I show what their favorite color is simply by making sure they have that color as their main theme. Like Aden, in a future comic he wears blue pants with a red tunic, dark blue belt, and a sky blue vest. The comic's fashion is along that theme for males and dresses and gowns for the ladies except for a few, who wear pants, mainly those whose job calls for it. I show the details, I don't tell them. hmm. I wonder

hushicho at 2:14PM, March 21, 2021

A lot depends on what kind of story you're trying to tell, and how you're trying to tell it. Iyashi-kei or "healing genre" stories often spend more time with minutiae and details, because they help to form a kind of intimacy that relaxes, rather than builds tension, so you could go with whatever detail you'd want to provide. It really depends on the audience you're going for. I do agree that if you're trying to drive a faster-paced story or build tension, you must have an economy of dalliances. But at the same time, a long-term fast-paced story that never slows down can be exhausting and daunting for audiences. Many considerations! Great first article, welcome!

damehelsing at 8:03AM, March 21, 2021

@Paneltastic: Yes! That's honestly a great idea/way to show the pit stops too, flashbacks or a special! I love making silly side-comics about my characters everyday lives when I'm in the mood for it.

damehelsing at 8:02AM, March 21, 2021

@Tantz: thank you so much! :D @Banes: I agree knowing as much as possible before even displaying your story to the world is probably best, that's probably what my problem is, I know SCORNED in my head but I haven't really put it on paper yet, so I'm creating the pages as I go! But I try to compose myself to not give into anything too unnecessary ;) @Andreas_Helixfinger: I think blogpost kind of works too, no? but thank you! And trust me, I feel you, I wish I could keep the miniature side stories and environment because it really does show a more lively world in the story, environment can be just as important as the characters, but it's always a struggle to balance it out, so I try to favor the storytelling more since I'm just a very slow artist. I do believe that if you want to, you should do whatever you want!! Also I just love stories, so I probably wouldn't really care about a trip that has nothing at all to do with the story :p but that's me as a reader talking!

paneltastic at 7:55AM, March 21, 2021

I find readers respond well if you tease some event but don't show it. Later on, they will be curious and ask and you can either flash back to it in the main continuity or make it a special, separate story (possibly in a book). It helps you weed out those side steps that would bring down the tempo of the comic and lets the more interesting ones rise to the top.

Banes at 7:47AM, March 21, 2021

Great article! Looking forward to your future ones, too! Welcome!

Banes at 7:46AM, March 21, 2021

The better I know my characters beforehand, the better. I like to plan in those sidetrips, at least the broad strokes, as early as possible like before page one is posted if possible. That way I have a good understanding of at least some of what I'll be doing, and will know that the sidetrips are relevant to the character, at least will be something I actually want to see the characters doing (and not just a passing whim) - even if it's not tied to the main plot of a given chapter.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 5:01AM, March 21, 2021

Oh, I mean nice article, not blogpost. Sorry^^ My brain haven't woken up yet^^

Tantz_Aerine at 4:27AM, March 21, 2021

Welcome to the fold! :D Great article!

Andreas_Helixfinger at 3:50AM, March 21, 2021

Hey! Nice blogpost there, Damehelsing👍 As for my thoughts on the topic, this might be my achilles heel as a writer. My webcomic Molly Lusc, which is planned to be a short series, has a lot of little details and things about both the protagonist and the setting that I simply can't bring myself to throw away. I will try to make the comic's engagement in these things brief and use as much "show don't tell" as I can muster. But I don't think I have it in me to kill my darlings. And I honestly do think that it is these little things, these mundane things (mundane by the standards of this fictional world of my creation) that really makes that world feel like a truly alive and rich place to engage in. Readers of the comic are of course free to disagree^^

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