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The Medium is the Message

Banes at 12:00AM, March 17, 2022

People experience the pace of a story in different ways according to different story mediums.

When I bought some collections of the old newspaper strip “Li'l Abner”, I was interested to see how many strips would have a panel of recap from the story so far. It was funny to read a whole page of strips, where multiple rows of comics had the same recap.

Of course, this comic strip was being released in newspapers, one strip at a time. There was no way of knowing whether each strip would be a reader's first strip, so Al Capp would bring them up to speed in the first panel. This would also refresh the memory of a busy reader who needed to be reminded of the situation so they could enjoy the comedy.

Anyway, this idea came to me as a result of a new comic page from jerrie, here on the Duck, on one of his author notes where he said he's editing down some of his fight scenes in his wrestling/action series because of complaints from some readers that the fights are too long.

Interestingly, he also creates pdfs of his stories, and the complaint from THOSE readers is that the fights are over too quickly! This puts him in a tough spot, and he said he's doing different versions for the different styles of release. That seems like a good way to do it - I wonder if he'll find it a pain to have two different decisions to make for every fight/action scene in every comic, or if he'll like being able to give the different readers the best experience he can.

The physical mechanics of reading can really change the way a comic comes across - scrolling down a pdf is VERY fast. Clicking to the next page - and especially having to wait for new pages to be completed - is a different reading experience.

Especially if creators are slow - like me - and a lot of time can pass between pages at times, the experience of a story can be extremely different.

I try to have most pages stand alone as much as I can, with most of the information needed to understand the moment/the joke/the scene be there on that one page. It's not always possible, though, and I do it without recapping on every page. To get the bigger picture, readers have to read the whole story.

Having said that, the set ups and payoffs for jokes, plots and characters…that's a lot of the FUN of writing stories. Callbacks are a lot of fun. I still have all of that stuff in my stories - as often as I can come up with something I like, that is. But there's a good chance that a lot of this stuff is missed by readers due to how long it takes for me to get through a story - even in my more productive periods.

The medium is the message, as an old saying goes…even though this topic has nothing to do with that old saying. How do you think story pacing/writing should be adjusted for different mediums or the release schedule? Would you pace your stories differently with a different type of release?

Bye for now!

Pacing myself,




skyangel at 3:56PM, March 17, 2022

I always execute my chapters as complete run-throughs so readers can enjoy them uninterrupted but I often put story reminders in the editorial for anyone who might want to know. What you say about the slow pace of readership though is the most interesting problem for me personally as I'm often too aware that a simple scene of four pages will take a month in real time for readers to digest. I'm also painfully aware that things mentioned at the beginning of a scene can easily be forgotten by the fourth page but most readers do amazingly seem to remember this stuff. What is fun for me is that although readers on the Duck have had to follow very patiently, I'm now loading the finished archive daily on Fury as well so readers there can follow the finished story at a daily pace instead.

PaulEberhardt at 9:09AM, March 17, 2022

This is actually why I gave up on fixed page sizes very early and tend to approach my webcomic in a totally different way than I would anything in print, thinking of any update as an episode rather than a page. That probably wouldn't work for graphic novels or story comics, of course. As I was once asked to present some of my stuff in a brochure, I know painfully well that most of my comic hasn't got a tiger's chance in hell of working properly in print. Almost anything of what I posted over the years that's more complex than a single-panel gag has been made for scrolling through and that's that; any comic timing it may have would get utterly lost if I were to split it into proper pages. I daresay in comedy making one version for each medium you want to work in is more or less inevitable.

Neilsama at 8:55AM, March 17, 2022

Good article. However, I was mostly drawn by the utterly random visage of Chip Chipperson.

bravo1102 at 8:19AM, March 17, 2022

I have given thought to doing edited digest versions of Belinda Brandon movies in Belle's Best and full versions as stand alones. I really didn't know the last one would go on for nearly one hundred pages!

bravo1102 at 8:15AM, March 17, 2022

If there is a direct reference to a previous page I try to put a page link in the author's notes. If a previous comic the other comic links on the pages I just refer to the other comic. As Battle of the Robofemoids was a direct sequel to Attack of the Robofemoids there is a brief summary at the beginning. There probably will be for the rest of the sequels, most of rest can stand by themselves as the references are only important if you like keeping track of such things. Like you really don't need to know all of Star Trek canon to like ST:Lower Decks.

EssayBee at 5:40AM, March 17, 2022

As for pacing...My comics tend to be dialogue driven, with spurts of action. To keep conversation flowing from one update to the next, I usually try to find natural punchlines or cliffhangers in the action/conversations and flag those for page breaks, then tweak previous bits to naturally flow to that break point. This will hopefully create a sense of narrative momentum to keep readers coming back. Sometimes this necessitates a brief "summary" of where the conversation previously ended, which I sometimes do simply by having another character echo/question what was previously said (e.g., "What do you mean blah-blah-blah?")--anything longer risks slowing down the overall momentum. If readers have questions about where an update is starting from, I think most would click back a few updates to get back up to speed (and Author Notes can be used to refresh memories as well). Author Notes can be a real pace saver for comics that are meant to be read sequentially with slower update schedules.

EssayBee at 5:23AM, March 17, 2022

This is a really interesting article. The two-version solution you describe is pretty interesting, and I hope it doesn't suck the author's enjoyment out of telling the story. For online comics, the author notes can be a big help with callbacks. I try to maintain a 1 page/strip per week schedule, and it doesn't take long for short amounts of story time to take long amounts of real time to tell, and past events can naturally be very easily forgotten. Whenever I have a callback, I always try to include a note about mentioning the callback and then directing readers to the previous page the callback relates to. (As a bonus, directing readers this way can lead to readers re-reading numerous pages of back content!)

Ozoneocean at 12:06AM, March 17, 2022

Marshall Mcluhan! A fellow Canadian. He was the originator of that particular idea :D I like the way you put a lot in your pages! I do it too. It reminds me of those film makers that fill a scene with lots of other ancillary info you'd never even know about normally.

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