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Prose v Comics

Banes at 12:00AM, Feb. 23, 2023

When I first started putting together my story idea for Typical Strange many years ago, I imagined it to be an animated series. With a lot of time and effort and learning Toon Boom software along the way, I had a pretty strong idea of the main characters, and a handful of possible story ideas.

It turned out that it was a massive amount of work, and I didn't think I'd live long enough to finish nearly as many episodes as I wanted. So after awhile I switched the idea over to a webcomic and joined the Duck.

There can still be plenty of delays with making a comic, as we all know! Today I was thinking about another ambition from back in the day: I wanted to write novels and short stories. I wrote a few in high school, and a few since then, but never written a novel - though I still want to. I've written far more in the comics medium.

Stories are stories of course - but I was thinking about the special delights of writing in comics form rather than prose. Every time I try to write a short story I realize how rusty those muscles are!

What I like about writing comics -

The art does a LOT of the heavy lifting. My story outlines look the same for prose and comics, but when it comes to prose, a writer needs to be more creative with the actual words (makes sense). So many of my outlines are “this happens - then this happens. then the character does this - then the other character says this!” In a comic, this takes some figuring out as far as panels and actual dialogue, but since I haven't worked on it enough, my prose feels very flat, and sort reads like a list of events. It takes work to make these things feel alive and interesting in prose.

Also, character descriptions. Deciding how much of a character's appearance/demeanor to describe or not, and how often to describe certain qualities, is a challenge, especially in a longer story like a novel! Sometimes even major characters are not described at all, appearance-wise! I know too much description of a character's looks, clothes, demeanor, and style is usually not a good idea. But in a comic, it's taken care of in the art! There are still decisions to be made there of course, but it takes away something that I find very challenging in prose!

Obviously one drawback of telling stories in comics is that it's labor intensive on the drawing side!

Have you written comics as well as prose? Which do you prefer and why? Or are they each satisfying in different ways?

See you next time!

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bravo1102 at 3:42AM, Feb. 24, 2023

I once tried to write a slapstick motorcycle chase in prose. That was part of what drove me to do comics instead. In creative writing they always advised "show, don't tell". What's offers the best of both worlds for showing and telling? A comic.

dragonsong12 at 7:36PM, Feb. 23, 2023

I definitely do both. I like telling stories. But certain stories are just better suited to one medium or another. I hate getting to that moment in the planning process when I realize "Oh shit, this needs to be a comic..." Comics have the benefit of being visual so the more visual the story you plan is, the more it'll benefit from that. Conversely, if I have a story that really requires the audience to understand certain aspects (particularly those not as easily relayed visually) that's a lot more readily done in prose. I really like character writing and development in my stories, so for me it all ends up coming down to a simple metric - how much do I want to clue the audience in on what specifically the characters are thinking, and how much do I want them to just infer it from expressions. I imagine the metric is different for writers who have a different focus, but that's my go to, haha!

RobertRVeith at 2:17PM, Feb. 23, 2023

Almost everything I do starts out as prose. The Civilized Lands became a comic because as I wrote the novel, I couldn't imagine it as anything else. I'm a comic enthusiast for as long as I can remember. I actually remember drawing comics before I could write words (I would dictate to my mom what to write in the balloons). Comics have a bunch of distinct advantages over prose. In prose, what and who you describe tells the reader what's important… what to look at; in a comic, you can just show what happens. In comics, you can have multiple first person narration by using different speech bubble colors or text styles. You can also show the reader one thing while telling them something else (Alan Moore does this to great effect in Watchmen). On the other hand, comics want to be about motion and action. When I'm writing prose, I might have a characters converse for 20 pages. When I script the comic, that conversation gets cut down to two pages.

dpat57 at 1:47PM, Feb. 23, 2023

Yeah I always liked writing prose, still do, even though I've slowed up a tad in recent years. Whenever I found myself dragging my prose heels, I made comics instead. I've got too many incomplete WIPs though, and too many comics also! Because I have the attention span of a flea. Jumping from dog to dog. Never satisfied working on just one project at a time. Stupid, but that's me all over.

PaulEberhardt at 11:39AM, Feb. 23, 2023

I've actually written some novel or novella-length prose, but I'm not going to show any of it to anyone anytime soon. You see, the trick is to be able to scrutinise your own stuff like a competent but particularly ill-tempered literature teacher on a bad day - and as it happens I am just that, only I'd never want to take it out on my students. I'm only mentioning this at all, because I'd like to add that I see both comic ideas as well as prose ideas play out as a film in my mind's eye, the difference is really just the medium they become. I decide on that using these three guiding questions: 1. What will be most fun to do? 2. Is there any chance at all for me to get it drawn within my lifetime? 3. Are the parts I take pains to get rid of in comics interesting and complex enough to warrant leaving them in? Because of that I save up most short story ideas as comic scripts for later, even though as a writer I'm more of a sprinter than the long-distance runner you need to be for novels.

PaulEberhardt at 11:00AM, Feb. 23, 2023

Comics and prose are quite different even when approaching comics in a picture book kind of style, like I tend to do. The risk of accidentally having the characters or a narrator tell too much instead of letting it all evolve in the drawings is greater, as there is more room for text, and I admit to having failed sometimes when a storyline involved a complex idea that I just wanted to get out of the way to focus on the drawings I actually set out to do. Even worse, picture book style enables you to get away with it if you don't overdo the wall of text (not that I never did that as part of my learning process). Otherwise, it's much more like comics than prose, and what you all said about story telling in comics applies just as much.

DylanTale Comics at 9:29AM, Feb. 23, 2023

I can see the challenges that prose can pose, but I personally like having the balance of writing/designing each of my pages. It's not too much writing but it's certainly not just me designing whatever stuff and it not making any sense. I do agree with Ozone, visualizing a story can be a lot easier than describing it in thousands of words. However for me, I find it a bit challenging with some of my pages to where I agree with what Ironscarf said. If I have a really big or complicated story for The Faceless Comics, that would probably warrant around 4-7 pages, which would be easy to do. Trying to fit that same big story into 8-12 panels with a simplistic line art style is a challenge for me at times, which is why you'll sometimes see me inserting more panels for some of my pages. Like what he said, I also have to edit that big story down to essentials and if I have a more dialogue-heavy page, that tends to help tell more of that big overarching story without too much redaction.

Ironscarf at 8:56AM, Feb. 23, 2023

With prose you can stretch out with descriptions and as long as the writing flows well, you don't necessarily have to convey much with dialogue. With comics the opposite is usually true and you're saying a lot with word balloons, while trying to avoid have characters who sound like they're telling the story. You don't usually have that much space to do it in either, so I enjoy the challenge of editing everything right down to essentials while still telling a story and trying to have well defined characters. The visuals do carry a lot of weight, but it's a balance between the two. My plots are jus like yours, with lots of she does this and then that happens. A lot of writing time is spent on the balloons themselves, since that's where the characters get to shine.

Ozoneocean at 3:51AM, Feb. 23, 2023

I found long form writing and doing comics SO different! And it's really hard to translate one to the other because comics are so visual. Comics are much harder to write I find because you have to think about very different methods of communication at the same time: visual AND text. I don't mean thinking about visual things when writing, that isn't an issue, I mean thinking about communicating with a picture VS doing the same thing in text or complimenting it with text or vice versa.

Furwerk studio at 1:18AM, Feb. 23, 2023

Prose is short builds full of hoarders and they could reach the same heights but all the builders got kneecapped by the urban planning community. Also I noticed my formatting in the previous post got eaten. Sorry about that.

Furwerk studio at 1:15AM, Feb. 23, 2023

A massive problem in prose no one wants to talk about is, well, Purple Prose. While comics have some like that in the form of decompression, it still much easier to just burn through 22 pages of a modern big 2 in a couple of minutes, and there is a bonus if the art is nice, versus five pages of dense, suffocating descriptions of a chair in the room that serves no purpose. Prose is also the most scrutinized, mocked, boiled down, puritan reviewed medium in existence as a comma in the wrong place can destroy the entire novel, every act of supernatural placed under a watchful eye of an armchair PhD, every sex act reviled and jeered at, every action scene called mindless, and all conversations called into question for "authenticity". In comics you can have stick figures firing rocket launchers from the backs of elephants, quoting 80's anime dubs and canon films, no one bats an eye. Best way I can put it is, comics is a lot of work but they can reach high, like a sky scraper.

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