Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

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Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Pikachao on Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:14 pm

Hey, I've been writing a webcomic for a little bit now (about half a year now) and I was wondering if I could get any tips or advice on webcomic writing (especially about the beginning of a comic, after it's started and online)
I have a ton of writing friends. they range from actually published authors to people who have tons of ideas and plots but nothing written down. I love discussing writing with them, but i can't really discuss the medium that I write in with them.
So I was wondering if Ms Natalie (and any other comic writers that might be on this site, or anyone who might have anything to add, people who read webcomics are important to hear from too) could potentially tell me any tips that might be important or pitfalls to avoid, I'd love it a ton.
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Re: Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Ellen-Natalie on Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:43 pm

I'm flattered, but I'm not sure if I'm an authority on comic writing. Most of my understanding is from studying storytelling in general, and I study every chance I get.

...Actually, I'm usually just reading comics. But when I really like one, that's when I start analyzing why I like it so much. But I can recommend some favorite books that really go into detail with comic writing/storytelling:

"How to Make Webcomics" by Brad Guigar, Dave Kellett, Scott Kurtz, and Kris Straub. This covers every aspect of comic creation in detail-creation, production, promotion, and a whole chapter on writing. Each of these authors has their own successful webcomic, and often draw from their own experiences when discussing chapters.

"Shojo Beat's Manga Artist Academy" by several Mangaka. (Too lazy to write them all ^^; ) The book follows the adventures of an artistic Panda who wants to draw Manga, and coincidentally gets to learn different aspects of an effective story from different professionals in each chapter. Even if manga's not your thing, the book covers a lot of storytelling techniques which can be applied effectively in other mediums, as well.

"Making Comics" by Scott McCloud. Part of his infamous 'Understanding Comics' series (which anyone serious about comics should read), "Making Comics" takes all the basic aspects of creating comics-drawing, writing, characters, etc-and breaks them down to their core elements to study. Even if you already know the rules of writing, this book explains why those rules exist, and theorizes how to best utilize (or even break) them. Some of the concepts are pretty out there, though-it may require reading over a few times to really mold into your head.

"Save the Cat!" by Blake Snyder. Technically a screenwriter book, and I'll admit I haven't read it yet. But I've heard a lot of comic creators gush about how this book helped their own writing skills in comics, so I'm curious as to what it's about.

Hopefully those books help. ^^;
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Re: Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Pikachao on Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:28 pm

Thanks for tho book tips. A friend of mine actually lent me Save the cat, but i never read, so I definitely need to check that one out (and that one specifically for webcomics, but I doubt my library has that one, so it'll have to wait till I can order it.)
If you don't mind, I do have one other question:
1. What did you do, if anything, to promote Furry experience. Did you do much to get people to read it, or was your advertising more passive?
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Re: Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Ellen-Natalie on Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:49 pm

Promotion's been really important, and for the most part FE's promotion process has been "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks." I've spent a lot of time figuring out who FE's audience is, then promoting FE on forums, social networks, and other websites that audience might be, seeing which methods have the best response. (The most consistently effective websites seem to have been Belfry, Smackjeeves and Furaffinity.)

However, from what I've seen in other webcomics and my own experience, the overall best method for building an audience is to have the comic update regularly and consistantly.
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Re: Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Latrans on Thu Mar 21, 2013 1:16 am

I don't have any concrete knowledge of this, but from personal experience (how I found most of the comics I read), doing guest strips for other comics is also a good option.
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Re: Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Pikachao on Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:57 am

thanks again for the help, Belfry is really working well (and I'll make sure to jump on any guest comic opportunities)
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Re: Writing a comic: tips/advice/discussion

Post  Squeevee on Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:59 pm

I take pride in my comic's writing. If you ask me, a well-written comic is better than a well-drawn one, and no comic can be truly great unless it has a fair amount of both.

That said, the best bit of advice I could give you is to not be content with blandness. The majority of your writing will likely be dialogue, so make it feel like conversation. {Opinion Alert, I apologize if this gets a little ranty, I don't mean any offense to anyone in particular} A lot of cartoonists of web comics (and printed comics too, for that matter) fall prey to the trap of predigesting all of the dialogue so it's easy for the reader to catch everything that's going on. This is lazy and makes your writing taste like raw tofu.

Take this interaction, for example:

(A and B happen across each other on the street)
A: "Hey, B. Where are you going?"
B: "To the grocery store. I need to pick up some food for my party tonight."
A: "The party's tonight? I almost forgot! I should get going. C is going to be at the party, and I want to look my best."
B: "You sure do like C. Well, see you later."
A: "See you."

BLAND BLAND BLAND BLAND BLAND! Yet, too many webcomics are almost just like this. The characters are NOT living, breathing, thinking, feeling creatures; they are ticker tape machines that spell out the author's plot. The plot might even be interesting and good, but the dialogue will do more than enough to tear that down.

It takes work to get your characters to be characters, and I can't say all of the strategies you should use or ideas you should consider. If you haven't, do read Limyaael's Rants; they will help you with this. A good first step is to give them varying mannerisms (you know, like the "tough guy" or the "rich snob" or the "tomboy"). Take the example again:

A: "Hey, buddy. Where'ya goin'?"
B: "Oh, hi. The grocery store. I'm...uh, getting supplies...you know for my party tonight?"
A: "The party? Shoot, that is tonight. Aw, man. C's gonna be there, too. I gotta go start gettin' ready."
B: "Oh yeah. You and C. Well, uh...Bye."
A: "See ya later, alligator."

This said roughly the same things as the last one, but the characters are now distinguishable from each other, and you have a general idea of what they're like. There's some danger to this, though, because a mannerism does not a character make. We've got a boisterous casual A and a quiet shy B. And that's all we know. If your characters are nothing more than mannerisms, that's just going to go bland slowly.

The real thing to remember, what I'm trying to say with this, is that you've got to make your characters alive. And the way you show this in the dialogue, is to show that what we see is not what we get. There is more than meets the eye, and the strips and panels and word balloons are just small segments of what they're experiencing.

Consider where the characters were before the anecdote in the strip, where they will be after, in between. What did A have for breakfast? Who is B's cousin marrying that B never met but would like to sometime. What color was the cat in that picture C (who isn't even here) laughed at while browsing the internet two weeks ago? Real people have really complex continuously-existing lives filled with LOTS OF STUFF, lots of worries, lots of emotions, lots of places and friends and things to do. And not all of it makes sense, and NEXT TO NONE OF IT will be able to fit into a comic strip.

So give your characters some of that. In your mind, fill them with things that you will never mention in the comic, things that are trivial or irrelevant to the plot, things that are complicated and messy, or at least numerous and changing. And don't try to make mention of it all. Don't TRY, just let it leak in, into what they do and say, as it feels natural.

Consider my final example.

A: "Whoa, whoa. What's the rush?"
B: "Oh, sorry A. I'm just...you know my party tonight? I don't even have the food yet. It's going to be a disaster, I know it, and there's still the music and the ---"
A: "Slow down, buddy. The party's tonight?"
B: "Yes. Oh no! Didn't I tell you? I'm so sorry, I must have ---"
A: "No, no, ya told me. I just forgot. Easy does it, arright? We don't need you tripin' and breakin' somethin', 'specially not you neck."
B: "Okay. I'll slow down."
A: "I was gonna help you out, but I hafta run."
B: "What? Oh, okay. I think I can handle this by myself. Where are you going?"
A: "Uh...well, I wanna look nice for your party, ya know? And...that's prolly gonna take some work."
B: "It's for C, isn't it? You really want to look nice for C. I thought you'd like me to invite him, but if it makes you uncomfortable, maybe I can...well...I don't know...it would be a little rude if I didn't let him in ---"
A: "Hey, no crazy talk. I just...um. Gotta go, that's all. See ya, alligator."
B: "Okay. Bye." ... "Gee, she's in a hurry. She forgot to say 'later' before 'alligator.' I wish I could hurry too, but I already gave my word. Slow down...I can do this..."

Suddenly we've got two people who existed before this episode, will continue to exist after the episode, and possibly who exist with thoughts and emotions that aren't 100% splayed for the audience's viewing pleasure. We get a sampling, but we can tell there's more.

If you can learn to do that, your comics are going to flourish. But there's a lot more to it than just character and dialogue. This, for example, might actually be a terrible comic dialogue, just because it's so blighted long...and then again, maybe that would work out for the scene, or situation, or plot. Study some, and get some practice in. Try things out that might be kinda crummy. Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.

And enjoy yourself. Hope this helps.
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