sequential daze

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Getting the story out

Spent the weekend away from the computer and the drawing desk - and let me tell you, it was hard going too! My coping mechanism in such situations is to take a notepad (no, not a laptop or PDA) along with me and work on a story thread or two or three. That's what I did last weekend and it worked a treat!

Bad Karma is the current story/chapter being told in Magellan. Broadly speaking, I've known how the story plays out for well over a year now - there are copious scribbles and notes and ideas all over the place. Problem is, only the first 12 pages have been scripted and the rest of it is pretty much out in the ether. Over the last weekend though I was able to deal with that problem.

Firstly I gathered up all the various plot points that I wanted in the story and wrote them all down in one place - in fact, I did that several times until I had each scene represented by a single descriptive sentence and I had each scene in the right order. This allowed me to weed out any scenes that weren't going to move the story forward and to make sure there was a balance to character "screen time".

The next step was to pace each scene. My preference is to keep the scenes in Magellan fairly short and to the point - unless it's a climactic and/or kick arse action scene... those always tend to be a bit longer. Most scenes are around 4-5 pages give or take a page. Usually I start writing a scene with a theoretical max of 3 pages but if I feel I'm trying to get too much info across in that space I will either cut the info (or bump it to another part of the script) or add extra pages as needed. Conversely, if there's no way a scene will pad to three pages I'll only write it two pages long - there's nothing worse than a superfluous page in a webcomic.

Since Magellan is a serialised comic I find it's essential to ensure each page in a scene has its own logic - that is, a reader can work out what's meant to be happening without going back a page and without the first panel being a recap. Probably this reflects the way I read webcomics - I rarely hit the previous button in a story I've been following unless I'm totally confused (actually, that happens a fair bit with some webcomics... no names). Each page has to build the story (and, where applicable, character) and having a hook at the end of each page will hopefully keep the reader coming back for subsequent updates.

A technique I use for writing is to draw a series of small squares and sub-divide those into frames - then I write in dialogue or scribble in stick figures to work out the pacing for each page. It is especially useful as it will quickly reveal any aspect of the story that lacks progression or purpose. Also, it will highlight where too much is (or too little) is happening within the number of pages allocated for that scene. Rather than writing out "Page 1, Frame one, blah blah" I find this the most constructive way to write for myself. Even if I am writing for someone else I will use the scribble/write in squares method before then typing out "Page 1, Frame one, blah blah". When writing for myself I never work from a script - I suppose that is one of the benefits of being a writer/artist.

So anyway, as usual, I've blabbed on way more than I intended. The short version of the above is that I managed to not only sort out the entire storyline and the required scenes for Bad Karma but I have now written up to page 32. Getting away from the desk seems the best way for me to get the story out!



  • very kewl. I find the method of other artists fascinating. Some of my own best ideas are on little scraps of paper when inspiration hits me.

    This also helps me as I'm trying to do my own comic (don't anyone hold their breath, har har) and a couple of people have asked me to flesh out the characters for their graphic novels.

    I am so at a loss. Its been so long since I've had to do this 'comic' style of art.

    But I think I'll take a bit of your take and maybe get away from comp and my usual place for awhile.

    By Blogger The Goddess, at 1:59 pm  

  • Yeah, there seems to be a different technique for every cartoonist - often similar but notably different in some way or another. This way of doing things has worked quite well for me and generally allows me to avoid writer's block - always a bonus! Good luck!

    By Blogger xmung, at 6:45 pm  

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