How to get better at writing comics?

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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby djracodex on Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:27 am

McDuffies wrote:Uh-oh. I'm afraid if I follow those rules, I'll end up with "Cars".

Nonsense, there's no rules about having to invent an excuse to push your cheap toys on children
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Brysons on Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:49 am

Context, dramatic effect, and spacing of word balloons are all valid reasons.

Plus, there might be something to be said for two medium-sized wordballoons being easier to read / looking better than one that's just jam-packed.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby McDuffies on Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:51 pm

There might also be something against them.
There's something patronizing in an idea that your readers will quit reading if they are forced to process more than one sentence per paragraph.
The other and bigger arguement against is that many authors, when faced with wall of text that they have to fit into page, choose to chop this wall of text into small balloons and spread it all over the page - when what they should do it reedit the wall of text to be more concise remove all the hot air out of it.
Often, I like to see a few bigger text balloons with more text placed in strategic places rather than a whole lot of small balloons spread all around the page, getting in the way of the action and generally ruining it aesthetically.
The choice is ultimately the rhythm you the text to be read. If you have a block of text, I think, you read it as a continuous speech, whereas when it's spread into small balloons, I tend to read it as having a pause between every two balloons.
Regardless of which way one chooses, he should 1. Take care of where he's placing balloons
and how they affect page's look, and 2. reconsider whether all that text is really essential, and whether some of it could be excised without any damage to the narration.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:19 pm

McDuffies wrote: 2. reconsider whether all that text is really essential, and whether some of it could be excised without any damage to the narration.

I feel this part is especially key. Especially when working in this medium where page space is precious and needs to be allocated well, learning to word dialogue/narrative in a way that doesn't hold things back while still maintaining character and atmosphere is a valuable skill. People are often surprised with how much they can actually say when limiting their words, if you use words properly.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby djracodex on Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:47 am

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:
McDuffies wrote: 2. reconsider whether all that text is really essential, and whether some of it could be excised without any damage to the narration.

I feel this part is especially key. Especially when working in this medium where page space is precious and needs to be allocated well, learning to word dialogue/narrative in a way that doesn't hold things back while still maintaining character and atmosphere is a valuable skill. People are often surprised with how much they can actually say when limiting their words, if you use words properly.


Not to mention the age old "showing not telling", and there's no better place to exhibit this than comics. Body language, facial expressions, or interactions are a huge help during dialogue between characters with minimal words. Good narratives can be understood with little to no words. But if you find yourself having to spell it out, be sure to have quality panels/pictures with easy flow of text (I know I tend to skim when I see a wall of text if there are no pretty pictures lol)
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby JSConner800 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:03 pm

I agree that breaking up dialogue into separate word balloons just to make the paragraphs seem smaller is a terrible use of this technique, but I've found it to be pretty effective for pacing purposes, so I'd recommend that new writers/comic artists not discard the concept entirely. Breaking up the dialogue balloons for pacing was something I had never considered, but my artist just did it one day, and although I was a bit annoyed at first, I held my tongue and waited for the finished comic. You can be the judge of whether or not it works, but I think it adds rhythm to the dialogue that it wouldn't have had in a single balloon, and I'm glad I forced myself to keep quiet that time.

(Panel 4, just for reference)
http://www.steelsalvationcomic.com/page ... a1-04.html
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Peripheral Descent on Thu May 02, 2013 11:12 am

I wanted to join in to throw out another point - having a wall of text in a comic isn't necessarily bad, but it just depends where it is.

If I'm looking for a new comic to read, I usually read about 20 pages before deciding to commit or not. If, within those 20 pages there's wall after wall after wall of text, I make the assumption that this comic is more words than drawing. This assumption is most certainly false in certain cases - some people like having a detailed introduction to get you into the story, and they don't try and do that again. Normally, I don't like reading comics that are wordy. Not a little wordy, but hugely wordy.

This is just a personal preference, of course. Keep in mind that if I like a comic and I come upon a page that does have a huge amount of words, I'll read it anyways. A good example is Goblins - when one of the main characters received a magic weapon, the next comic page became a page of text to explain the origins of this weapon, which was a cool story. The next page, the character references things that happened in this story. Goblins uses text as fillers, too - but they're always interesting stories and facts about his world. I look forward to those.

Another comic (which I can't remember the name of) used to have the story written out for those panels in her author's notes. (I think the comic was Alien Dice?) You could simply read the comic, but if you wanted more detailed information, you could read the story below, which obviously had much more detail. That was an interesting way to do it.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby JSConner800 on Fri May 03, 2013 10:52 am

Peripheral Descent wrote:This is just a personal preference, of course. Keep in mind that if I like a comic and I come upon a page that does have a huge amount of words, I'll read it anyways. A good example is Goblins - when one of the main characters received a magic weapon, the next comic page became a page of text to explain the origins of this weapon, which was a cool story. The next page, the character references things that happened in this story. Goblins uses text as fillers, too - but they're always interesting stories and facts about his world. I look forward to those.


Now, I haven't read the comic, so I'm only basing my comments off of what you're describing, but don't you think that sidestory about the magic weapon would have been more effective if it had been worked organically into the plot, rather than just stopping everything and devoting a whole comic page to the backstory of some random weapon? Now, I doubt all the information in this apparent wall of text needs to be worked into the story, so it seems to me like the best way to provide worldbuilding and fluff (especially if it's all text) would be in a separate part of the site, like an "About" page. This maintains the flow of your comic, and those who don't care about the backstory can just skip it entirely. Because there is now a chance that people will skip all of this information, the writer is then forced to think carefully about the most important aspects of a plot element - how is this weapon significant to the story, and where will that become apparent within the flow of the plot? I think that's an important exercise, because some writers tend to get so caught up in worldbuilding that they forget to tell a compelling story in the present. We have to take into account that there are readers who love to get immersed in every last detail about a setting, and there are some who want a punchy, focused narrative without the fluff. I think, with the hardcore worldbuilding kept separate from the main plot, everyone would be satisfied.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri May 03, 2013 12:54 pm

Hunt's one of the best writers in webcomics, though, so you gotta give him the benefit of the doubt.

As for walls of text in comics, when I see 'em, I think, "Dude, if I wanted to read a novel, I'd be reading a fucking novel." Someone who can tell a story with pictures is gonna impress me a hell of a lot more than some "wordsmith" who thinks putting a guy's head next to a paragraph counts as "visual storytelling."
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby JSConner800 on Fri May 03, 2013 6:59 pm

LibertyCabbage wrote:Hunt's one of the best writers in webcomics, though, so you gotta give him the benefit of the doubt.

As for walls of text in comics, when I see 'em, I think, "Dude, if I wanted to read a novel, I'd be reading a fucking novel." Someone who can tell a story with pictures is gonna impress me a hell of a lot more than some "wordsmith" who thinks putting a guy's head next to a paragraph counts as "visual storytelling."


And that's why I was a bit hesitant to make a blind criticism like that, but I just can't imagine the technique working all that well, no matter how good the writing is. I'll have to look up the comic and see for myself, but if it's anything like what Peripheral Descent described, it certainly sounds like something that belongs in a novel and not in a webcomic.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Peripheral Descent on Tue May 07, 2013 6:54 am

JSConner800 wrote:
Now, I haven't read the comic, so I'm only basing my comments off of what you're describing, but don't you think that sidestory about the magic weapon would have been more effective if it had been worked organically into the plot, rather than just stopping everything and devoting a whole comic page to the backstory of some random weapon?


What you're saying is completely logical, and in almost all cases, I would agree with you. There really is no reason to have a giant wall of text like that. However, the magic weapon mentioned was foreshadowed several times to be "something really cool", so when the story did happen, all I could think of was "Right on! I finally get to see what this weapon is all about!"

The story all around this wall of text was very action-packed and fast-paced, so it was a nice surprise to finally get that story. And in all honesty, I don't know WHY it worked, but it did. You'd think it would subtract from the drama and action, but in all honesty, it seemed to intensify it a little. And again, I have no idea why!

However, I do feel like that much text is probably only something that very good story-tellers should attempt. Beginners and intermediate story-tellers should stay away from that kind of comicing as a general rule, because it usually annoys readers. When I see a wall of text, I generally think, "Filler, because the author is too lazy to make a real page". It makes me a little less satisfied with the story. :\
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby JSConner800 on Thu May 09, 2013 10:50 pm

Peripheral Descent wrote:What you're saying is completely logical, and in almost all cases, I would agree with you. There really is no reason to have a giant wall of text like that. However, the magic weapon mentioned was foreshadowed several times to be "something really cool", so when the story did happen, all I could think of was "Right on! I finally get to see what this weapon is all about!"

The story all around this wall of text was very action-packed and fast-paced, so it was a nice surprise to finally get that story. And in all honesty, I don't know WHY it worked, but it did. You'd think it would subtract from the drama and action, but in all honesty, it seemed to intensify it a little. And again, I have no idea why!

However, I do feel like that much text is probably only something that very good story-tellers should attempt. Beginners and intermediate story-tellers should stay away from that kind of comicing as a general rule, because it usually annoys readers. When I see a wall of text, I generally think, "Filler, because the author is too lazy to make a real page". It makes me a little less satisfied with the story. :\


Well, now you've got my curiosity all piqued. As soon as I'm done with my final papers for this semester, I'll check it out. I'd like to see how he manages to get away with it. I'm a prose writer first and a comic writer second, so I have to fight with myself every other page to keep the dialogue from getting out of control, and if there are writers out there who can just drop a whole page of text and make it work, maybe I won't feel so bad if I get a little wordy.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby McDuffies on Fri May 10, 2013 3:58 am

There's a lot of reasons why one might employ walls of text.

I think that repeating mantra "comics are a visual medium" leads people to try to minimize amount of text at every turn, which, I think, is not good.
I think that, instead of dutifully thinking "can this be told through pictures instead of image", author should find his own balance of image/text which would depend on what kind of rhythm, mood, general reading experience he wants for his comic.

Who says that a lot of text needs to be boring? Perhaps it's a very interesting text? Perhaps it's particularly well-written?
I don't think it's fair to expect a comic to avoid larger bulks of text. Maybe in an action comic, but not all comics are action comics. Comics are an equal marriage of visual and verbal, that is their nature. To paraphrase LC, If I didn't want to read, I'd watch a fucking movie.

Perhaps it's better for the rhythm of the story to spend one page narrating something through text, than five pages narrating the same through pictures?
I have a confession to make: I have flashbacks. This probably goes back to early webcomics when comics like RPG world would let flashbacks hijack their comic and effectively freeze the story for which we came to the comic for years and years. Flashback means telling the story whole ending everybody already knows. And there are very few examples when flashbacks actually managed to illuminate a character better or tell something we couldn't have guessed ourselves. So when we're talking about things that can be replaced with verbal explanation, flashbacks are always my first candidate.

Conventional wisdom today says that a comic should be brisk, easily digestible, fast paced. I don't think that's neccessarily true. I think that we've come to expect entertainment to instantly gratify us, but we remember when it was allowed that it be slow-moving, demanding, meandering. Hollywood movies and DC and marvel comics want to bombard us with images to distract us from how little substance they have. There is no reason an independent comic with ostensible quality behind it should do that.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby LibertyCabbage on Fri May 10, 2013 11:03 am

It's a bold move. Basically, walls of text are saying, "I'm confident enough in my writing abilities to throw off the visual-verbal balance." If the creator's a really good writer, then, sure, they can probably pull it off. If they're just an "okay" writer, then this approach will probably come off as boring and tedious. And if they're a bad writer, it's gonna end up just being embarrassing.

McDuffies wrote:Perhaps it's better for the rhythm of the story to spend one page narrating something through text, than five pages narrating the same through pictures?
The test is, is the text interesting and actually important to the story? Because it's easy for some people to go on and on and on about shit nobody cares about. Cue Monty Python: GET ON WITH IT!!!
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby McDuffies on Fri May 10, 2013 1:34 pm

LibertyCabbage wrote:It's a bold move. Basically, walls of text are saying, "I'm confident enough in my writing abilities to throw off the visual-verbal balance." If the creator's a really good writer, then, sure, they can probably pull it off. If they're just an "okay" writer, then this approach will probably come off as boring and tedious. And if they're a bad writer, it's gonna end up just being embarrassing.

McDuffies wrote:Perhaps it's better for the rhythm of the story to spend one page narrating something through text, than five pages narrating the same through pictures?
The test is, is the text interesting and actually important to the story? Because it's easy for some people to go on and on and on about shit nobody cares about. Cue Monty Python: GET ON WITH IT!!!

Yeah, granted, most of examples I can think of are awful, as in, it's obvious that walls of text are due to author not realizing that those might be troubling, or otherwise giving more importance to his words than they actually have. For good examples I always think of Hugo Pratt's lengthy narration of historical events, or, in reight of webcomics, Subnormality, those examples really make you think, what is it that makes the same think that's awful in other comics, so appropriate here?
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby JSConner800 on Mon May 20, 2013 12:32 pm

Now that I've gotten a chance to take a look at Goblins, I can see how that technique might fit better within that comic than with most others. From what I read, it seemed to be all about RPG and video game tropes, and if that's the tone he's going for from the very beginning, it wouldn't be hugely out of place to have a big all-text description for an item that a character picks up, much like you'd get in an RPG or video game. I couldn't find the exact point PD was talking about, but I can see how he could make it work. I still wouldn't recommend it for most comics, though.

Personally, I'm a fan of Alan Moore's approach to including prose in his comics. These bits are separate, at the end of an issue, and somewhat optional, although they provide even more depth to his worlds and characters. I plan on doing something similar, since I have about two years' worth of script already done for my comic, but I'll be putting my prose pieces in a separate archive on our website rather than including them as comic pages. I don't know if people will actually read them that way, but it's the best solution I can think of at the moment.
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