Monday, March 8, 2010

Technique Files: Creating a comic/webcomic

Part 5: Finding the right visual balance while telling your story

Matt (the writer) and I (the artist) learned the hard way that it’s not always easy to agree on how much dialog and descriptive writing to use in a comic. When all else fails it helps to remember a simple rule for graphic-based stories – show, don’t tell. (This is also true for writing, by the way.)

However, depending on the sort of graphic story you’re planning to tell this can mean very different things. In shojo manga the emotion of the story is very important. Each page frequently has less words with more (and larger) images to better capture the emotionality of the moment.

Other styles of comics, like most superhero comics, have much more exposition and dialog per page. They will also have more panels per page with art that is relatively small.

In our web story, we used a hybrid form of shojo story-telling. This was a compromise that Matt and I made when we couldn’t agree on what style of story to tell. Shojo – with its larger images and more leisurely storytelling style? Or more western superhero – smaller panels/artwork, more exposition/dialog, and a faster storyline? It was a tough call that eventually led to our compromise, which, unfortunately, neither of us could ever completely get behind. So when working in collaboration, even with someone you work with very well, remember that compromises will sometimes need to be made.

Despite our disagreement over style, Matt and I did have an important storytelling rule that I'd like to share. One of the ways we checked how well our story was progressing was by making sure to change the scene or introduce a new element every sixth page. That way readers wouldn’t feel like they were stuck in the same room with the same people for too long and get bored. This rule wasn’t always easy to follow but we felt it was really important. 

Next up: Creating characters.

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