Writing Webcomic Concepts – Making Webcomics Part I
I’ve been giving talks about webcomics several times at the BarCamp Rhein-Main during the last years. I thought it might be a good idea to it down in a series of blog posts. In this first installment we’ll be looking at what to think about when writing webcomic concepts.
Writing Webcomic Concepts: It’s all about the Story
If you want to create a comic one thing you need to be aware of is that it’s just another way of storytelling. It’s a narrative by nature. So there will be some dramaturgy involved – you will need characters and conflict (for if you’ve got no conflict, then there is story).
Absolutely everything you do for the comic has to be subservient to storytelling. Creating a comic is not a drawing exercise. Of course you will have to draw a lot (if it’s not a photo comic you’re creating), but it’s not drawing for the sake of drawing. The drawings are only there to tell a story.
The next thing you might want to think about is your audience. How old are they? In which situations do they live? Which problems do they face? What troubles them? When writing webcomic concepts, having a clear image of your audience in mind is vital. It’s a part of the briefing you give yourself.
If you take a look at my webcomic devabo.de it’s practically nerd bait – the intended audience consists of office workers especially in the field of software development and information technology services.
The next point in writing webcomic concepts is to decide on the genre. What keeps you fascinated and productive over months or years? Can you do science fiction over a decade? Or will it bore you within a month? The best method to test this is by actually doing a bunch of strips or pages. After that ask yourself if your enthusiasm has dwindled. If your enthusiasm drops after the first few attempts don’t bother going down that road or try to force yourself into it: You have to have fun with your work – or else how can you expect the audience to have fun with your work?
Still, motivation is volatile. So even if you picked a genre with which you are perfectly happy, there will be times when you’re not so enthusiastic about creating the next update or page. Try to implement an “inverse Taleb”:
Naseem Taleb, the author of “The Black Swan”, describes in this book how he, as an investment banker, tried a tactic which would be profitable when extremely rare but drastic losses occur. The downside of this tactic was that he suffered small losses on a regular basis, which had a very negative influence on his psyche.
The inverse version would be to set up a workflow that guarantees small rewards for yourself on a regular basis. For example publish small updates in short temporal cycles, which would give you some feedback from your target group and hopefully boost your morale.
Continuous story or one-off strips?
Do you want to present the comic in single “closed” strips or as a continuous story over the course of many, many updates. If you’re going for the strip approach you will almost automatically have to invest a bit more effort in the development of your characters upfront.
How often can you deliver?
Life situations are different. You might have a lot more time if you are still studying or if you’re in school so that might not appear like a problem. However if you are, like me, having a full-time day job, it is much more difficult to find the time to work on a comic. Factor that into your workflow when writing webcomic concepts.
Frankly I haven’t solved the problem yet. If you look at the established web comics, you will see that most of them settle for a mix of donations, advertising and selling printed volumes or e-book versions of comic.
Thanks for reading! This was the first in a series of five blog posts about creation of comics. Check back for the next one!