Friday, July 1, 2011

Trimming the Fat on your Ideas

If you've followed this blog, you'd know I've had problems on the creative side. Making characters and stories which are the backbone to every comic. After fits of inspiration and depression these past couple months I think I'm beginning to understand how to deal with this problem.

To begin, my biggest problem is I end up blowing everything I come up with out of proportion. I'll take a simple idea like one I had last year about robots going crazy. A generic Sci-Fi plot, so generic I thought it would be easy to do. That wasn't the case. I questioned every little thing in that story. I proceeded to create a complex world complete with economics, ranks, titles, and corporate names. I was never satisfied and it never got it done. And that wasn't the first time.

I had another Sci-Fi idea that that suffered the same over planning. The same went for two fantasy ideas I had. None of these were great works of literature, but for some reason I never got out the planning the stage. I was under the illusion that the more I worked on each ideas individual universe, the better it would be. In the end I wasted precious time and the result left what I was working on feel condescending.

Maybe I got some bad advice at some point about Sci-Fi and Fantasy being hard. That in order for either of those to be successful you need better planning that goes beyond Protagonist, Antagonist, and Setting. The truth is I don't believe that to be the case at all. People aren't stupid, they can identify a Sci-Fi and Fantasy setting by themselves. The don't need a history of that world to understand a simple story, and the creator shouldn't have to go out of their way to explain every little detail.

In other words, the reader will have their own imagination and its up to the creator to decide what to leave up to interpretation.

Nothing is ever truly perfect, and sometimes the creator has to take a leap of faith that reader will make sense of the fantastic world they're being exposed to. What got me to this conclusion was He-Man. Its been on Netflix Instant and I decided to take a Doctor Who break and watch a few. Sure its cheesy, but the premise of it is so basic its genius.

The audience is made aware of whats going on the intro. Prince Adam tells the audience about his secret powers and the goal he is charged with. Protect the secrets of Greyskull from the evil forces of Skeletor. With that out the way we're lead to that episodes adventure, most of which deal with Sketetor having some plan to get into Greyskull. Add in a moral to the story and there you have it. They made 65 episodes of He-Man and they can all be watched out of order. No major plot. No overarching story. No real conclusion. In the end this is what comic books is to me.

In this day in age it seems the bar has been raised thanks to the rise in Manga. Most Manga's have overarching stories, long plot lines, and at some point a huge conclusion. In a way this makes me feel old. When I read my old comic books, huge stories were at most 12 issues. G.I. Joe ( one of my favorites ) would have small series throughout its run, but for most of it stories and adventures were limited to one issue. All dealing with Cobra trying to take over the world.

Deep down inside I guess we all want to make fantastic worlds with over arching stories, long plotlines, and end it off with a thundering conclusion. That really isn't the case. These past few months I've been sticking to Protagonist, Antagonist, and Setting. I've seen myself loose track of that simple concept, and even this week I wandered away from it. Even though I take a deep breath and just go back to those 3 simple concepts.

I've also found deadlines have impacted my decision making as well. Manga-Apps is having a summer contest I just learned about last week. I only have a month and half to make a 20-30 page comic book ( I'll be 24 pages because I'm a pagination whore ) but this deadline has made me better plan out the comic book I want to make. I'm confident enough with my skill that I know I can do 2 full pages a day which gives me more time on the creative side.

Even with that much time on my side, I've been able to catch myself when I've strayed too far away from the basics. Protagonist, Antagonist, and Setting. So far my idea has changed 5 times this week and is nothing like it was on Monday. Part of what's been helping me with that is not assuming the audience is stupid. By eliminating back-stories, using generic names for things, and making things look similar to other things I'm confident the audience can understand everything whats going on by themselves.

I guess I have to thank that Green Lantern movie. It tried so hard to explain everything going on it was boring. It was like I was watching something I would have written, and actually had, just a few months ago. I believe that movie would have been better if they threw all explanation out the window. I'm not even a big Green Lantern fan, but even I found it condescending at times.

When I do find myself wandering and making things more complex than they need to be, I'll just watch some He-Man, hell maybe even some Power Rangers. Say what want about those two properties, but they were successful despite the lack of quality they contained. And if you're a Comicker and got nothing to do this summer, check out Manga-Apps contests and see if it's something you might want to do. Hell you might come up with the next big thing by accident. Even you don't, at least you'll learn something along the way.

Happy Comicking everybody and good luck.

2 comments:

  1. I actually find you can get a balance in Big World and Simple Story - remember the story is a lens.

    See in your head, notes, wikis, pictures, obsessions, etc. there may indeed be a big world with ALL sorts of plots running around. But your story itself is a lens through which the world is seen, and thus it may be simpler.

    This is something that you see in a lot of truly memorable work because you feel you're seeing into a setting. Look at Harry Potter, or Star Wars (even with complaints about continuity). There's that sense of seeing through the lens.

    The right balance makes something memorable. Lord of the Rings has many lenses, but seeing it through the eyes of Frodo and Sam is quite interesting and human.

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  2. That's great advice,

    I guess the problem I always ran into was forgetting about the lens altogether. Seeing something with a big lens ( Green Lantern )made me realize that.

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