I started this blog because resources about storytelling AND comics seemed to be a rarity. True, a good story ( i.e. a story told in a good way, not necessarily of good quality ) should be easy to adapt no matter what the medium is, but in my honest opinion comics are Column B with a bit of Column A and a bit of Column C. A being novels/short stories and C being movies/TV shows.
It shares traits from both of those mediums. However executing it is give or take. Too much of one thing in a comic can ruin it. Whether it be exposition, back stories, introducing characters, or two-page spreads. The same goes for too little. Historically comics are short. 16, 22, 24, or 32 pages an issue or chapter. There's a lot of room, yet at the same time not enough. The idea of going into a project without a plan in place is ludicrous.
One doesn't go on a trip to someplace they've never been to by simply hopping in the car and taking off. They need a route, a map, GPS... they need a cheat sheet. So this past year I've been retooling all my cheat sheets to help me on the route to making the comics I always wanted too. Unfortunately it was all on the writing side, not the drawing side ( sigh )
So while I'm getting my drawing in order here's the writing guides I created.
Characters and Personalities
I posted this before, but this is the beefed up version. It includes not only the 5 Basic Personalities, but their opposites which are also Personalities. I also added in suggested roles for Protagonists, Antagonists, and Side-characters. With handy chart I can draw a character, list their personality from this chart, and use this chart when writing their dialogue and actions.
It keeps them all in one place, and this hardly covers the wide range of characters one can create. But for what I'm working on it's more than enough.
After doing some Page-a-Day exercises I wanted to find an easier way to construct not only comic book panels, but the pages themselves. This was simply a list of composition resources I found, copied, and put together so I have it on hand. Because I'm old and remembering stuff is hard.
How I use it is also fun. Say I'm starting with a blank page. I just simply compose a composition from the list, usually the Golden Ratio, on the entire page. Then go from there. I use the spiral to help direct word balloons and the division to create panels. No matter which is chosen, they all work. Even if you're art is shit, if the composition is fundamentally there the page will be ascetically pleasing.
Good composition along with good inking techniques and color theory can make up for shitty anatomy-- trust me, I follow comics that look like they were drawn by a kid, but look composed, inked, and colored by master. And of course good writing solves all those artistic mistakes anyways.
Joseph Campbell's Monomyth
This is basically a rip off the wikipedia article on the subject, but I don't have a computer at my drawing table. So I copied it and have it there to come up with story ideas. I also kicked myself in the head for putting off reading about the Monomyth until just last June. Afterwards I realized all my favorite stories followed this formula to the letter.
The Last Star Figher, Clash of the Titans ( the 80s one ), and of course Star Wars. In fact when one studies this in detail it's pretty obvious how much Star Wars' story was based off of this. Made me think Lucas actually is a shitty writer, but hey, he's a fucking a billionare and I'm a Level 30 Wizard of a NEET with not much of future except this throat pain I suddenly got. ( PLEASE BE CANCER )
Master Story Structure
This is like the old 22 page structure I posted earlier, and the original 24 page structure. Only those had the Acts divided equally. For some reason I decided to off-set the page ratio on the Acts. Each issue or One-shot still needs at least 3 Acts. In this version Act 1 and Act 2 are reduced for one important reason. Act 3 is what's selling the story. It needs the extra page.
I got the idea after reading some old Deathlok comics I had-- to my surprise McDuffy was one of the writers, no surprise that shit was good. It was one of my favorite titles until it was no longer on the rack. I broke those comics into scenes, along with some other C-list comics from that era-- they had this kind of structure. Short intros, medium size middles, and huge endings.
I didn't know how important it was until I wrote a comic that was 80% exposition and 20% stuff happens. Key to a good story is to have stuff happen. Escalate the risks, give the reader a huge payoff. For heavens sake don't rush the Climax, that's why people are reading it in the first place.
Sitcom Story Structure
This was an after thought because not all comics are action, yet they share the same structure. This one is focused on more real life situations, challenges, and things people can relate too with the added bonus of humor. I got the idea from watching old sitcoms. Mainly Boy Meets World and Married With Children. Two different shows, yet they both share the basic 3 act formula.
It was also easy to make since Comic Books are traditional 22 pages in the west and Sitcoms are 22 minutes long. Breaking down the scenes was cinch, a minute of a TV show equals one comic book page.
I was going to make something with this, but I forgot what is was. Oh yeah, it was going to be a SJW parody... I ain't touching that shit after the stories I heard.
Erotic Story Structure
I'll admit, I love my porn comics. And yes, they all follow a simple structure. It's like the Sitcom Structure, only it has the wonderful addition of porn. I like the ones that tell a little story that incorporate the sex into it. Those are far more clever then seeing the two characters on the Splash Page and then they go through motions.
I don't think people can fap to my artwork even though I draw porn to get better at drawing, but who knows. Maybe I'll use this, maybe I won't, or perhaps one of you will. And if you do please send me a link so I can *ahem* take it for a ride.
Work in Progress, 16 page structure
This is the one I'm currently working on. I've got all these structures for complex stories, but I wanted to do something simple. The idea came from two sources. 1) Looney Toons and 2) the concept of making a 16 page comic in one day.
I know it sounds challenging, but I took the idea seriously. The thing is if one does a story like a Looney Toon short it could be possible. I'm not talking about the art, but the story. Those stories were simple with simple characters. Going over my notes I came to the conclusion that this is the simplist story one can make because it uses all the shortcuts that are availible and does them well. So I'll go over what I've compiled so far.
CharactersThere's always at least 2 characters. A Protagonist and Antagonist and they're either rivals or driven by their own personal goals which is limited to one apiece. For instance in the Roadrunner cartoons the Coyote just wants to eat the RR, the RR just wants to run roads. That's it. The rest of the story is created from that simple premise and the scenes are all set-pieces. That doesn't mean they can't be creative. Most of those old Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons had callback jokes to the first gag.
Popeye and Bluto are rivals for Olive. Tom and Jerry, Tom wants to catch Jerry and Jerry wants food. Foghorn Leghorn is more nuetral, basically him and the dog just compete for farm supremacy, but Foghorn becomes the Antagonist with Pursy and the Chicken Hawk episodes. A rule of thumb, the Antagonist is the one who gets their shit pushed in.
Scenes, Set-Pieces, and GagsThese are based off the characters and setting a writer wants to go with. Like a construction zone. It was a popular storyline Bugs encountered where his home was threatened by development. The setting plays a huge role and can be varied by certain jobs, areas, and other pieces of public domain fiction ( Robin Hood episodes, Grimm Tales, etc ) The idea is to keep it simple, and this is as simple as one can get.
If the idea is stuck in one setting, have a 3rd party introduced. Back to Coyote and Roadrunner, the Coyote can't just fall off the cliff or run into cactus's all the time. Here comes the ACME catalog, now they got enough material to run the premise into the ground.
Same goes for Foghorn, how many gags can just him and the dog do alone?-- here's Pursy who wants a man and the Chicken Hawk who eats chickens. Both of them are tools Foghorn and the Dog both use against each other.
Working BackwardsThis is the key to writing these stories fast. Say I got 2 characters, now I choose a setting. Maybe I hit up a generator to see if anything comes to mind. It should be the first one I can think of a gag for. When that happens that's going to be my Climax gag. Now I'll need to write 3 or 4 more scenes building up to that final Climax, but when I do that I might make a bigger gag than my original one. That new one is now the Climax.
The key to making these entertaining is to escalate the gags. The final Climax should be the biggest most ridiculous. The first gag should be the most mundane of the bunch. It builds up tension, it makes the reader turn the page, it makes it exciting.
How do I know a setting or story isn't good? If I can't come up with 3 or 4 more gags it's a dead end. Save it for later and try another setting, maybe different characters.The one I'll pick is the one that gives me all the gags I need to write a story. This is the best way to get use to creating stories by starting with the simpliest of them all.
And on side note I always end up a gag or two short-- but still, brainstorming is writing. It isn't writers block or procrastination. I'm on the side that believes those are excuses people use when they won't admit their shortcomings. Oh boy, do I have shortcomings. Trust me, I'm the first person to say I suck and I'm not ashamed of that. I'm my worst critic.
In PracticeAfter doing this I found myself using the same method for my other structures. Think of a setting and a climax then work backwards, if I can build up scenes that escalate to the climax then I got a story. If I can't, it's not a good idea and I quickly move on to another climax. Sometimes our initial intentions aren't that good. We got to let them go and explore other ideas quickly and consistently.
Of course it's possible to stretch out some scenes and make those initial ideas work, but I hate it when movies and TV shows do it. And I really hate it when comics do it. The idea behind doing really simple stories is to get comfortable writing a bunch of simple stories before moving on to more complex ones. Just like an artist has to get comfortable with basic shapes and gestures before tackling all the realistic detail.
So that's about it, probably my last post of the year unless I do flesh out that structure. In the mean time I got loads of drawing ahead of me along with a new Age Height Chart I'm making to accommodate the way my style as been evolving.
But hey, like I mentioned before on this blog we are in the new Golden Age of comics. Or at least we should be. And if what I collected and jotted down can help others then that's good enough for me. This truly is the best time to be a comic book creator with the internet, Partreon, and printing prices dropping.
It just takes time, knowledge, and passion. The key to all of this is passion.