5 More Reasons to Develop Your Comic Before Drawing Your First Panel

Yakobusan Jakob Montrasio
Photo by Yakobusan Jakob Montrasio

We talked about 5 reasons to develop your comic before drawing that focused mostly on your characters and your setting. This time we’ll be covering reasons that involve productivity and increasing your odd of continuing the project over a long period of time.

6. Get a Sense of Scale

Believe it or not, it actually does speed up the overall process. Let me put it this way. I come from an animation and digital media background. If someone comes to me and wants a price estimate for an animated short; I have to ask them “What about?” You’d be surprised with the number of people who can’t answer that question.

The reason behind asking is to get a sense of the amount of work involved. I need to have an idea of how many backgrounds and characters that I’ll need to design, rig, and animated. The platform matters a great deal too. Will the short be done in Flash, Max, Maya, or does he want it done by hand. This changes the time frame of the project by a great deal.

The same can be said for comic making. Are you doing dailies? How complex or detailed are you going to make the art? Do you want it in colour? Are you doing it by hand or digitally? Are you going it alone or are you teaming up with a group?

Answering these questions upfront will give you an idea of just big the project is going to be. You can plan around your answers, or set up a practice time frame to see if your publication estimate is actually possible.

7. Know the Story in Advanced

Some people hate this part on account that it ruins the spontaneity of the story. I hear ya! As someone who enjoys being told a good story about as much as I enjoy telling them, I can tell you that there is a way to still maintain the surprise and the sense of wonder while knowing the story plot points in advance.

When you outline your story, you have to figure out how to get your characters from point A to point B. What happens if you don’t plan ahead in some form, is you’ll write yourself into a corner or start generating some inconsistencies somewhere in the middle as you start getting more cool ideas to incorporate into the story.

All you have to do is figure out your main plot points and don’t deviate from those. Everything else in between is free to be created on the spur of the moment. I know people who plan their full stories and others who plan a chapter at a time.

While I do have plans to create a series, I plan a book at a time, and establish a plot point for each book that comes after the one that I’m currently working on.

8. Avoid Re-designs and Re-writes

I often get stuck in the soggy middle. Often when I get a new idea I have this need to redo my previous work in an effort to make it all consistent. Sadly by the time I’ve reached the middle portion again, I’ve had a better idea and I have to repeat the cycle all over again.

These changes can be as simple as changing a character’s hair colour to changing a pivotal plot point because you have no idea where you’re story is going. Not planning ahead has the effect of making your character seem like they’re just wandering around.

I once had a character who used to use a short sword and pistol in combination. When I decided that it looked too much like something that I had seen somewhere I changed her weapon to a long sword. Eventually that got changed to just raw magic but that made her too dependent on others and given that she had a habit of calling them ‘meat shields’ she soon ran out of volunteers.

You can imagine the amount of redesigns that single character has gone through just to accommodate that single change.

On the positive side, change in a character can represent growth in terms of skill and maturity. It also gives your comic the opportunity to refresh its look; just shy away from doing this too often.

9. Confront Issues Before They Arise

You’re not going to avoid all problems, but you should be able to address a lot of major ones. This applies mostly to writing yourself into a corner; in theory you will have already come up with a solution.

Problems I often face at this point are poorly thought out rules for my setting. I often have to re-think why things work the way that do and try to apply it to my story. For example I have a group of skilled demon hunters. Until a couple of weeks ago I never asked why they were so good. At first it had been that one of the leads had been hunting with her father from an early age so had a bit of an advantage over her peers. But honestly is that enough? I had applied some good old common sense there. I was a skilled artist back in high-school, but did that make me better than a skilled professional? Simple answer: “HELL NO!”

So I had to come up with a rational reason why my trio were as good as they were, when other professional hunters were still struggling. This had two effects. The first it made the threat much more serious; two it made my trio that much more believable.

10. Reduce Your Odds of Quitting

These days we do what we do for instant gratification. Web comic making is a long journey which may not ever yield to the rewards that we desire. As story tellers we feel compelled to tell our stories to the end. In reality, it’s not uncommon for us to quit part way through a story because we don’t know what happens next. We call this writers block.

If you’ve spent some time generating your plot points, you’ll know exactly where you’re going.

The planning phase of the comic can be as long or as short as you need it to be. For some people they need full character profiles, story arcs and designs, comprehensive environment and setting rules, full scripts with each panel in explicit detail, etc. While others just need a rough doodle and a handful of notes.

Either way, spending some time on in the planning phase of the comic will help you creation something that appears polished and worth reading.

About the Author:

Amber Dalcourt is the lead design and digital media consultant for Evil Ink. Starting projects has never been a problem. Finishing them on the other hand...

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