Jan 06 2009

Five Common Mistakes of Comic Book Writers (#1-5)

1.  The story fails to hook readers in the first three pages.
The easiest way to do this is to show a likable character facing a serious problem.  It doesn’t have to be a life-and-death threat, but that helps.  Another method is to establish that the writing style is particularly compelling.

2. The plot lacks urgency.

A character walking from his door to his car is not very interesting. Running to his car to make it to work on time is better. Running to his car to avoid gunshots? Even better. To make the plot more urgent, I recommend making giving the characters goals that are time-sensitive and high-stakes. If John doesn’t make it to work in ten minutes, he will be fired. If Captain Carnage can’t find and defuse the bomb in ten minutes, the building will explode. Etc.  The goal doesn’t have to be life or death, but it helps.

3.  The writers rely too much on exposition (particularly narration and dialogue) to tell the story.

Try not to tell your audience things that they should be able to see in the picture. For example, check out these two versions of one of our panels.

The first version tells us something that should be obvious:  this bystander is surprised.  Well, of course he’s surprised!  His expression already shows that.  The second version develops the story by adding humor and makes the mood more wacky.

Here are some signs that your story relies too much on text.

  • You use more than 200 words per page.  As a rule of thumb, I wouldn’t recommend any more than 175 unless you have a really good reason.  If your audience is young and/or the series is action-heavy, you might want to set a guideline for yourself.
  • You use big blocks of text, particularly if you use more than one on the same page.  Isn’t there any way to bring that information into action, body language or some other visual?
  • Characters say how they’re feeling, either in exposition or thought-bubbles.  Try using body language and actions instead.

4.  The cast is gratuitously large.

If you’re writing a new series about a team of superheroes, I’d recommend using at most 5 teammates.  You probably won’t have enough time to develop many characters that are completely unknown to the audience.

Having a large cast will also probably complicate your fight scenes and action sequences.  When Green Lantern and Superman are fighting with a villain, what are the other five Justice Leaguers doing?  You’ll probably have to flit around to describe what’s happening.  That could put off some readers, particularly if some heroes are more interesting in battle than the rest.  (I want to see Batman and the Manhunter, not Superman or Wonderwoman).

5.  The series doesn’t have a clear audience.

There has never been a comic that appeals to everyone.  So you need to pick an audience and go for them.  Having an audience in mind will really boost the quality and marketability of your work.  For example, if you’re not sure whether you’re writing for 10-year-olds or 20-year-olds, your dialogue will almost certainly miss the mark.  It’s also extremely difficult to write comedy unless you know who you’re trying to amuse.

Finally, aiming for a particular audience will make it easier to find a publisher.  If you have a narrow, well-aimed audience, your publisher will probably conclude that you are competent and have at least a basic grasp of marketing.  If the work doesn’t have a clear audience, the publisher will probably wonder if this book is going to sell at all.  If the publisher isn’t confident the book will sell, they probably won’t pick up the series.

Here are some possible audience groups to consider.

  • Males vs. females.  This should probably affect the proportion of the series that is devoted to combat rather than dialogue.  (Broadly generalizing, women usually dislike rolling slugfests like Dragonball Z but are usually more excited than men about romantic adventures).  Also, if you’re even thinking about women readers, try to avoid boob-shots and other cheesecake.
  • Pre-teens vs. teens vs. college and above.  Among other things, this will probably affect how much text you use, the sophistication of the comedy and writing, how much of the plot you have to spell out for the readers, the mood of the story and the level of violence/sex/drugs.  Most comic book readers are 16-25;  most superhero cartoon shows are aimed at a much younger audience.
  • Fans of a particular genre (sci-fi, horror, comedy, etc.)   This should affect artistic style, which plot devices are acceptable, origin stories, etc.
  • Fans of a particular show or series.

Did you find this article useful?  If so, please read the other articles in this series.

45 responses so far

45 Responses to “Five Common Mistakes of Comic Book Writers (#1-5)”

  1. Davidon 12 Feb 2009 at 6:49 pm

    In comics, big visuals are important, like explosions and rippling muscles and such.

    What about the small things? Like say you have a really tough character and he’s got a little gold pendant around his neck. Would that add anything to the character or would it get ignored?

    And all such things and such.

  2. Ragged Boyon 12 Feb 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I think some small things are ok. But there is definitely a limit, would you like to draw Captain America’s or Deathstroke’s scales on their costume? Of course not. I think a gold pendant is ok, it’s simple, but I doubt it would add much to the character unless it meant something. Maybe, it reminds him of a time when it was easier or something cheesy like that. Or it’s meant to show that the tough character has a soft spot or robbed a corpse.

  3. Ragged Boyon 12 Feb 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I hope my alternative to #1 works with the introduction of aliens first.

    Fortunately, I think my first six pages are very interesting. They feature:

    -The brief alien introduction

    – Introduction to the setting

    – Introduction to Adrian

    – Adrian’s first daydream

    I think those four things are pretty good for the first few pages. I want he publisher to say “He did really well on those first few pages. Let’s see how he does with an entire issue.”

    I dare say, I think I have a knack for comic writing. But let’s not get our hopes up… that’s how you get crushed.

  4. B. Macon 13 Feb 2009 at 2:39 am

    With the gold pendant example…
    –I’m fairly sure it would get noticed, particularly if gold stands out on his costume. If you’re concerned about whether readers notice, you could have him do something that draws attention to it. For example, show him putting it on, etc.

    — I don’t get what the pendant is supposed to show about his character. So he’s a tough character with a gold pendant. It could show that he has a softer side (if this is like a locket with a picture of his parents inside or something), but that’s not necessarily so. Maybe he just likes bling. Unless you actually do something with the pendant, I don’t think it’s going to show much about the character. However, sometimes an accessory can have a symbolic significance on its own. For example, Beast sometimes wears glasses to help remind readers that he’s a lot smarter than he looks.

    Speaking more generally…
    1. If it’s important, make sure we notice it. For example, you can place it prominently in a panel, mention it in dialogue, etc. But don’t draw our attention to it unless it’s important!

    2. Don’t waste your artist’s time with an accessory unless it matters. (For example, Captain America’s scales are an extravagance non-Marvel writers cannot afford). Generally, I’d say that accessories are a waste unless they show us something about the character.

    3. Accessories may also be useful if they take up empty space that would otherwise look bad, but then I’d recommend keeping them simple. For example, Agent Orange’s head had a lot of dead-space at the top because alligators don’t have hair. The easiest way to fix that is to use a simple accessory like horns.

  5. Jacobon 13 Feb 2009 at 4:17 am

    Umm, big muscles are fine, but you’ve got to make sure you don’t go too far.

  6. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 7:48 am

    I thought up a little sequence that I thought I could use in a later work. I wrote it as a comic script. Obviously, it is better than what I have below, but this is the super-simplified version.

    On the first page there is a hallway with a teen boy running down it, and in the last panel he looks over his shoulder and almost swears.

    On the second page he screeches to a halt and draws a sword, commenting that “I should’a known one of you ugly little freaks would be hassling me sooner or later”. A creature leaps at him.

    On the third page he slashes out with his sword. A few drops of blood splash back on him.

    On the fourth page he kicks the creature off the sword and keeps running.

    It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, but I think it would hook readers. What do you think?

  7. B. Macon 09 Apr 2009 at 8:42 am

    A few thoughts and observations…

    –This could probably be condensed to somewhere between 1-2 pages.

    –I don’t feel really hooked. What’s the character like? He doesn’t have much of a personality yet. I don’t really care about whether he lives or not.

    –I’m not sure whether this is a “modern magic” story (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or a medieval-esque fantasy. I’d recommend fleshing out the setting (particularly the location and era) more. What kind of hallway is it?

  8. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I should just mention that I’m writing it as a manga rather than a comic. Manga tend to have less restriction on page number; I once read one with a seventy page chapter.

    I just put in the key events, there are a few panels between. I was thinking about the beginning and characterization, and I thought I could solve it like this:

    On page five he comes up to a huge, intricate door. Through a short explanation he reveals that he has to seal the Big Bad away to prevent him from releasing any more magical creatures that kill people.

    He goes through and comes to a crossroads on page six . He thinks to himself that “It looks pretty plain to be the edge of the universe”. He hears a voice and turns around.

    Just as he is heading down a road labeled “Langi – God of Evil” on page seven , a young boy runs through the door and grabs him. It’s his brother begging him not to go, because of the possibility that he might die. They have this exchange:

    Page nine:

    Little Bro: “Come home! You don’t need to do this!”

    Big Bro: “Lemme spell this out: yes. I. do.”

    Little Bro: “Well, I’m here now, and you wouldn’t send me back alone. I wouldn’t mind going with you, but it’s really dangerous and you wouldn’t risk it.”

    Page ten:

    BB (thoughts): “Ugh, he’s right. Sneaky little… Wait a sec…”

    BB: “Okay bro, you got me. If I can’t send you back alone, and I can’t take you with me…” (forces LB to sit down) “…you are gonna wait right here until Dad comes to fetch you.”

    I really have to give them some names.

    It’s a modern magic plot. It seems a little medieval or even ancient at first, because the hallway looks old, and it resembles a catacomb. The giveaway for its setting in time is the boy’s clothes. They are slightly reminiscent of old style stuff, but the main features are jeans and a t shirt.

    You know, I could do with a second review forum for this. Could you please set one up for me? Thanks.

  9. B. Macon 09 Apr 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Ok, I’ve set up a second forum for you here, Whovian.

  10. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks!

  11. Chulanceon 10 May 2009 at 9:09 am

    The first 3 pages thing helped. Some of my friends said it was really good and number 2 as well, adding urgency to the plot. I need help. You said keep it to 5 members by episode 5. Well, I have 25 characters. My guys don’t go around wearing costumes and some are parents, uncles, teachers, bullies, minor antagonists, as for battles and action scenes I tend to have more than one villain. For example two people might be fighting the supervillian while the others free hostages.

    This series will probably be for males since it will be violent and action-packed along with some comedy and romance (although I know some girls who like DBZ). And I was thinking of including some manga style porn.

  12. B. Macon 10 May 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Umm, Chulance, that sounds kind of inane.

    –25 characters in 5 episodes will be extremely hard to get aired/published. I’d recommend cutting down your cast of heroes dramatically. The biggest cast I can think of is Heroes, which got up to maybe 12 recurring characters after four seasons of hour-long episodes. Getting to 25 characters after 5 half-hour-long episodes sounds like a really bad idea. Viewers will not be able to keep that many characters separate and you will not have enough time to develop them.

    –If your goal is getting published/aired, I think the porn has to go. Umm, yeah, let’s go with that.

  13. Con-Elon 08 Apr 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Um, hi everyone. This is the first time I’m posting anything. I’ve been surfing the site for days now and am so pleased to have this site. It like I found my family. My online, comic book-loving family. And it’s great!

    But I’m have been struggling with a problem that’s been preventing me from fully materializing my ideas into a reality. Ok so, I can think of a great concept to turn into a superhero story, an ok or totally awesome origin and even deep, rich characters. All of that is no problem for me. What is the problem is that they don’t stay with me long. A few months at the most and than I’ll start to not like the idea or think it could be better and I’ll ultimately scrap the idea in favor of starting over with a new idea. And the process will begin again. I’m to the verge of frustrated tears. I HAVE great ideas but I can’t seem to finalize them. Can anyone give me any advice that might help me focus and stick with my ideas?

  14. Beccaon 08 Apr 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Hey Con-El. I’d recommend writing really fast. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – in November, you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days) could help you get your ideas down and finalized before you start to lose interest. If you can get your first draft down on paper quickly, chances are your interest and your excitement will stick around.

  15. B. Macon 08 Apr 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Hello, Con-El! I have a few ideas…

    –As Becca noted, keeping at the writing might be effective. A rolling stone gathers no moss… sticking with the writing might cause you to fix what you don’t like rather than give up on the project altogether.

    –If you are substantially unhappy with where the story is headed, perhaps you could try twisting the story rather than throwing away everything. For example, I sort of liked the world I came up with for Superhero Nation, but I didn’t like the original protagonist I had, so I switched protagonists and was able to salvage a lot of my work.

    –Have you seen our articles on writer’s block? I think those might be helpful.

    –It sounds like your standards might be a bit too high for the first draft. It’s great if you can churn out awesome origins and deep, rich characters and great concepts, but on the first draft that will probably be the exception rather than the rule. Don’t get bummed out because it’s not turning out awesome enough on the first go. (If you’ve seen the first draft I’m working on, you know it’s darn bland, but it’s sort of like a scaffolding I’m building on). I’d recommend finishing the first draft and making the magic happen when you rewrite it.

    –Don’t cry! Writing should be mostly enjoyable, I think. I mean, we’re definitely not doing it for the money, right? 😉

  16. bretton 09 Apr 2010 at 3:54 am

    I understand where you’re coming from Con-el, but similar to what b.mac and becca said above, you just have to ‘write through it’ Sure, the first few chapters might not be ideal, but you’ll find your footing before the first draft is through!

  17. Con-Elon 09 Apr 2010 at 6:54 am

    Ok cool, thanks guys. I’ll look into the writer’s block article as well. Anyway I’m trying to work through my apprehensions so hopefully I can get something this time. Wish me luck! And I wish you guys luck with all your endeavors as well. Thanks again.

  18. Rileyon 07 Jul 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Hello, in my story, I have 4 male heroes and a villain. Do you think it would be better if I threw a female character in whether it be as a hero or as a main side character or would it be fine if I didn’t have one? This doesn’t mean I won’t have any female characters like family and love intrests, I’m just wondering if I should have one in the main cast I will focus on.

  19. B. Macon 07 Jul 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I’d recommend doing whatever you feel comfortable with. I suspect the audience for this sort of work will be overwhelmingly male whether there are female teammates/tagalongs or not. (See, for example, SHIELD comics with Maria Hill* as the Director, Avengers comics with Spiderwoman and Maria Hill, Power Rangers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc).

    *And, tangentially, the most awesome Chicagoan in comics! Admittedly, it’s a damn short list. I was, ahem, not amused when Tony Stark makes her get him a coffee in Civil War #7. Attempting such shenanigans on a real Chicagoette is likely to end badly… if you’re lucky, she’ll bury you dead rather than alive.

  20. Rileyon 08 Jul 2010 at 4:54 am

    Thanks! I was worried that sales wouldn’t be as great because of no female, but your answer helped. Thanks again!

  21. Leighon 31 Aug 2010 at 9:04 am

    The generalization that women prefer less fight scenes drives me crazy. Especially since it’s usually true! I don’t understand my gender. If it hasn’t got a fight scene it’ll be less interesting.

  22. Leighon 31 Aug 2010 at 9:07 am

    Riley, I would include a female because there are plenty of females who love this stuff and we get tired of our gender just being a love interest or family. I’m more likely to read something if it has a strong female character.

  23. Guardian7on 12 Sep 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I found this article VERY interesting.
    PARTICULARLY…

    No. 5 – The series doesn’t have a clear audience.

    I am likely shooting for more of a Old School than New School one.
    If some of the younger people like it. Hey! The more the merrier!
    But I know for a fact I want it to appeal to fans of the older type stories (As mine take place during WWII).
    I am not certain I can actually capture the old school flair (As my art style is totally different from that style)… But I can definitely hit the atmosphere of the times (I have so much source material on WWII and image resources of nearly every aspect of the war, including what was going on stateside). I truly believe I can capture that more naive time that I love endlessly.

    I am finding this site not just helpful… but massively encouraging.

    Thank you.

    G7

  24. B. Macon 12 Sep 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve been encouraged.

    I feel like WWII will probably be an easier sell than most other historical periods, but there have been so many WWII stories that I think it’ll be really important to distinguish yourself somehow. (E.g. fresh character personalities and voices, scene selection, maybe a genre besides action, etc).

  25. Guardian7on 12 Sep 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Hopefully that will be the case.
    But I love my action and showing Perez style destruction going on… so hopefully I will be able to map exciting mundane with the utterly fantastic.

    Still a work in progress. But I am concrete in my resolution to do it… of course doing it right might help! (That’s where you have been massively helpful to this imaginative artist).

    Again. Thanks!

    G7

  26. Freshon 30 May 2011 at 3:07 pm

    What would be the urgency in a realistic superhero story. Think Heroes, but somewhat different

    In my story it’s people who’ve been fucked over who get powers, people who “Deserve” powers. For example people framed for crimes, or people who’ve been ripped off ect people like that.

    What would be the urgency in a plot with Ex Cons, and people receiving powers, and trying to rebuild their lives aside from trying to get their powers together, aside from Law Enforcement going after them? Any suggestions for urgency?

  27. Anonymouson 24 Mar 2012 at 8:48 am

    Hey- just gonna leave this here….

    [deleted link–no hit-and-run advertising on SN]

  28. B. McKenzieon 24 Mar 2012 at 9:54 am

    Anonymous, I’m guessing you’re a spambot and not a person, but if you are a person, I would recommend putting more care into your advertising.

    1) Give readers a reason to go to your link, preferably because it builds on something the article or a commenter said. For example, if you give a sentence or two about the article, that’ll let prospective readers know if they’d be interested.

    2) Give us a taste of what you have to say. “Just gonna leave this here” is not an effective way to sell your writing. I’d recommend covering your thesis or a teaser or something. E.g. instead of me saying “Just gonna leave this here,” it’d be more effective for me to say something like “Could I recommend looking at this post on effective online marketing? It’ll help you increase the likelihood that readers will click on your links and decrease the chance that moderators flag your links as spam.”

    3) For God’s sake, get a name, preferably something that sounds human. (For security reasons, I’d recommend against using your given name, but if you’ve read this far, you’re intelligent enough to come up with a pseudonym).

  29. Nayanon 15 Oct 2012 at 4:08 am

    @B. Mac.

    Can you name some comic book publishing companies which accept comic scripts without artwork? I think ‘Dark horse’ is one.

  30. B. McKenzieon 15 Oct 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Dark Horse, yes. I’ll let you know if I think of any others.

  31. Nayanon 16 Oct 2012 at 4:23 am

    @B. Mac.

    Another question. If my story for a comic book takes about 50-60 pages to complete, should I submit it as a whole or by dividing the story into issues?

  32. Dragondevilon 16 Oct 2012 at 8:04 am

    I have this question too…If my story is long;should I make it as a graphic novel or should I divide it into comic book issues?
    Would it affect the sales in anyway?(If at all I get published)

  33. B. McKenzieon 16 Oct 2012 at 11:07 am

    If you can cut it down to ~44-48 pages, you can do it as two issues pretty easily. Alternately, you might propose three issues at a total of something like 66-72 pages. I would lean against doing it as a single issue, unless perhaps you’re self-publishing a graphic novel. I’m not very familiar with the graphic novel market, so I don’t know how the sales might be affected. I suspect it would be an unusually short GN?

  34. Nayanon 25 Dec 2012 at 11:16 pm

    @B. Mac.
    How much action (in terms of no of pages) is generally considered sufficient in a comic book if the book is proposed as action thriller? And in my book first action sequence starts on page 11. Is that a bit late?

  35. B. McKenzieon 26 Dec 2012 at 12:14 am

    “In my action-thriller book, the first action sequence starts on page 11. Is that a bit late?” 11 strikes me as late, but I think it depends on the first 10 pages. How interesting/exciting are they? Will readers want to proceed even though you’re delivering something other than the mainstay of the series? (This may be a bad analogy depending on what you accomplish with the first 10 pages, but I submitted a comedy which didn’t make readers laugh until halfway through the first issue, it’d be dead on arrival).

    “How much action (in terms of number of pages) is generally considered sufficient in a comic book if the book is proposed as action thriller?” I don’t have a hard-set number in mind, but if action/combat scenes took less than half of the book, that would suggest to me that another genre probably fits better. In a few paragraphs, could you describe the plot of the issue?



    For some (mostly non-action examples), I’d recommend checking out the introductions of Tales from the Bully Pulpit, Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass, Odd Squad, and maybe Watchmen for examples of how to launch into a (fairly unusual) premise right away. Bully Pulpit and SP are relatively light on the action early on, but establish enough charm/humor that readers would want to continue. Odd Squad hits intrigue/humor and establishes an interesting relationship between a nutty paranormal investigator and a super-serious authority figure.

  36. Nayanon 26 Dec 2012 at 5:04 am

    The story revolves around a college student who becomes a vigilante crime fighter while fighting his inner demons i.e. depression and confused with moral values (whether killing criminals is good/bad). So, I want to make the story dark with actions and emotions. The problem is that the first issue is a little light in action. Its difficult to incorporate action right away. I have to introduce some characters first so that the readers care about them.

  37. B. McKenzieon 26 Dec 2012 at 6:24 am

    “It’s difficult to incorporate action right away.” I can see why it might be difficult to incorporate COMBAT right away, but most stories could incorporate action fairly easily. For example, showing the character dealing with his demons in a visually interesting way? (E.g. depression contributing to a car accident or a confrontation at work/school or something?)

  38. Nayanon 26 Dec 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Actually, by ‘ACTION’ I meant ‘COMBAT’. The first ten pages include a 2 pages (infact the first two pages) long scene which shows explosions. Then there is another scene which shows the main character taking combat training. Do these scenes count as action scenes?

  39. Nayanon 29 Dec 2012 at 7:30 am

    @B. Mac.

    Can you set up a forum for the comic book miniseries I am working on? I will post everything (plot, script, queries etc.) related to the series there.

  40. B. McKenzieon 29 Dec 2012 at 10:32 am

    I’ve set up a new review forum here, Nayan.

  41. Kateon 24 May 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I agree with 1, 2, most definitely 3, 6, 8, 9, and 10.

    However firstly I think 5 is generally a difficult one for most people. (Also mildly offended by the male vs. female thing. I actually liked DBZ growing up and I really hate romance movies/stories as I think they’re very unoriginal and uninteresting. I’m not sure it’s really possible to say what gender you’re appealing to as anything can interest anyone. I realize there are lots of gender stereotypes when it comes to preferences but I don’t believe most of them are accurate. I think both genders like to be challenged intellectually – and like a balance of action, comedy, drama, down moments, design, and story.)

    4. I think this is definitely good advice for people starting out but I don’t think this is something everyone needs to stay away from. If you know how to do it right, it works wonderfully. I mean take the venture bros for example (which I mention because the season premiere is happening in like a week which is awesome). Venture bros has an extremely HUGE cast, and it works. I’ve even found myself enjoying entire episodes devoted to characters I wasn’t fond of at first – but that’s the mark of a good writer. Probably one of my favorite episodes in season 3 was the billy quiz boy back story, quite unexpected. I think a large cast can work if you know how to do it – but for someone who is inexperienced they should be wary. (I think another thing that factors into this is not throwing them all onstage at the same time which is an inexperienced choice. Even in theatre in some of the biggest shows with casts of over 35+ characters they’re not all onstage or not all the focus at the same time -really the only time all the characters are onstage is when they take a bow at the end.)

    7. I agree with this for the most part and in most instances. But I don’t think it should be completely ruled out as a possibility especially if it exists within the realm of the story that was created. I do like it when a writer has the confidence to fully kill a character though or commit to a large plot change. Again i think it boils down to the writers ability. I think it’s very difficult for a writer to bring back a character or reset the clock without alienating their audiences – but if they can do it more power to them as long as it fits within the story and things still change with that choice.

    Although part of me always says that anything is possible as long as you have the ability to pull it off. There are lots of examples of things that nobody thought could be pulled off in the realm of comic books and outside of them that proves anything is possible, but it’s definitely not possible for everyone.

    Just my thoughts 😛

  42. Qwertyon 11 Jun 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Do the rules work differently when you’re writing a graphic novel? Obviously a graphic novel would be one long book and wouldn’t be broken up into issues like a comic book. Thus, the story could run longer and wouldn’t have to rely as much on the action; would it be acceptable, then, to use a higher percentage of words?

    The reason why I’m asking this is because I’m experimenting with converting the novel I’m writing into the graphic novel format. I’ve never branched into graphic novels but I’m giving it a try. So if you have ANY advice on writing graphic novels, I’d appreciate it!

  43. Jade D.on 04 May 2015 at 1:06 pm

    I’m having an issue with the comic manuscript I was writing. I’ve had some Beta reading done and people seem to like it. The problem is I can’t tell weather the story is going to translate to dramatic tone well. For instance, the first to volumes had a lot of humor but a lot of seriousness to it too. The overall story arc I have planned though demands a very dramatic and somewhat dark climax.

    So should I gradually move out on the humor, or is it possible I can combine the two tones of comedy/drama so the series doesn’t have to sacrifice its comedic identity? Or should I just develop a less serious story arc, which would also throw away a lot of character back story, two or more villains, and some admittedly interesting character development?

    Or am I missing some thing here? What do you think?

  44. Dr. Slavicon 05 May 2015 at 6:02 pm

    I don’t read comics terribly often, but having comedic moments or elements doesn’t need to detract from a dramatic plot, as long as the characters themselves are serious and not something like Janitor-man. Making frequent jokes shouldn’t be an issue no matter what kind of story it is, as long as the rest of the characters and plot follow the tone you want.

  45. Crosseon 05 May 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I would say you should be fine with having comedy in a more serious work. For some great example of how or why that works so well, all you have to do is look at a lot of different anime, and how people think in general.

    People get worn out on serious or terrifying things if they go on too long. And if they don’t get bored, they get used to it, and the story loses a lot of its luster. Which is why a lot of horror stories, or other stories with dark or gritty themes, have some great comedic moments.

    My examples from anime would probably be Full Metal Alchemist : Brotherhood and Knights of Sedonia.

    One is a story dealing with teenagers attempting to redeem their foolish attempt to bring their mother back to life while fighting a superhuman evil created through mass human sacrifice. The other is a story about the survival of the human race in a universe that is throwing a horrible and seemingly endless swarm of evil at them.

    Both involve a lot of death, a lot of sadness, and a lot of hard life lessons. But how do they manage to keep that going without losing readers/viewers? And how do they come across as more of a growing up story?

    By adding more lighthearted or normal stories or aspects as well as comedy, of course! For something to be scary, sad or anything in between, you need a baseline to compare that moment to. If the characters are never shown as happy or normal, you won’t know if they are sad or angry. Comedy is an amazing way of lightening the mood without sacrificing too much of the story.

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