Storytelling And Seriousness- A Ramble (With A Comic Preview)

2016 Artwork Seriousness and storytelling article sketch

[Edit: I write these articles fairly far in advance, so I’m proud to say that something vaguely similar to the cyberpunk comic project I discussed in this article will end up being posted here. Albeit not for quite a few months (check the ‘2017’ section of this page for more details), due to a few other failed attempts at similar projects, that I’m sure I’ll end up talking about in future posts]

Even though this is another article about how the types of stories you enjoy telling can change over time, I’m probably going to have to spend most of this article talking about my own creative processes. If you’re not interested in reading about them, then feel free to skip to the last few paragraphs of this article.

I’ll also be talking about comics again for a few paragraphs. This is mostly because my experiences with planning an upcoming comics project (and then making another comic instead) was one of the things that gave me the idea for this article.

Anyway, I had a rather strange realisation when I was preparing to make the fifth mini series of my long-running “Damania” webcomic (the previous four can be found here, here, here and here and the fifth one should begin on the 3rd August).

At the time, I was more than in the mood for making a comic of some kind, but I couldn’t decide between making another webcomic mini series or starting a new and original “serious” narrative cyberpunk comic. I made a few quick sketches for this cyberpunk comic – mostly to try out an interesting panel layout – until I suddenly realised that I not only didn’t have a good enough idea for an actual story, but that I wasn’t that interested in telling a “serious” story.

Sure, I liked the idea of it. I liked the idea of making a “serious” cyberpunk comic, filled with cool-looking limited palette artwork. But, when it came down to the practicalities of actually making it, I felt extremely reluctant.

So, naturally, I chose to make the mini series instead. However, it’ll contain some small hints of what my unmade comic might have looked like. Here’s a preview:

It's a glimpse of what could have been (this preview is a detail from "Damania Resurrected - Electric Dreams", which will be posted here on the 5th August)

It’s a glimpse of what could have been (this preview is a detail from “Damania Resurrected – Electric Dreams”, which will be posted here on the 5th August)

This whole experience reminded me a lot about how my attitude to storytelling has changed within the past few years. Back when I thought of myself as a fiction writer, I used to revel in writing dark, nihilistic and/or horrific fiction. I loved to write about bleak dystopian futures, gratuitously gruesome deaths, wearily cynical protagonists and all of that gloriously melodramatic stuff.

But, these days, it seems that I just can’t tell “serious” stories any more (the last time I really tried was in an unfinished sci-fi comic that I tried to make in early 2014).

Even when I briefly got back into writing prose fiction just before Halloween last year, I ended up writing a fairly comedic horror story rather than the more “serious” horror story that I might have written a few years ago.

Whenever I even think about writing a serious story or making a serious comic, it just feels “heavy” and dull in a way that it never used to. When I think of writing a story or making a comic that contains serious drama, it just feels contrived and “too earnest” in a way it never really used to. When I think of a “serious” story or comic idea, it can just seem more depressing than dramatic.

But, when I try to write comedy or add a lot of comedy to a ‘serious’ story idea, it just kind of comes alive. My mind latches on to the idea and refuses to let go.

I love finding sneaky ways to add subtle comedy to things, I love the idea of using things from the horror and sci-fi genres in comedic contexts, I love the idea of making something that will make me (and some of the people who read it) laugh. I love the sense of sheer freedom that comes from writing comedy. I love making parodies. I love cynical satire. I love dark humour (which is also about the closest thing I can get to “serious storytelling” these days).

Another surprising thing is my emotions and state of mind when I write comedy these days are fairly similar to what they used to be like when I wrote horror. When I write comedy, I feel the same gloriously inspirational sense of inventiveness and energetic sense of mischievous glee that I used to feel when I wrote horror.

I’m sure that I’m not the first comic maker or writer to have ever experienced something like this (and it can happen for a multitude of reasons). For a while at least, I was kind of annoyed about it. After all, I couldn’t tell the kind of stories that I used to really enjoy telling. I didn’t feel like I could really take anything I made seriously any more.

Then I finally realised that, if I tried to keep making the kind of things that used to inspire and thrill me, I’d probably end up losing interest in creating things altogether. This change in my creative sensibilities had been quite a surprising one, but I found that I could actually produce more things (and enjoy producing them) if I just let it happen.

So, although I’ve probably given this piece of advice before, don’t worry if you gradually feel like telling radically different types of stories to the ones that you used to tell. It isn’t the end of the world.

Whilst this doesn’t happen to everyone, there are plenty of examples of famous writers who have switched genres after becoming established in one genre (eg: like how Clive Barker used to write horror fiction and then started writing fantasy instead). This has annoyed some of their fans, but at the same time, these authors probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as prolific if they hadn’t gone along with the changes.

So, if you suddenly find that a genre that you used to love writing in doesn’t appeal to you any more, or that you’re suddenly interested in a very different genre, then just go with it. Yes, it might be a bit weird at first. But, you’ll probably end up having more fun and telling more stories than you would if you doggedly try to stick with the genres you used to enjoy.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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