Visual Foreshadowing In Webcomics

2016 Artwork Foreshadowing in webcomics

Well, since I’m still making a webcomic mini series that will be posted here in early – mid November (this article will contain some SPOILERS for it), I thought that I’d talk very briefly about one very basic technique that can be useful when making humourous webcomics. I am, of course, talking about visual foreshadowing.

If you don’t know what “foreshadowing” is, it’s a writing technique that is used to make plot twists more believable. This technique involves giving the reader a small clue about the plot twist before it happens. If it is done well, then the reader will probably miss this clue and will only notice it after they’ve read the plot twist.

So, if the readers aren’t supposed to notice or fully understand the clue, then why is it there? It’s there to show that the plot twist is part of a logical progression of events. it’s there to show that the plot twist is an integral part of the story, rather than something that the writer just pulled out of nowhere when they were feeling uninspired.

But, what does any of this have to do with webcomics? Well, if you’re including a joke with some kind of twist in the punchline, then it can sometimes (but not always) be a good idea to include a small amount of foreshadowing in your comic. Although this can be done through dialogue, it’s often best to do it by hiding a small visual clue in the background.

For example, the joke in the final panel one of my upcoming webcomics revolves around one of the characters painting some graffiti on the side of a beach hut. If you know the characters, then this plot twist might not be that surprising. However, I needed some way to hint at this plot twist before it actually happened, so that – to new readers- it wouldn’t seem so random or unusual.

In the end, I did this by including one corner of the beach hut (with a very small part of the graffiti visible) in the background of the first panel. It was also signposted slightly by having one of the other characters look in it’s general direction.

Although this is a fairly blatant example of foreshadowing, it works for the simple reason that although the readers know that there’s a hut on the beach, they don’t know why it’s there or what significance it will have (since the graffiti is mostly obscured by the edge of the panel) until later in the comic.

Of course, this is just one example of visual foreshadowing. But, I hope that it gives you some insight into how to use it in comics. But, the thing to remember here is that it isn’t always needed in every comic that includes a humourous plot twist.

Since comedy is one of those genres where “anything goes”, you can sometimes get away with including unforeshadowed plot twists if they’re just used as a throwaway joke, or if foreshadowing might ruin the pacing of the joke.

However, if the plot twist is fairly large, or it relies on a visual joke (that subverts expectations that you’ve set up earlier in the comic), then adding a small amount of visual foreshadowing can seriously improve your comic.

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Sorry for the really short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

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