Three Quick Tips For Making Story Arcs For “Newspaper Comic”-Style Webcomics

2017 Artwork Webcomic story arcs article sketch
[Note: I originally prepared this article quite far in advance of publication. As such, some of the other upcoming comics listed on the comics index page will take a different approach to storytelling to the one mentioned in this article. But, this is still a good way to approach storytelling in webcomics].
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Although it won’t be posted here until early February, I’ve started making yet another webcomic mini series. But, unlike many of my webcomic mini series (apart from this one and this one) this one will actually form something of a story arc.

Well, that is to say that it’ll be as close to a story arc as you can get in a “newspaper comic”-style webcomic. Here’s a preview:

This is the first panel of the first comic in the mini series. The mini series will begin to appear here on the 5th February.

This is the first panel of the first comic in the mini series. The mini series will begin to appear here on the 5th February.

So, I thought that I’d give you some general tips about including story arcs in your “newspaper comic”-style webcomic. I’m sure I’ve talked about this subject before, but I thought that I’d discuss it again.

1) Come up with a general premise: Since good “newspaper comic”-style webcomics are designed to be read in any order, a story arc in one of these types of comics will usually consist of several self-contained comic updates that revolve around a common theme and/or premise. For example, you could show your characters exploring a haunted house, visiting a music festival etc…

The advantage of using a general premise rather than a specific story is that you don’t need to spend very long explaining the backstory to new readers. All you have to do is to either briefly show the premise (through visual details) in each comic and/or include a brief reference to it in the dialogue (in each comic!), and the audience will immediately know what is going on.

In addition to this, using a general premise also means that you have a lot more creative freedom too. In other words, instead of having to tell a single linear story, you can include a variety of vaguely-related comedic scenes within your story arc. This might make it either easier or more difficult to get inspired, depending on how your imagination works.

2) Come up with something fun: If you want to get inspired easily when making your story arc, then go for a theme/premise that actually interests you.

In other words, if you’re a fan of horror movies, then make a story arc set in a haunted house/ abandoned morgue/ hidden crypt etc…. You’ll be able to include all of the movie references that you want to, you’ll have lots of fun making the art and, most importantly of all, writer’s block will be less of an issue too.

The whole point of a story arc in a “newspaper comic” is to offer something fun and unusual for long-term readers (and something intriguing for new readers). The best way to do this is to come up with a premise that you actually think will be fun to write and/or draw. Think of it as a “holiday” from the normal fictional world of your webcomic.

For example, regular readers of this site will probably know that I’ve wanted to make a cyberpunk comic for quite a while. But, whenever I’ve even attempted to plan out a “proper” comic in this genre, it’s failed pretty quickly. So, when it came to thinking of an idea for a story arc for my long-running occasional webcomic series, it was an absolute no-brainer. In fact, because I’m so fascinated by this genre, I was able to plan out six four-panel comics in less than half an hour!

So, go for a theme/premise that is based on things that you like, and you’ll get inspired a lot faster!

3) Come up with an explanation:
Chances are, your story arc is going to be something wildly different to what normally happens in your webcomic. Although comics are often seen as an “anarchic” medium where literally anything can happen, they still have to follow the rules of storytelling. In other words, things should happen for a reason.

It doesn’t matter how strange, bizarre or contrived your “explanation” for why your characters are suddenly in a different location to normal is. All that matters is that there is an explanation and that it’s reasonably short (after all, you’ve probably only got 3-5 panels in each comic).

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Sorry for such a basic and repetitive article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

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