Three Reasons Why Webcomics, TV shows etc.. Can Go From Self-Contained “Episodes” To Longer Stories

2017 Artwork Self-contained episodes to longer stories article

It used to be one of my pet peeves about TV shows, until it started happening in my own webcomics. I am, of course, talking about how something that starts out as lots of self-contained “episodes” gradually turns into something that tells longer multi-part stories.

This is one of those things that is perhaps more noticeable in TV shows than it is in webcomics, but I thought that I’d use some of my own experiences with making webcomics to show how something can go from being “lots of tiny self-contained comic updates” to “slightly longer stories in lots of smaller parts“.

So, here are three of the many reasons why it can happen:

1) It’s easier to find inspiration: Generally speaking, coming up with one longer story is slightly easier than coming up with lots of significantly shorter self-contained stories.

Once you’ve started planning part of a story, then all you have to do is to ask yourself “what happens next?” Yes, answers might not always appear quickly, but they tend to appear more quickly than if you are trying to think of an entirely new story.

Plus, if you’re telling a continuous story, then you only have to focus on one thing. This means that you have time to add more depth and complexity to a single story, than you do if you have to think of – say- ten or twelve totally different ideas in the same amount of time.

2) It can happen accidentally: Although I have produced occasional narrative comics (like this one), I certainly didn’t plan for my “ordinary” four-panel webcomics to start telling continuous stories. In fact, it was something I tried to resist doing for quite a while. But it happened accidentally.

Last Christmas, I posted a themed mini series of six self-contained Christmas comics. Although I tried to return to “self-contained” comics after this, I couldn’t forget how much fun it was to make comics about a single theme.

So, I tried to do it again only to find that this ‘themed’ series actually had several sub-plots. Needless to say, this trend quickly continued and, although the story-based comics won’t be seriously noticeable until you see some of the comics I’ll be posting here in late March and early-mid April, the change in storytelling style was at least slightly accidental.

So, yes, sometimes a change like this can happen accidentally.

3) You can do different things: If you’ve been making self-contained comics for a while, then you’ll start to get a sense of the limits of the format. The same applies if you’ve only been making continuos stories.

Both self-contained webcomic updates and “continuous story” webcomics have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. There are things that you can do in one that you can’t do in the other, and vice versa.

Yes, there are things you can do to mitigate the problems with each types of comic (eg: including brief/subtle re-caps in each “episode” of a continuous story, for the benefit of new readers) – but, each type of webcomic still has it’s limits.

So, if you’ve been making one type of comic for a while, you might want to try the other just so you can do some things that you couldn’t do before.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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