One Sneaky Way To Include Plot Twists In Your Comic Or Webcomic (Using Verticality)

2017 Artwork Verticality And Plot Twists article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk very briefly about one interesting way to include plot twists in your comics that I discovered when I was making several webcomic updates that will be posted here in early-mid April.

As you probably already know, comic panels are usually read from top to bottom. In fact, if a panel of your comic contains more than one speech bubble, then the first one should always be closest to the top of the page and the last one should be closest to the bottom of the page. Here’s a very quick and basic diagram.

A very basic diagram, showing how comic panels are read from top to bottom.

A very basic diagram, showing how comic panels are read from top to bottom.

But, did you know that this “verticality” in comic panels can also be very useful when including plot twists in your comic?

Since the dialogue in a comic panel is usually closer to the top of the panel, the important parts of the art are usually placed at the bottom. What this means is that you can include a plot twist in the artwork itself, that won’t be noticed by the reader until after they’ve read the dialogue. Like this:

This is an expanded version of the diagram from earlier in the article, showing how you can include plot twists in the artwork.

This is an expanded version of the diagram from earlier in the article, showing how you can include plot twists in the artwork.

For example, you could include some dialogue at the top of the panel where your characters talk about reports of a strange creature that has been sighted in the local area. They could laugh and joke about how silly the idea it is. But, as the reader finishes reading the dialogue and looks at the artwork below, they could see a pair of glowing red eyes peering through a window behind one of the characters.

As you may have guessed from the horror-themed example I just gave, this technique can also be used to create an approximation of horror movie-style “jump scares”, or as a subtle way to ratchet up the levels of tension and dread in your horror comic.

But, since this technique can be used for horror, it can – of course- also be used for comedy too. The principle is basically the same, except the art can contain something that amusingly contradicts the dialogue above it.

This is a fairly simple and basic technique but, when used well, it can certainly add a lot more drama, horror and/or humour to your comic 🙂

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

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