Well, although it won’t be posted here until early May, I’ve started yet another story arc-based webcomic mini series (the preview is at the end of the second point on this list). So, I thought that I’d talk about story arcs in webcomics.
Story arcs are useful for webcomics for the simple reason that they’re easier to write (since you just have to follow one story, rather than coming up with lots of self-contained jokes) and, although they have their advantages and disadvantages, they can be really interesting to make.
However, coming up with an idea for a story arc can be challenging. So, I thought that I’d give you a few tips for how to do this:
1) Choose your type: Story arcs fall into two categories – realistic and unrealistic. The latter is the more interesting and imaginative of the two, but it’s more difficult to write for the simple reason that you have to find a vaguely plausible in-story explanation for why your characters are suddenly somewhere different etc…
So, you can either prepare your audience for this by including a few subtle “unrealistic” elements in earlier instalments of your webcomic (so that the unrealistic story arc is just about a plausible part of the series as a whole). Or, you can do something a bit more obvious like setting the unrealistic story arc within a dream, within a computer game etc…
But, if you do this, then you need to openly declare this fact as soon and as often as possible! This is because “it was all a dream!” is the worst plot twist possible and your audience won’t like to see it! Here’s an example of how to do this from a mini series of mine that will appear here in April:
If you’re creating a realistic sub-plot then you can look to films and soap operas for inspiration. But, the basic principle is that something dramatic/tragic/shocking has to happen to one of your characters.
2) Find a sub-genre: One of the easiest ways to come up with a webcomic story arc is to find a fairly specific sub-genre (of one of your favourite genres of stories) and then to use this as the basis for your story arc.
This also has the advantage of allowing you to include all sorts of parodies and references to your favourite stories, comics, games, TV shows, movies etc… from this sub-genre too.
Of course, the real trick is finding an unusual and specific enough sub-genre to make your story arc stand out. However, you can do this by looking at several things that you consider “cool” and seeing if they have anything in common.
For example, the webcomic mini series which will appear here in early May is set on board an abandoned space station, after I realised that a lot of cool things in the sci-fi genre that I like have used settings like this. Here’s a preview:
3) Consequences: Another easy way to come up with a story arc is to have one of your characters do something strange/unusual/foolish (as long as it’s vaguely within character for them) and then just think forward from that and show the hilarious/dramatic/scary/thrilling consequences of that action.
This can be used for both realistic and unrealistic story arcs. The trick is, of course, to think of a suitably strange or interesting action.
For example, the short daily webcomic mini series that started appearing here recently involves one of the main characters stealing a H.M.S Victory – like museum ship for a series of pirate-themed adventures. Here are the first two comics from it:
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂