Two Very Basic Ways To Give Your Webcomic A Consistent Look (Without Being Boring)

2017 Artwork Webcomics consistency article sketch

Generally, many great webcomics can be recognised instantly at a glance. Even though the comic updates may include a variety of different locations and characters, they are always instantly recognisable as being part of one particular webcomic.

However, the look of your webcomic will always change over time. This is because, by it’s very nature, making a webcomic involves lots of regular drawing practice. As you improve, so will the look of your art. If you don’t believe me, then just find a famous long-running webcomic and compare the most recent update to the very first update. They will look different, and this is good.

But, this aside, how can you make your own webcomic look as consistent as possible? Here are two very basic ways:

1) Art style: This is the obvious one. If you take the time to develop your own unique art style, then your webcomic will instantly stand out as something unique. However, if you just use commonly-used art styles (eg: manga, American comic book art etc..), then your webcomic won’t be quite as distinctive.

But, how do you come up with your own art style? I’ve written about this many times before, but it basically just involves finding other art styles that you like and borrowing techniques from them. It also involves a lot of regular drawing practice too. If your art style looks simplistic or childish, then all that means is that you need more practice.

But, even if your own art style looks fairly simplistic or is obviously influenced by another style, the fact that you’ve put the effort into using an original style (rather than a commonly-used one) will make your webcomic stand out from the crowd a bit, whilst also giving it a consistent look.

2) Location design: If you have consistent principles for your location design, then your webcomic will also have a consistent look.

This includes things like using similar colour schemes, using similar types of lighting, using similar types of weather and having a common set of inspirations for your location designs. Basically, if you have a set of principles that you can apply to most of the locations in your webcomics, then your comic will have a consistent look to it even if it includes a lot of different settings.

To use an example from my webcomics that have been posted here this year and will be posted here in the next couple of months, many of them use some variant on a blue/orange/green/purple colour scheme. Likewise, many of them feature gloomy lighting, dramatic sunsets and/or rainy weather. Likewise, the location design is sometimes inspired by films like “Blade Runner” and old computer games too.

Although I haven’t been able to do this in all of my comics (eg: it wasn’t possible in “Damania Requisitioned” or “Damania Renaissance“), here’s a chart showing how this has given some of comics (including a few that haven’t appeared here yet) a distinctive look, despite the fact that they’re set in wildly different locations. If you want to read the comic found in the bottom right corner of the chart, it can be read here.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - As you can see, the locations are all different from each other, yet they all look similar at the same time because I've followed a consistent set of design principles.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – As you can see, the locations are all different from each other, yet they all look similar at the same time because I’ve followed a consistent set of design principles.

So, yes, work out a set of design principles and your locations will look fairly consistent.

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

Four Things I’ve Learnt From Running A Blog For Four Years

2017 Artwork Blog fourth anniversary article

Wow! This blog is four today 🙂 I’m still amazed that it just started with a random “Hmm… Why don’t I make a blog?” idea all that time ago.

So, like I’ve done in 2014 (part one, part two), in 2015 and in 2016, I thought that I’d share some of the things that I’ve learnt from making a blog for this length of time, in case they’re useful to you too 🙂 Hopefully, I won’t repeat anything that I’ve already mentioned, but it might happen.

1) You’ll find shortcuts (without even planning to): If you make a blog and update it regularly, you’re probably going to start finding shortcuts for some of the more labour-intensive parts of everything. These will probably suddenly appear to you when you least expect them and they will seem ridiculously obvious in retrospect.

For example, when I used to prepare the earlier versions of my “top ten articles” articles that I post at the end of each month, I used to schedule each draft article, preview it, copy the hyperlink and then return it to draft status. Then I’d type out the article’s title and turn it into a hyperlink. I’d do this 10-15 times in every monthly article. Pretty convoluted, right?

Well, after I’d spent a couple of years getting familiar with this site, I noticed that the “new post” page (on the old editor at least, the new one seems a bit too complicated) had an area below the title box that would give you the address of the article when it was published. All I had to do was copy & paste this, and do the same with the article title. Suddenly, my monthly “top ten articles” posts took between a third and half of the time that they used to make.

So, if you keep blogging regularly on the same site, you’ll probably end up either working out lots of time-saving shortcuts (without consciously trying to) and/or spotting all sorts of useful features that you didn’t even know existed.

2) Keep everything in one place (as much as possible): There’s a good reason why the interactive fiction project I made for Halloween 2015 is on a separate site, but the short story collection I wrote for Halloween 2016 is on this site.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, it can be tempting to put your spin-off projects on separate sites rather than on different parts of your main site. The thing to remember here is that it probably took you a couple of years to build up the audience for your main site. The instant you start another site, even if you link to it a few times on your main site, the whole process begins all over again.

So, if you want people to look at your spin-off projects, then keep them all on the same site. People who are reading the other stuff on your main site are more likely to notice them and people who discover them serendipitously might also end up looking at other parts of your main site too.

3) Your old articles will always be more popular (and that’s ok): Whenever I look at the viewership figures from this site, something always surprises me. My really ancient articles from 2013 and 2014 often seem to have more views (and more regular views) than any of my new stuff. If I didn’t understand why this happens, I’d probably feel discouraged.

In short, the older something is, the more time it has to accumulate views. The more time it has for people to discover it via online searches. As such, your older articles are always going to be more popular than your new ones for the simple reason that they’ve had more time to become popular.

But, don’t feel discouraged, this will eventually happen to your new articles too – you’ve just got to give it a bit of time.

4) Keep some last-minute filler material handy: Although you should always try to have a large “buffer” of pre-made articles so that you don’t have to post and publish your articles on the same day (I mean, I wrote this article quite a few months ago – hello from the past 🙂 ), it doesn’t hurt to keep some last-minute filler material on standby too.

Why? Well, if you’re anything like me, one easy source of inspiration when you’re uninspired are your own opinions. This has led to a few opinionated articles that I’ve pulled at the last minute (due to worrying that they’re too political, too introspective etc..) and had to replace with something else, like this.

So, if you keep some filler material on standby, then you can quickly replace any article that you aren’t really satisfied with at the last minute.

——-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Here to the next year 🙂

A Last-Minute Line Art Preview :)

Well, there was originally going to be an opinion article here. My original scheduled article was an article about my theories about why popular culture is less “edgy” than it used to be. Ironically though, a couple of hours before publication, I worried that the article itself would be too “edgy”.

So, instead, I thought that I’d show off some of the “work in progress” line art for a few of my paintings that won’t appear here until early next year. Sorry about this, normal articles will resume tomorrow.

“Aberystwyth – Misty Morning (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Metallic Magic (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Market Seven (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Future 2004 (Line Art)” By C. A.. Brown

“The Strange Statue (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Four Reasons Why Stories, Comics, Films Etc… Can Have Alternate Endings. (Plus, An Alternate Ending To One Of My Short Stories :) )

2017 Artwork Alternate Endings article sketch

Well, when I was writing one of the short stories that were posted here last Halloween (and, yes, I write these articles very far in advance), it ended up having both an “official” ending and a previously unpublished alternate ending (which I’ll include at the very end of this article).

Since alternate endings are something that occasionally shows up in the special features segments DVDs and even in other formats like comics (although this is fairly rare). I thought that I’d look at some of the reasons why they appear. After all, what’s the point of having another ending?

Well, here are a few reasons (out of many) why this happens:

1) Something went wrong: The reason why my short story ended up having two possible endings was because the very first ending was absolutely awful! You can see it for yourself at the end of this article.

In summary, the final plot twist lacked any kind of instant impact and there was also a plot hole so large that you could drive a bus through it. If I didn’t want to ruin the entire story, I needed to come up with another ending. And I did.

So, alternate endings can often happen because something has gone so wrong with the original ending that the writer needs to replace it with something better.

2) It’s a byproduct of the creative process: Even if a writer or a comic maker doesn’t actually make an alternate ending for their latest project, there’s a reasonable chance that they’ve probably thought about at least one or two of them.

Coming up with a good ending can be one of the most challenging parts of writing a story or making a comic.

After all, a good ending needs to either give the reader a sense of resolution, provoke a strong emotional reaction and/or make them eager to read the next thing you make. It’s very easy to write a mediocre ending if you aren’t careful (and this is a mistake I’ve probably made a few times).

As such, when you’re planning something, it’s possible that you might think of a couple of way that it could end. You might even plan for your story or comic to end in one particular way, only to think of a better idea a while before the ending actually needs to be made.

3) Other people don’t like the ending: Even if the ending is really good, it might be something that the audience, publishers, film studios etc… might not like. People who have no experience with telling the original story might think that they know better than the writer and, if they have the power to, might take it upon themselves to alter the ending.

Even though this is a much rarer thing than in the 1980s and 1990s, there are plenty of Hollywood films from that time that have alternate endings purely because uncreative studio executives insisted on tampering with the film if they felt that the ending was too ambiguous or pessimistic. “Blade Runner” and “Army Of Darkness” are the classic cinematic examples of this trend.

4) Retconning: If you’ve never heard the word “retcon” before, it’s an abbreviation of “retroactive continuity”. What this means is that, if a story that was planned as a stand-alone story ends up becoming something larger, then the backstory of later stories might be changed in order to reflect this.

Likewise, if a writer revisits their earlier works, they might also alter details of the original story in order to make it fit in better with the later ones. This can result in alternate endings.

For example, the author David Morrell wrote a novel called “First Blood” that ended up being turned into a film of the same name. The book and the film end in very different ways. But, when the film got a sequel, Morrell was responsible for writing the novelisation – which resulted in an author’s note explaining that the second novel follows on from the ending of the first film, rather than the ending of his original novel. In other words, the original ending to the first novel is now an “unofficial” alternate ending.

——–
Anyway, as promised, here’s the alternate ending to the short story I posted here last Halloween. This ending begins directly after the shopkeeper’s line of dialogue that ends with”….You’re probably best staying in here as long as possible.”

Steve burst into laughter. I found it hard not to laugh too. Sitting behind that counter all day probably gave her time to think of all sorts of clever tricks to play on the customers. It’s what I’d do in that situation anyway.

Finally, Steve said: ‘Good one!‘ before taking the receipt and walking away. I thanked the woman, she just stared back wearily and handed me the clothes. I caught up with Steve outside. He was checking his phone – the clock on it had suddenly jumped forwards twenty minutes.

So, how do you think she did it?‘ I asked. ‘If you noticed, neither of our phones had any signal too. I’m guessing that a faraday cage was probably involved.’

Whatever, I just need to stop off at the offy before we get home. We need wine too.‘ He looked at the off-licence across the road. Smiling at me, he strode over the kerb. It must have been the noise, or possibly even instinct, but my arm shot out and I pulled him back seconds before a red car whizzed past inches from his waist.

He hyperventilated for a few minutes. So did I. Finally, he burst into laughter again and said: ‘No fate but that which we make for ourselves, huh? I knew that shopkeeper was having us on! Anyway, let’s get some wine. I can’t drink too much tonight though, because of that bloody business trip tomorrow. Would you believe that I have to car-share with Trish from accounts. She practically lives on Twitter! I mean, I’ve never seen her look at anything other than her phone.’

‘You’ll be in #hell with a #hangover, I guess ?‘ I laughed.

——

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Reverie” Webcomic Mini Series

2017 Artwork Damania Reverie lineart article sketch

Well, since my “Damania Reverie” webcomic mini series finished yesterday, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of showing off the “work in progress” line art that I scanned whilst making the comic.

If I remember rightly, there weren’t actually that many major dialogue or art changes between the line art and the finished comics in this mini series. The most major one is probably in the “Glass Houses” comic. Originally, Harvey found a large bag of drugs but I decided to change this to counterfeit coins in the final comic both because I thought that this comic update was already a bit too much on the “gloomy and serious” side of things and also because it was a subtle reference to this comic from last year.

The main art changes are the fact that a mirror looks very different in one scene and the fact that, in the second-to-last comic, Harvey imagines the villain carrying a gun.

The main dialogue change is where Derek refers to Harvey’s Jungian “Shadow“. Although this was a more technically accurate description, I had to cut it for length and pacing reasons.

Anyway, here’s the line art. As usual, you can see a larger version of each piece of line art by clicking on it.

"Damania Reverie - Ennui (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Ennui (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Sob Story (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Sob Story (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Mean Streets (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Mean Streets (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Beatnik (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Beatnik (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Suspects (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Suspects (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Femme Fatale (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Femme Fatale (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Glass Houses (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Glass Houses (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - On Reflection (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – On Reflection (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Monologue (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Monologue (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Reverie - Nightmare (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reverie – Nightmare (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

What Does The Expression “Kill Your Darlings” Mean ? (Plus, An Exclusive “Deleted Scene” From One Of My Short Stories!)

2017 Artwork What does 'kill your darlings' actually mean

When I was writing one of the short horror stories that appeared here last Halloween, I was reminded of a very famous writerly saying – “kill your darlings”. So, I thought that I’d explain what it meant – in case you’re puzzled by it.

All the expression basically means is that you have to look at your story, comic etc… as a whole and trim out any parts, no matter how much you like them, that either slow it down or don’t fit in with the rest of the story.

It means that, for the good of your story, you have to edit everything ruthlessly – especially your favourite parts of the story (these are the proverbial “darlings” that you have to kill).

The main reason for this is that it can be very easy to get caught up in the “cool” or “fun” parts of your story. If you aren’t careful, you can waste hundreds of words on inventive, but needless, metaphors and similes without even realising it.

Likewise, you might want to show your characters just hanging out because it seems like a cool idea – but, if it doesn’t do anything to advance the plot, it has to go!

Plus, if you’re written a really cool part of the story, but you find that it either conflicts with the rest of the story (or can only be included with the addition of lots of convoluted connecting narration), then it probably has to go too.

Remembering that you have to “kill your darlings” is a way to remind yourself to look at the story as a whole. It’s a way to remind yourself that even a really cool sentence can often damage the pacing or the style of your story. It’s a way to remind yourself that every scene should be relevant and streamlined.

And, yes, it can be difficult to do, but it will improve your story.

For example, the short story I linked to earlier originally had a totally different introduction.

A couple of sentences from it survived into the final story, but – despite spending a while writing it – I realised that having 300-400 words of plot-irrelevant introductory dialogue and descriptions (in a location that wasn’t even a major location in the story) would ruin the pacing of the story. So, it had to go.

Still, I kept a copy of it for posterity. Yes, the dialogue includes a bit more characterisation and slightly more humour. Yes, in a longer story, it might have been an interesting scene to include in the middle of the story. But for the very first 300-400 words of a 1000-1100 word story, it was just impossibly slow and stagnant. See for yourself:
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“Festivals Are Grim” By C. A. Brown – Deleted Scene (unfinished):

Three things are certain in life. Death, taxes and rain at festivals.‘ Gemma grinned at me, as she reached into the chest pocket of her oh-so-retro neon green and bleeding-eye pink cagoule.

The rain rattled on the roof of the tent like tommygun fire in an old movie. Through the gap in the entrance, there was nothing but white static and blurry people. Over the noise, Gemma’s phone quietly plinked into life.

Shit! No wi-fi. Have you got any?‘ She muttered.

I reached into my bag and pulled out my battered old phone. ‘Only if you’ve got a modem.‘ Gemma rolled her eyes and looked out at the rain again. We’d expected rain, but this was really taking the piss. Even Glastonbury didn’t get this much rain!

Tapping her phone uselessly, Gemma said ‘Is there anyone good on? Or should we just spend the day here, bored out of our fricking skulls?

Got any green?

I’m out. Shared the last of it with that cute emo guy last night. Yes, I know, emo! It’s ironic though – I mean, the guy is totally into good music. He just looks like an emo because, well…‘ Gemma smiled.

It’s hot?‘ I sighed. Gemma chuckled. She was probably right.

Anyway, how the hell are we going to see the setlist without any wi-fi? You’d think that they’d put in an extra server or whatever.

They gave out a brochure.‘ I said, scrambling through my bag. Once I’d found the brochure, I smoothed it out and we examined the setlist. The main stage was an absolute no-go area. It was all daytime filler- bands that no-one had really heard of. The headliners wouldn’t be on for hours. The alt stage seemed a bit better – at least the bands actually had vaguely cool-sounding names.

The alt stage?‘ Gemma rolled her eyes.

It’s in a giant tent. The main stage isn’t. This rain isn’t going to stop any time soon and we’ve almost run out of booze here.‘ I shrugged.

Gemma looked at the half-empty water bottle of vodka in the corner, before turning her phone off and dropping it into her cagoule pocket. I put my jacket on and we stepped out into the rain.

The alt tent wasn’t too far away

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Line Art Preview Returns :)

Well, I hadn’t planned to make another line art preview post so soon after the last one (which appeared in late December). But, whilst sorting out the scheduling for this blog, I realised that I hadn’t scheduled an article for today.

So, although normal articles will resume tomorrow, I couldn’t exactly leave today’s article empty. As such, here’s the “work in progress” line art for a few paintings that won’t appear here until fairly early next year. Enjoy 🙂

“Slow Night (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“By The Gadget Machine (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Realms Of Terror (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Club Drift (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Death Takes A Holiday (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown