Using Moral Ambiguity Intelligently In Fiction – A Ramble

Well, since I still seem to be re-playing a classic mid-2000s computer game called “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines“, I thought that I’d look at what this intriguingly intelligent game can teach us about moral ambiguity in fiction.

I’ll be spending most of this article taking a critic-like look at the game, but if you’re just interested in what storytelling lessons can be learnt from the game’s presentation of morality, then skip to the final four paragraphs of the article.

However, I should probably point out that this article will contain some SPOILERS for the game. Likewise, since this is an article about moral ambiguity in something from the horror genre, it goes without saying that I’ll be talking about some fairly heavy subject matter (eg: crime, torture, religious extremism, mental illness etc..), but hopefully not in too much detail.

But, before I discuss the way that morality is handled and presented in this game, I should point out that the game’s well-crafted moral ambiguity does not mean that the game is a “corrupting influence” or anything like that. The moral ambiguity only works in dramatic terms because the player already has moral standards – which contrast with the more amoral world of the game.

Anyway, one of the interesting things about “Bloodlines” is that it’s one of the earlier games where almost all of the characters are morally ambiguous to some extent or another. Even more so, it is a game that pretty much forces the player’s character to be morally ambiguous too. After all, you play as a vampire.

The only vaguely moral way for your character to obtain a regular supply of blood is to obtain it from rats (which is a very time-consuming process). Other than this, your character has to drink other people’s blood (using violence or trickery) or buy blood from a creepy serial killer who works in a morgue. This moral ambiguity helps to hammer home the point that you are playing as a vampire, and helps to increase player immersion in the game.

Likewise, the only ways for your character to earn money are to be a hired hench-vampire for other characters, to blackmail other characters, to sell dubiously-obtained goods or to exploit the gratutide of a character whose life you can save early in the game.

This is a screenshot from “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (2004), showing a character called Heather Poe who becomes obsessed with the main character after an impromptu transfusion of vampire blood saves her life.

This works well in the context of the game, since it increases player immersion by showing them that they’re a character whose nocturnal undead life means that they can’t earn money in legitimate ways.

Intriguingly, the game also often places you in situations where making an “immoral” choice is often the most rewarding choice (in terms of blood, money and/or experience points). But, it counterbalances this very slightly with a “humanity” points system, which will occasionally penalise you for being too evil. This forces the player to make complex moral decisions on a regular basis and also increases the horror and drama of the game by making the player feel guilty about the choices they make in-game.

But, most intriguing of all, is how the game handles the subject of villains. Although the game’s main villain (La Croix) is the classic megalomaniacal “evil politician” character who, quite predictably, is initially presented as one of the more “good” characters – the game’s other “villainous” characters can be a lot more interesting.

The most intriguing of all is Grรผnfeld Bach, the leader of a group of devoutly Christian vampire hunters called the Society Of Leopold.

Although he is the type of character who would traditionally be seen as one of the “good guys” in many stories, he is presented as a fearsome adversary to the player and their fellow vampires (many of whom are interesting, well-developed characters).

This is a screenshot showing Grรผnfeld Bach, a character who would usually be one of the “good guys” in many stories but, intriguingly, is one of the villains in this game.

Although the game quickly shows the vampire hunters to be fanatical religious extremists, it explores this subject in a variety of chillingly creepy ways.

In one later part of the game, you have to infiltrate their monastery in order to rescue a kidnapped archaeologist. Whilst sneaking through the caves beneath the monastery, you can overhear two henchmen talking about how Bach once shot a man for refusing to obey orders – which is a chilling example of how authority can corrupt even the most “good” people.

Likewise, an optional side-quest during this level involves rescuing a vampire who has been captured by the Society Of Leopold. When you meet him, it quickly becomes clear that he has been tortured. Although this, in itself, shows how religious fanaticism can make good people evil (and is designed to reference the Spanish Inquisition too) – the game takes this a step further when the vampire disturbingly points out that the torturers actually seemed to relish their work. Again, showing how evil can flourish when “good” people feel that they can do anything. Or just how evil people can use religion as an excuse for their actions.

On the other hand, one of the closest things that the game has to a “good” character is Velvet Velour, a powerful vampire who owns a pole dancing club. When giving the player quests, she constantly warns them not to harm innocent people. She’s a really interesting character because the game presents one of it’s very few compassionate and good characters as being in a line of work that is often criticised by conservatives and liberals alike as being “immoral”.

But, the game then adds a bit of nuance by having one of the vaguely important human characters be the owner of a somewhat sleazy video shop. You need to talk to him (and bribe him for information) in order to complete various quests but, although he doesn’t actually do anything evil in the game, he comes across as a thoroughly creepy character who seems to know a lot of very disturbing criminals.

Likewise, another “good” character is an anarchist vampire called Nines Rodriguez, who saves the player’s life on two occasions. He also talks a lot about the evils of elitism and capitalism too, drawing on his memories of the Great Depression for examples (which seem oddly prescient in our post-credit crunch world). However, his reward for such a moral life is… to be framed for murder.

This is Nines Rodriguez, a character who is good, even at great personal cost. Likewise, it’s rather clever that the game presents him as an anarchist (since these types of characters are usually presented as villains).

An interesting “neutral” character is a vampire computer hacker called Mitnick who hires the player to hack a few computer systems, fake a robbery and plant some surveillance devices.

But, the morality of what he asks the player to do is more ambiguous than it initially seems, since he needs the stolen information because he belongs to a group of vampires who are discriminated against by other vampires – and information-brokering is one of the few ways they can gain favour with, or protection from, other vampires.

Another fascinating example of “neutral” characters are Jeanette and Therese Voerman. They are two vampire sisters who run a gothic nightclub. Therese is very stern, severe and moralistic. Jeanette, on the other hand, is shown to be capricious, manipulative and spiteful. They’re literal opposites, even in terms of how they talk and dress.

Yet, slightly later in the game, you learn that they are both actually just one person with a split personality (caused by a horribly traumatic past).

In addition to forcing the player to make a difficult moral choice at one point in the game (do you save one personality, or do you save both?), this character is also a brilliant example of how excessive external displays of propriety and moral virtue (eg: Therese) are often used to conceal a more “immoral” side (eg: Jeanette).

So what can all of this teach us about moral ambiguity in fiction? Well, simply put, you should only include lots of moral ambiguity if you’re going to do something intelligent with it.

If the moral ambiguity is designed to provoke thought in the audience and make them more aware of their own moral standards, then include lots of moral ambiguity. If the moral ambiguity is just there to be “edgy”, then don’t include it (unless for comedy value).

You should also only include moral ambiguity if it works in the context of your story. In a game like “Bloodlines”, the ambiguity works because the game “realistically” explores a fantastical subject (eg: vampirism) that is often presented in a very simplistic way in horror movies. The ambiguity is justified by the context of the story – kind of like how “Game Of Thrones” is a more “realistic” take on the medieval fantasy genre.

Finally, the game also shows us that moral ambiguity only works when characters have well-developed personalities and motivations. If you have well-developed characters, then any moral ambiguity you include will fit into your story really well. If you don’t, then it will come across as a juvenile attempt at being “edgy” or whatever.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful ๐Ÿ™‚

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Five Reasons Why Fictional Villains Are Such Interesting Characters

One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed during my informal research into films from the 1990s is that, often, the villains are some of the most interesting characters. But, this is, of course, also true in a lot of other stories from different times and in different mediums.

So, I thought that I’d list some possible reasons why the villains are often the most interesting characters in a film, story, comic, novel, game etc.. in case it can help you write more interesting villains.

1) Mystery: Unlike heroic characters, who the audience will spend a lot of time with, villains tend to appear slightly less often in stories. This usually means that they can often be a lot more mysterious than the main characters can be. This makes the audience feel a lot more curious about the villains than about the heroic characters. So, this is one reason why villains can be really interesting characters.

I mean, would Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” be such an interesting novel if Dracula was the narrator? Probably not. No, the reason why Dracula is such an interesting character is because – if I remember rightly- the main characters (who narrate the story) don’t really know that much about him. We only get relatively few glimpses of this mysterious vampire, and he’s much more interesting as a result.

In addition to this, a certain level of mystery surrounding the villain can often be used to make them seem more frightening or more powerful. If the audience doesn’t know the villain’s motivations, the villain’s identity or the villain’s plan then this can often add a lot of drama and/or emotional impact to a story. I mean, there’s a good reason why the most famous fictional villains (eg: Freddy Krueger, Darth Vader, Fantomas etc…) will often wear a mask of some kind.

2) Dramatic conflict: Simply put, a villain has to pose some kind of threat to the main characters. This not only provides the “good” main characters with a justifiable reason to do heroic stuff, but it also makes the story a lot more gripping too. Plus, it can sometimes allow for better characterisation by making the “good” characters seem good in comparison to the villains, thus allowing for a certain amount of intriguing moral ambiguity, dramatic rule-breaking (for a good reason) etc.. on the part of the good characters.

But, more than anything, stories need the drama of conflict in order to remain interesting. And villains provide an excuse for this.

I mean, would Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories be as interesting to read if they were set in a crime-free utopia? Where Sherlock Holmes did nothing but sit around smoking his pipe, reading books, having jovial conversations with Watson, playing the violin and performing the occasional science experiment? Probably not. There’s a reason why Conan Doyle’s stories revolve around the relatively few moments of Sherlock Holmes’ life when he is confronted with villainy of some kind or another.

3) Moral ambiguity: Simply put, villains can add some much-needed moral ambiguity to even the most simplistic “good vs evil” narrative. This is mostly because fictional villains are rarely “100% evil”.

They’ll either have a “good” reason for doing evil things, they’ll let the main characters survive (since it’d be a very short story otherwise), they’ll have a depressing backstory which shows why they became the villain etc… So, this means that – even in the most simplistic of stories – the villains will be some of the most complex, and unpredictable, characters in the story.

And, of course, complexity and unpredictability are two traits that make characters memorable and interesting.

4) Satire: Another reason why the villain can often be the most interesting character is because they are often satirical characters in some way or another. For example, they will often be a corrupt authority figure of some kind, a flawed character (for some specific reason), a super-rich aristocrat/businessperson or a fanatic of some kind or another (eg: political, religious etc..).

Even when a work doesn’t set out to be satirical, the choice of villain usually involves some level of satire. After all, if anyone comes up with an “evil” character, they’re going to be basing it on their own definition of evil. As such, they’re probably going to portray this character in some kind of satirical or caricatured way. And, satirical characters often tend to be the most memorable ones in any creative work.

5) Mirroring: Often, some of the most interesting villains will be a mirror of the main character in some way or another. They’ll be similar to the main character, but with one crucial difference in either their worldview, their history or their personality. Not only does this add instant dramatic complexity, but it can also be used to add even more characterisation to the main character too.

Whether it’s Doctor Who and The Master, Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty or even Frodo and Gollum, this type of villain tends to turn up a lot. Because they’re really interesting.

In addition to provoking questions about things like fate, luck, “nature vs nurture” etc… this plot device also means that the villain will often be just as intelligent or powerful as the main character, which can help to provide a lot more drama, suspense and tension to a story too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful ๐Ÿ™‚

The Joy Of… Eccentric Detectives

2017-artwork-the-joy-of-eccentric-detectives

Well, at the time of writing, I was going through a bit of a “Jonathan Creek” phase. This is a classic long-running BBC TV show from the late 1990s which focuses on a magician’s assistant called Jonathan Creek who often ends up having to solve strange and seemingly inexplicable crimes. His skill at devising magic tricks and his slightly strange view of the world allow him to solve even the most baffling mysteries.

This show made me think about the subject of eccentric detectives, and why they’re so interesting. Although this is a type of character that I haven’t encountered too often, I should probably start by talking about the original eccentric detective – the one and only Sherlock Holmes.

One of the great things about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories is that Sherlock Holmes is about as far from the more stuffy, Vulcan-like character of the popular imagination and more like his on-screen portrayals by Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch.

He’s a geek from the 19th century who is an expert on all sorts of obscure topics, but who considers the knowledge that the Earth revolves around the sun to be a waste of brain space and promptly tries to forget about it.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a quote from the second chapter of “A Study In Scarlet”: ‘ “What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

He does mildly unusual things like keeping his pipe tobacco in a slipper and keeping his correspondence safe by attaching it to the mantlepiece with a pocket knife. Plus, when he is bored, he’ll occasionally do various extremely dangerous things (such as injecting drugs or using a revolver to write a message on the sitting room wall) just to relieve the tedium.

There was no character like him when the stories were originally written and he’s pretty much the original eccentric detective who has inspired several other fictional characters over the years.

So, what is the appeal of the eccentric detective? Why are they so fascinating?

The first reason is because they are unpredictable characters. Although they have a distinctive personality, they are often also intriguingly mysterious too. Going back to Sherlock Holmes yet again, we learn relatively little about his history throughout the original stories. Likewise, we often only get to see him “second hand” from Watson’s perspective most of the time.

Eccentric detectives are strange, mysterious characters who have the added appeal of being non-threatening, since they are on the side of order and justice. But, they also avoid the pitfall of being dull paragons of virtue either. They have just enough moral ambiguity to be interesting, whilst also still very much being “good guys”.

Even much less morally-ambiguous eccentric detectives, like Abby Sciuto from “NCIS” will still do interesting things like listen to loud music, have cool tattoos, have interesting tastes in fashion and be anything but an “establishment” detective.

Another reason why eccentric detectives are so fascinating is because they often tend to solve eccentric cases. Having an eccentric detective investigate depressing “ordinary” crimes would seem somewhat out of place. However, these characters are in their element when they have to investigate brain-twisting locked room mysteries, baffling cases of murder most foul and bewildering catalogues of inexplicable events. So, an eccentric detective is usually a guarantee that a story won’t be the usual run-of-the-mill police procedural.

Finally, eccentric detectives are characters who celebrate eccentricity. They present being slightly unusual, nerdy, unconventional etc… as a positive virtue. And, although this is a lot more common in the media than it used to be, it’s still a reassuring thing. They are characters who don’t “fit in” and they are all the better for it. They are well-respected for it. I can’t imagine a more uplifting and enjoyable type of fictional character to watch or read about.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

The Staying Power Of Characters – A Ramble

2017-artwork-character-ramble

A while before I wrote this article, I was watching an episode of “Doctor Who“, when I suddenly started thinking about how this TV series has run for so long (more than 50 years!) because the main character isn’t linked to any one particular person. And, more importantly, how this is an integral part of the series.

For those who have never heard of “Doctor Who”, it’s a series about a time-travelling alien called The Doctor who goes on all sorts of interesting adventures across the galaxy and throughout history. One interesting feature of this show is that The Doctor has multiple lives and “regenerates” into a different-looking person (with the same memories, but a very slightly different personality) after dying.

This has, of course, allowed numerous people to play The Doctor over the years – each bringing their own interpretation to the character, whilst keeping the show fairly consistent at the same time. Apart from the fact that The Doctor is always highly intelligent, militantly pacifist and at least slightly eccentric, every version of The Doctor is different and yet similar at the same time.

This made me think about characters in general and how things like prose fiction and comics have a huge advantage over virtually every other type of storytelling media out there.

In comics and prose fiction, characters are just that – characters. They can easily make cameo appearances in other stories and they can disappear for months or years (if a series goes on hiatus) and then reappear completely unchanged. Their voice-acting is always perfect (after all, it’s left up to the audience’s imaginations) and, if needs be, they can be written or drawn by multiple people at different times, with relatively little visible change.

Seriously, if you want to see characters and characterisation in it’s “purest” form, then you need to read some comics or novels. After all, the character is the character. They aren’t a particular actor or voice actor. They’re just a character. They are timeless.

In addition to this, since the audience has to add some of their own imagination to make a character in a comic or a novel “come alive”, it also means that the characters will always be the audience’s definitive version of that particular character. After all, if the audience unconsciously build the characters themselves (through reading descriptions, looking at static images etc..) then they are going to do this in the way that they feel is best.

For example, I’ve never seen the “Jack Reacher” film (and don’t intend to) but I’ve read at least a few of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. My first thought upon reading about the film adaptation was something along the lines of “They chose Tom Cruise?! WHY? He looks nothing like Jack Reacher!“. Personally, my own mental image of what Jack Reacher looks like is probably closer to Kiefer Sutherland or Dolph Lundgren than Tom Cruise. But, someone must have imagined that he looked like Tom Cruise.

In other words, traditional storytelling mediums show characters to be what they truly are – products of the imagination. They are imaginary people who exist in the imaginations of hundreds or millions of people, with no two versions of the character being exactly alike. The character is more of an idea than anything else.

But, whenever this is replicated outside of prose fiction or comics, it never quite works. After all, we only see one other person’s idea of that character. Because of this, films, TV shows, videogames etc… are rarely able to immerse the audience in character creation in the way that books or comics can.

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Sorry for the short (and rambling) article, but I hope it was interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

Two Basic Reasons Why Many Webcomics Feature “Frenemy” Relationships Between The Main Characters

2017-artwork-webcomics-character-conflict-article-sketch

First of all, if you don’t know what the word “frenemy” means, it’s a portmanteau word combining “friend” and “enemy”. It describes an antagonistic friendship. This is a type of character relationship that is also fairly common in webcomics, sitcoms etc…

So, as someone who makes occasional webcomics which have a certain level of these character dynamics, I thought that I’d write an article about why they are so common in webcomics. Here are two of the most basic reasons:

1) Comedic foils: The comedic foil is one of the oldest comedy techniques in the book. This is where you put two characters whose personalities are opposites in some way together and watch as hilarity ensues.

One character could be a detective and the other character could be a criminal. One character could be intelligent, another one could be less intelligent. One character could be serious and the other character could be silly. One character could be a liberal and the other could be a conservative etc.. The idea is that the conflicts between the characters leads to them ending up in a lot of funny situations.

A good example from a classic sitcom would probably be Dave Lister and Arnold Rimmer from “Red Dwarf” – Lister is a laid-back kind of guy who enjoys drinking lager, eating vindaloo, sarcasm and having a laugh. Rimmer, on the other hand, likes to wear a neatly-pressed uniform, gives a new meaning to the word “zealous” when it comes to petty regulations and has the galaxy’s most boring hobbies. When the two get together, funny things like this happen.

However, one side effect of a good comedic foil is that the characters end up often having at least mildly antagonistic, sarcastic etc… friendships with each other. Kind of like in this old comic of mine:

"Damania Reappears - Punk Night (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Reappears – Punk Night (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

2) Instant drama: If your webcomic includes any kind of story arcs or storylines, then “frenemy”-style character relationships can add all sorts of drama, in-jokes, running jokes etc.. to your comics.

The side-effects of your characters’ antagonism towards each other and/or their different approaches to similar situations can be a quick and easy source of both story ideas, characterisation and humour.

For example, in any of my comics about time travel (like this one, this one, this one and one that will start appearing here in about a week’s time) it’s usually a pretty safe bet that Derek will either hatch some evil scheme for world domination and/or mess up the timeline in some stupid way. Here’s an example from the upcoming comic:

This is a preview, the full comic update will appear here on the 14th May

This is a preview, the full comic update will appear here on the 14th May

In reality, of course, no-one would go time travelling with someone who keeps doing things like this- but where is the humour in that? Likewise, why would a sensible detective want to hang around with a group of people

“Frenemy” character relationships may be slightly unrealistic, but they can be an excellent source of both stories and jokes.

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Sorry for another short article, but I hope that this was useful ๐Ÿ™‚

Multiple Versions Of The Same Character – A Ramble

2017 Artwork multiple character versions article sketch

Well, whilst I was busy making a sci-fi themed webcomic mini series that will appear here in February, I was reminded of a really interesting thing that you can sometimes see in comic, TV shows, movies, books etc… I am, of course, talking about multiple versions of the same character.

I only have time to write about this briefly (since, at the time of writing, I still have to make two comic updates today), but it’s a really fascinating subject. Talking of comics, here’s another preview of my upcoming webcomic mini series:

There's only ten more days before this webcomic mini series begins appearing here..

There’s only ten more days before this webcomic mini series begins appearing here..

One of the cool things about having multiple versions of the same character is that you can use this to show off aspects of your character’s personality that you wouldn’t normally see. This is especially true in storylines involving parallel universes, where the audience can see what would have happened if your character’s history had been changed slightly.

This can also be used to great dramatic effect by making the audience question which version of the character is the “real” version, or even what it truly means to be human. By showing reflections of your own characters, you can also make the audience think about themselves even more.

Another cool thing about multiple versions of the same character is that you can experiment with slightly different visual designs for the same character. At a bare minimum, you need some kind of small visual clue so that the audience can tell which version is which (eg: in the classic “mirror universe” episode of ‘Star Trek’, the evil version of Spock has a goatee). But, if you want to, you can totally redesign how your character looks.

Of course, one of the best ways to use multiple versions of the same character is in the comedy genre. There is nothing funnier than watching a character quite literally have an argument with himself or herself.

Numerous hilarious examples of this can be found in a classic (and modern) TV series called “Red Dwarf“. Plus, since both versions of the character know each other really well, this also allows for more creatively amusing conversations between them.

Multiple versions of the same character are also perfect for the horror genre too, for the simple reason that they tap into what Sigmund Freud called “The Uncanny“. In a nutshell, this is the sense of creepiness that we feel when something is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

To use a famous example, it’s why a “realistic” humanoid robot creeps us out (since it’s body language etc.. isn’t quite right) and why a more robot-like robot doesn’t creep us out.

In addition to this, multiple versions of the same character can also be used in the horror genre to show the difference between a character’s public and private persona. The classic example is, of course, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde“.

But a far more sophisticated, and infinitely creepier, version can be found in a Satoshi Kon movie called “Perfect Blue“. In this movie, a pop star retires from her musical career, only to find that the ‘celebrity’ version of herself is still posting things online….

There’s probably a lot more that could be said but, at the time of writing, I still have comic updates to make. So, sorry about the short article.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

Should Your Webcomic Include A Group Of Recurring Main Characters ?

2016 Artwork Webcomics recurring characters article sketch

Well, I’m still in the mood for writing about making webcomics so, for today, I thought that I’d look at one of the basic structural decisions that every webcomic-maker has to think about before starting a new comic series.

I am, of course, talking about whether or not your webcomic should feature a recurring group of main characters or whether it should mostly feature random characters in every comic. There are several advantages and disadvantages to both types of webcomic.

Personally, after getting back into making occasional “newspaper comic”-style webcomics (like this one) this year, I’ve gone down the “main characters” route:

These are the four main characters from my long-running occasional "Damania" webcomic series (in chronological order, based on first appearance).

These are the four main characters from my long-running occasional “Damania” webcomic series (in chronological order, based on first appearance).

The advantages of having a central cast of recurring characters is that, once you’ve got to know the characters, writing the comics can become significantly easier (eg: since you know what the characters’ interests are, how they react to things etc…). Likewise, it also means that there will be someone familar to the audience in each comic, once they’ve read a few comics.

Character-based comics can also have a lot more depth than “random character” comics can. After all, you can spend literally hundreds of comic updates developing your characters and turning them into interesting, unique people that your readers will want to spend a lot of time with. You can’t do this if a character only appears in just one comic strip.

But, although large amounts of character development will reward long-term readers, this comes at the cost of confusing new readers. Personally, I’ve tried to keep the level of character development in my comic relatively low in order to avoid putting off new readers, but still rewarding long-term readers.

On the downside, creating and developing a group of main characters can take a significant amount of time (eg: I started this occasional series in 2011/2012 and the characters are still developing in subtle ways). So, these types of webcomics take a lot more planning and/or a lot more trial-and-error to create than webcomics that don’t include recurring characters.

In addition to this, if you’ve spent a lot of time around a particular group of characters, then it can often seem easier to keep using these characters rather than creating new ones. This is both a blessing and a curse.

For example, when I got back into making comics in 2015, my first two comics (here and here) featured “new” characters. However, virtually every comic I’ve made since then has just featured the same group of characters that I originally created in 2011/2012 for the simple reason that I know how to write these four characters better than any other characters. This has limited the types of comics I can make, but it has also made it significantly easier for me to make comics (which results in more comics).

On the other side, in webcomics where there are no recurring characters (or just a few of them), the emphasis is very firmly on the joke. Unless your webcomic features well-known historical figures, fictional characters etc… then there is also very little room for anything more than the most basic type of characterisation. As such, the emphasis of the comic has to be on the dialogue and/or humour.

One advantage of this type of comic is that they have a much more “universal” look to them (since, after all, the world is full of random people) and they are also a lot more instantly accessible to new readers. After all, you don’t need to know the characters and you don’t need to have read any of the other comics in the series in order to get the most out of each update.

Likewise, it’s easier to make comics about a much wider range of topics if you take this approach, since you can just add new characters who are relevant to whatever your next comic update is about.

For example, if you want to make a science-based comic update, then you can just draw two scientists talking. If your next comic is about the Spanish Inquisition, then you can make the characters in that comic members of the Inquisition etc…

On the downside, these comics can be more challenging to write (since you can’t rely on character-based humour). Likewise, although they can often gain a distinct “identity” through things like the artist’s style, the writer’s sense of humour etc… they can lack the instant recognisability that a comic with a main cast of recurring characters has.

Of course, there are comics that don’t fit neatly into either category (eg: comics with mostly random characters, but a couple of recurring characters). But, this is something that is worth thinking about when you are planning a webcomic series.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful ๐Ÿ™‚