Location Choices In Short Stories And Webcomic Updates – A Ramble

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Well, since I’m busy making a webcomic mini series for next month and also seem to be spending quite a bit of time playing a computer game (called “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”) at the time of writing, I thought that I’d take a look at another interesting thing that playing games can teach you about making webcomics, writing short fiction etc…

One of the interesting things about many computer games is that, although they might contain quite a few levels or even a large “open world”, there are always limits on where the player can explore. Most of the time, this is done for purely practical reasons (eg: a game company might have the time and/or budget to build a large city for the player to explore, but it might only contain 20-100 buildings that the player can actually enter.)

Whilst some games take the “open world” approach, many other games limit the player to exploring smaller areas in order to provide a much more focused and “deep” experience. For example, although “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” contains quite a few complex buildings that the player can explore, it only contains about four “open” areas, each of which only consists of a few streets. This allows the game designers to focus more on making these smaller outdoor areas interesting, whilst helping to ensure that the player doesn’t get too lost whilst exploring.

This focus on a limited number of locations is something that is worth bearing in mind if you’re making webcomics or writing short fiction.

If you’re writing short fiction or making a 3-8 panel webcomic update, then the main focus needs to be on things like humour, storytelling and characterisation. What this means is that you should probably only include 1-3 different locations in each comic update or short story. Because you don’t have too much room, you need to focus on locations that are actually relevant to the story.

So, with short fiction especially, choosing a location can often be a surprisingly important thing. For example, this short story of mine is about a futuristic city that has experienced a power cut. Although other locations are mentioned in the story, the events of the story take place within a single room. This allows me to focus more on both the characters and the story than if I’d tried to write about lots of different things happening in different places.

Plus, by focusing on a very limited number of locations, you can also spend more time describing those locations in detail. Detailed descriptions of one or two locations will make your story more dramatic and atmospheric than if you try to describe a larger number of locations in much less detail.

Likewise, if you’re making webcomics, then using a more limited number of locations can be a good way to save time (eg: drawing the same simple background multiple times is quicker than having to plan and draw lots of different backgrounds) and also to give your webcomic a lot more “personality” too. After all, familiar recurring locations can often become part of what a webcomic is about.

Of course, the problem with doing this in a webcomic is that using the same backgrounds repeatedly can be visually monotonous. But, there are lots of sneaky ways to get around this.

For example, in dramatic panels, you can use a solid black background – this places emphasis on the character who is talking, it’s quick to draw and it adds some visual variety to the comic update too.

Likewise, if a character is talking at length about something, then you can use a “cutaway” panel – just add the narration to a box at the top of the panel and then add a small illustration of whatever it is that the character is talking about. Here’s an example from the upcoming webcomic mini series that I’m preparing at the time of writing:

 The full comic update will be posted here on the 28th November.

The full comic update will be posted here on the 28th November.

So, yes, looking at explorable areas in computer and video games can teach you the value of only including a small number of relevant locations in your short stories and/or comic updates.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Four Benefits Of The Non-Interactive Nature Of Art, Comics And Prose Fiction

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Well, I had planned to write another article about computer and video games, but I thought that I’d flip this subject on it’s head and talk about some of the advantages that non-interactive creative mediums (eg: art, comics, traditional prose fiction etc…) have.

And, yes, I know that there are interactive types of fiction out there (like this gamebook-style online story I wrote in 2015,) but I’ll be looking at traditional fiction – in addition to art and comics here.

So, what are the benefits of creative works that aren’t interactive? Here are a few:

1) Flow and control: One of the great things about non-interactive creative works is that they flow seamlessly in a single direction. If you’re looking at a painting, you can just look at the whole painting. If you’re reading a (non-manga) comic, then the next panel is always either to the right of or below the one you’re currently looking at (or on the next page). If you’re reading a novel, then you just have to turn to the next page once you’ve finished a page.

Because linearity is an assumed and accepted part of traditional mediums, they provide the audience with a seamlessly flowing experience. In addition to this, it also gives you (the artist, the author etc..) much greater control over the pacing. For example, if you want to “speed up” a comic page, then include little to no dialogue. If you want to “slow down” part of a prose fiction story, then you can add more descriptions, fewer actions and/or slightly more complex language.

One of the problems with interactive mediums (like games) is that getting the flow of the story right can be way more difficult. If a game is too linear, then it feels like the designers are either patronising the player or aren’t taking full advantage of the interactive nature of the medium. However, if a game is too non-linear, then it can be easy for the player to get confused and/or stuck during various parts of the game – which can lead to frustration and a wish for the game to just get on with things.

Thankfully, in non-interactive mediums, there’s no such thing as “too linear” and no way for the audience to get “stuck” either.

2) What you can show: Since the audience for a non-interactive work doesn’t have any control over what happens in a story, comic, painting etc… they will only see what you, the creator, want them to see. Although this sounds like it would be a limitation, it can seriously increase the quality of a work.

For example, you can give the impression of a large, complex fictional world within a shorter story by only describing one location (where the story is set) in detail, whilst making brief and intriguing references to other locations that aren’t shown. In a comic, you can focus on drawing the more visually-interesting and/or easy to draw locations. In a painting, you have total control over what angle the audience sees the contents of the picture from etc…

In interactive mediums, the designers have to account for the player’s choices. In other words, they have to spend more time designing places that are meant to be explored (rather than seen or described), and which look visually interesting regardless of where the player’s character happens to be standing at any particular moment. They also have to adjust the dialogue and the events of the game to account for player choice. In other words, there are a lot of other things that they have to plan for – and not only does this mean that there’s a greater chance that they will make a mistake, it also means that they can’t spend as much time on each individual element of their project.

So, yes, not having to worry about interactivity means that you can focus more on improving the quality of whatever you decide to show the audience, rather than having to worry about a hundred other things too.

3) Dramatic weight: One of the advantages of non-interactive mediums is that you have a lot more control over how significant or dramatic any element of your story or art is. For example, you can use the lighting in a painting to emphasise particular parts of the image. You can describe your characters’ thoughts and emotions in a story. You can devote an entire page of a comic to a single dramatic image etc…

With interactive mediums, the designers have to account for things like gameplay too. As several videos about game design have pointed out, it’s difficult to add dramatic weight to a violent scene in a game if the player has just spent the past hour fighting countless adversaries. It’s like the old rule about profanity in fiction – the more you use it, the less “dramatic” it becomes.

Likewise, if a designer tries to add “suspense” to a game by placing a time restriction on part of the game, then not only will this frustrate the player if the time limit is too short – but, having to re-play the same segment of the game again and again (until the player wins) will quickly drain any sense of dramatic weight or suspense from that part of the game.

Because non-interactive mediums don’t have to worry about gameplay, they have a lot more freedom when it comes to adding things like dramatic weight, suspense, emotional power etc..

4) The interactivity is more interesting:
Although I’ve described things like prose fiction, art and comics as being “non-interactive”, this isn’t entirely true. Sure, the audience can’t directly interact with these things – but they can interact with them in all sorts of fascinatingly indirect ways.

For example, if a story, collection of art or a comic is good enough, then it’s going to influence other creative people. They’re going to blend the best elements of your work with their own imagination and style in order to create something totally new. And, since it’s influenced by the things you made, you’re probably going to enjoy reading it too 🙂 In addition to this, if you produce something that someone really likes, then it’s possible that it might inspire them to become an artist, writer etc…

Since fully interactive mediums are complex, expensive things to make, the chances of an audience member becoming inspired enough to make something new are a lot more limited. Most ordinary people will be restricted to just modifying existing games etc.. And whilst this does have parallels with modern-style fan fiction and fan art, it doesn’t have parallels with things like original novels inspired by other novels, original comics inspired by other comics etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Four Quick Tips For Never Leaving A Comic Unfinished

Sorry about even more recycled title art, but I was fairly tired at the time of writing this article.

Sorry about even more recycled title art, but I was fairly tired at the time of writing this article.

Although I finished preparing this year’s Halloween comic the night before I wrote this article, the last few pages were considerably less enjoyable to make than the rest of the comic was. But, despite feeling my enthusiasm for the project waning, I was still able to finish it.

In fact, since I got back into making comics in 2015, I’ve never really left a comic unfinished (eg: even though this mini series has a slightly open ending, it still has some resolution to the story in the final two pages). But, back in 2012-13, I still used to leave comics unfinished occasionally.

So, what did I do to stop myself from leaving comics unfinished? Here are a few very brief tips.

1) Plan first: One of the easiest ways to avoid unfinished comics is to plan out your comic before you make it. Just make a mock-up of your comic with extremely rough scribbled artwork.

If you lose interest or get severe writer’s block whilst making your plan, then either change it, take a break or try planning a different comic. This alone will help you to avoid comic ideas that are doomed to failure.

If you’re worried that planning will take some of the spontaneity out of making comics, then just remember that comic plans aren’t set in stone. If you think of a better panel arrangement, something else to add etc.. when you’re actually making the comic, then by all means do it. Just think of your plan as a backup that can come in handy if you get writer’s block.

2) Length: A shorter finished comic is better than a longer unfinished comic. So, when you’re planning your comic, try to be at least slightly conservative when working out how long it is going to be (not doing this to the right extent was one of the problems with my Halloween comic).

Remember, if your comic is going well, then you can always find ways to expand it beyond your original plan. It’s easier to expand a shorter plan whilst making a comic than it is to cut things whilst making a comic.

So, plan a short comic and – if it goes well – maybe make it longer.

3) Segmentation: This obviously won’t work for all comic projects. But, if you can make things that consist of lots of self-contained segments (such as stand-alone “newspaper comic”-style comics, short stories etc..) then the risk of leaving the project unfinished is a lot lower because, if you find that you are running out of enthusiasm or ideas, then you can just finish your current segment and leave it there.

Since each segment is self-contained, then there will be some kind of conclusion to your project even if you abandon it before making as many segments as you’d originally planned to make.

4) Endings: An abrupt, rushed, random and/or slightly open-ended ending is better than no ending. Any kind of resolution to your comic, no matter how sudden or badly-written is better than no resolution.

So, if you need to end your comic, then end it. Even if you rush the ending, then it’s still better than leaving your comic unfinished.

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

Two Very Basic Tips For Dealing With Webcomic Exhaustion

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Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy with this year’s Halloween comic. But, I noticed something rather worrying whilst making pages seven and eight of it. I was starting to get a mild case of what I call “webcomic exhaustion”. The art seemed less fun to make than it had been, the project felt endless (despite only having a few pages to go) and I felt myself running low on enthusiasm.

This isn’t as bad as feeling burnt out (eg: the “I need to take a year off from making comics!” kind of feeling), but it can lead to that if you aren’t careful. So, what should you do when you start feeling webcomic exhaustion? Or, even better, before you start feeling webcomic exhaustion?

1) Plan ahead: Although this might drain some of the “spontaneity” out of making webcomics, always be sure to plan ahead –especially if you’re making a narrative comic! Having a plan for the whole comic and/or for the next 5-20 updates before you start means that any feelings of webcomic exhaustion won’t have too much of an effect on the quality of the writing in your comic.

Plus, if you have some experience with making comics, then you can account for exhaustion when you are planning your comic. If your comic is slightly on the longer side (like my upcoming Halloween comic is, relatively speaking), then including more simple interior locations in the later parts of the story – to save drawing time – can be a good idea.

Likewise, making a comic plan in advance also means that you know how many pages are left – and have more of a chance of actually finishing the comic as a result (since it doesn’t seem like a potentially endless thing). As counter intuitive as it sounds, it’s often better to finish a comic (even if the art quality starts declining etc..) than it is to leave a comic unfinished. Not only does this give you a sense of accomplishment (which can help you get back into comics after taking a break), but it also means that the audience will get some resolution to the story too.

Plus, if you start to feel exhausted, you can just look at your plan and tell yourself “I’ve only got [however many] pages to go!“. For example, my current webcomic exhaustion isn’t too bad (compared to, say, the exhaustion I felt in 2013) for the simple reason that I only have about three and a half comic pages to go.

2) Breaks, experience and structure: After experiencing a whole year of webcomic burnout during 2014 (where I produced next to no comics), I tend to be a lot stricter with myself about comic length. What this usually means is that I’ll make “mini series” of 4-17 comic updates (well, it’s more like 6-12 updates these days). Then, I’ll switch to doing daily art practice for a few days to a few weeks before making another mini series.

These regular breaks can be a great way to stop webcomic exhaustion in it’s tracks, whilst the daily art practice helps to ensure that I don’t fall out of the “rhythm” of making things regularly (it also improves the art in my webcomics too!).

From experience, I’ve been able to learn more about my limits when it comes to making webcomics. For example, I knew that the Halloween comic was going to be a longer and more ambitious project than my usual comics are. So, I was actually able to prepare myself emotionally for the possibility of webcomic burnout. I was also able to limit it to twelve pages (including the cover) whilst planning it, because I knew that this was about the upper limit of what I could produce.

Unfortunately, the best way to deal with webcomic exhaustion is to learn your own limits… from experience. But, one less stressful way to learn this might be to start with shorter comics projects and then gradually increase the length until you start to feel like it’s turning into a chore. Once you’ve reached that point once, you’ll know to keep your comics below that length.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Random Tips For Making Occasional Webcomics

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Ah, occasional webcomics. Although they might not have the same degree of regularity or prestige that “traditional” webcomics do, they can often be a good choice for a number of reasons.

The first is that they allow you to make other artistic projects when you aren’t focusing on webcomics. The second is that they allow you to spend more time planning your comics (so, writer’s block is less of an issue than with a “traditional” long-running regular webcomic). The third is that they tend to be more fun to make than long-running regular webcomics do.

Since I’m still busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing (you can check out last year’s one here, and find lots of other comics here), I thought that I’d give you a few random tips about making occasional webcomics:

1) Occasional webcomics are still webcomics!: Yes, traditional regularly-updated long-running webcomics require a lot more effort and endurance to create. But, occasional webcomics are still webcomics. They’re just as valid as regularly-updated webcomics are! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

If anyone looks down at your webcomic because it is only released occasionally, then show them “Subnormality” by Winston Rowntree. This is one of the most intelligent, well-drawn and well-written webcomics on the internet. It is also an occasional webcomic. Although he updates it fairly infrequently, Rowntree uses the occasional format to full advantage.

Because he doesn’t have a regular production schedule, he doesn’t have to cut corners with the art. He makes comic updates that are literally tens or hundreds of panels long. He spends a lot longer planning the dialogue and refining the ideas behind each complex, novelistic webcomic update. Once you’ve read a few of the more recent updates to “Subnormality”, you’ll probably find it hard to argue that occasional webcomics “aren’t really webcomics”.

Or, if you want another example of a great occasional webcomic to show people, then show them some of the more recent updates to “Hark! A Vagrant!” By Kate Beaton. Although the art is a lot more minimalist than the art in “Subnormality”, these are quirky occasional comics that mostly focus on history and literature. Since Beaton doesn’t have to put out three updates a week every week, the comics tend to be a lot more well-researched and will often focus on all sorts of interesting parts of history.

2) Scheduling: In order to make an occasional webcomic series that really works for you, you need to find a schedule that works for you. Some people prefer to just make comics whenever they feel like making them. This gives the webcomic a sense of spontaneity and it ensures that only the best ideas make it into your comics (since, why would you make a comic if you didn’t have a good idea?). But, on the downside, the audience never knows when they can expect a new comic.

Personally, I’ve taken inspiration from television and usually release my own occasional comics in “mini series” of daily updates (typically 6-12 updates these days). This isn’t a very common release schedule, but it has the advantages of both a long-running webcomic and a “spontaneous” webcomic. Yes, it has a few of the disadvantages too (eg: updates can be rushed slightly, the art can sometimes be a bit simpler etc..) but these are less of an issue than in long-running webcomics.

In addition to this, the “mini series” format also allows you to switch between traditional “newspaper comic”-style comics and more narrative-based comics more easily – since each mini series is a small (and usually partially self-contained) thing that can either tell one story or can contain several stand-alone jokes.

Whilst the timing of when each mini series will appear is slightly random, the audience can expect daily updates for several days when a mini series does appear. So, this is a good approach to take if the idea of making webcomics literally every day or week seems too overwhelming, but if you are at your best when you include some element of regularity in your creative work.

It took me a bit of trial and error to discover this release schedule, and it might not work for you. So, be sure to experiment with different release schedules until you find one that works well for you.

3) Versatility: If you’re making an occasional webcomic, then you need to be able to include lots of different things in it. After all, since it’s something that you’ll only be making occasionally, you need to be able to bring your comic “up to date” with whatever inspires you at any given time.

Some comic creators do this by making every one of their occasional webcomic updates a totally new self-contained thing, with new characters and new settings. Whilst this allows the audience to jump into your comic a lot more easily, it means that you have to spend more time thinking of new characters etc.. every time you want to make a comic update. It also means that you have to rely more on things like your unique art style and writing style to make your webcomic seem unique and distinctive.

Personally, I have a central cast of four characters. But, apart from this, everything else about the comic can change. There are comic updates set in the real world. There are comic updates set in all manner of strange locations. There are comic updates about gaming, films, music, books etc.. There’s slapstick comedy. There’s cynical observational humour. There are comic updates with varying numbers of panels. There are longer storie and there are self-contained updates.

There are all sorts of different things in this one occasional series, but I’ve found that using a common cast of characters in all of these comics both saves planning time and also helps to give the series more of a sense of continuity. Yes, it’s slightly harder for new readers to get into, but it also means that it has some of the familiarity that a longer-running series might also have without sacrificing too much versatility in the process.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Making Comics Vs Writing Fiction – What Are The Differences?

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Well, although I’m busy making this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk about some of the differences between making comics and writing fiction.

Although I come from a writing background (eg: I’ve studied creative writing etc..), most of the storytelling that I’ve done over the past few years has been in comic form. Even though I got back into writing short fiction last year and wrote an interactive novella the year before, I’ve probably had more webcomic-making experience than writing experience within the past couple of years. Still, I’d like to think that I know enough about both mediums to be able to compare them.

So, here are a few of the major differences:

1) Art vs written descriptions: Whilst this sounds like a really obvious difference, it’s worth looking at. This is mostly because art and written descriptions both have their fair share of strengths and weaknesses. Although they fulfil the same role (eg: letting the reader know what everything looks like), they can do this in radically different ways.

The main strength of art in comics is that it allows the audience to instantly see what is happening. In addition to this, it also allows you to give your comic a unique atmosphere by using an “unrealistic” art style. When people read books, they usually tend to imagine the settings and characters in a fairly “realistic” way – regardless of how unique the author’s narrative voice might be. But, with art, you have the freedom to make everything and everyone look a bit more stylised.

Likewise, being able to alternate between art and dialogue in a comic gives you a greater level of control over the pacing of your story. If you want a scene in your comic to be slightly slower-paced, then you can add lots of dialogue and/or intricate art. If you want a scene to be faster, you can cut back on the dialogue and background detail slightly, and focus the reader’s attention on the actions that are taking place.

The only downside to all of this stuff is that, unless you hire an artist, you’ll actually have to learn how to draw and/or paint. This is worth doing, but it can take quite a bit of practice to get even close to good at it. In addition to this, you need to be at least vaguely competent at visual storytelling (eg: hinting at a story through visual details) because art lacks one of the strengths that written descriptions have.

That strength is that written descriptions can contain a lot more depth than art does.

For example, if you see a painting of a city, then you can only see whatever is in the painting. If you read a good written description of a city, then you might learn some of the city’s history, you’ll be told what life in that city is like, you might meet a couple of people who live there and/or you’ll get to take a close look at a few parts of it. In other words, you’ll get a much deeper understanding of the city.

Another strength of written descriptions is that they allow a lot more room for audience interpretation. A painting looks like whatever the artist wants it to look like. A description “looks” like whatever the audience imagines it to look like. By giving the audience a bit more control, it means that they are more emotionally invested in the story that you are trying to tell. After all, even though they might be following your instructions, they’re still building it for themselves within their own imaginations.

2) Dialogue: Dialogue in comics and dialogue in prose fiction might seem similar on the surface, but they are two radically different things that require two radically different skills to write well.

Due to the limited space in each comic panel, comic dialogue often has to be a lot shorter and more “functional” than dialogue in fiction does. Whilst there are some notable exceptions to this rule (eg: a webcomic called “Subnormality” by Winston Rowntree), most lines of dialogue in comics are often only about 1-3 sentences long.

You need to be able to do things like showing a character’s personality through phrasing and word choice (eg: the difference between “That was good!” and “Absolutely splendid!”) within a relatively small space. Likewise, you can sometimes use the dialogue for storytelling too (but beware of wordy descriptions standing in for things that should be shown via the artwork).

Comic dialogue is short, minimalist and functional. It has to be almost haiku-like in order to work well. After all, it’s only there to tell part of the story since you can also use the art for storytelling too, In many ways, it’s probably closer to writing the dialogue in a movie or a TV show than writing dialogue in prose fiction.

Prose fiction, on the other hand, gives you a lot more freedom with the dialogue. As long as it’s relevant to the plot in some way, your characters can have much longer and more naturalistic conversations. It’s easier to show a character’s personality through the dialogue and there’s a lot more freedom to use the dialogue to convey background information and story information. It’s easier and more intuitive to write than comic dialogue is.

On the other hand, unlike comics, prose fiction is read one word at a time. A comic panel might allow the reader to, say, read a line of dialogue and look at the art at the same time. With fiction, the reader can only read dialogue or descriptions at any one time. So, you have to pay a bit more attention to getting the mixture of dialogue and descriptions right.

3) Time and complexity: Comics are designed to be read quickly. A single webcomic update can be read in seconds, whereas a short story might take a few minutes to read. Since comics have less of a time cost, they can often be more attractive to audiences.

For example, last Christmas, I read a really cool 50-100 page graphic novel called “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Dust To Dust” by Philip K. Dick, Chris Roberson & Robert Adler. It was the second half of a longer story and I blazed through the whole thing in the space of about twenty minutes.

That Christmas, I also read a 243-page novel called “Brighton Belle” by Sara Sheridan. It took me about 4-6 hours, spread across several days, to read it. Even accounting for length differences, the comic was a much quicker read.

The irony is, of course, is that the time differences are reversed when you are actually making comics or writing fiction. A single webcomic page that shows a small part of a slightly simpler story might take you 1-2 hours to make if you’re inspired. A 500 word segment of a written story (that tells a slightly more complicated story) might only take you 20-30 minutes to write if you’re feeling inspired.

Likewise, because of all of the things that I’ve mentioned earlier in this article, prose fiction is more well-suited to telling more complex stories. Comics, on the other hand, are at their best when they are telling slightly more focused and streamlined stories.

Both mediums require at least a slightly different approach to storytelling and, like with writing dialogue, these two types of storytelling require surprisingly different skills. A story that works well in a novel might not work well in a comic and vice versa. They really are astonishingly different mediums, despite some similarities.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Lazy Ways To Include Fight Scenes In Your Webcomic (If You Don’t Usually Include Them)

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As regular readers probably know, I’m busy with making this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing. As such, I thought that I’d talk about making webcomics again. Today, I’ll be looking at lazy ways to include elements from the action genre in your (web)comics, if you haven’t had much practice at this.

Although action scenes in comics are designed to be read quickly, they are probably one of the most difficult things to draw well. After all, you’ve got to work out how to draw your characters standing in all sorts of dramatic-looking poses and you also have to clearly show a complex series of events using just a few panels.

Yes, technically, you should probably practice drawing anatomy. You should learn how to draw every type of perspective. You should probably carefully study lots of action scenes in other comics and learn techniques from them. But, you’re making a webcomic and you’re on a schedule. So, you could always, you know, cheat.

But, a word of warning, these “lazy” techniques will only work if you include action scenes infrequently in your comics. A small number of “lazy” action scenes, coupled with lots of funny dialogue, interesting artwork etc.. can be overlooked by readers. But, if you’re including lots of action in your comic, then you should probably study how to draw these scenes properly.

But, that said, here are some lazy ways to include action scenes in your comic:

1) Gunfights: If you are inexperienced with the action genre in comics, then you should probably try to stick to including gun-based combat in your comics if the story allows it.

Not only is it easier to learn how to draw someone holding or firing a gun (eg: a few poses, as opposed to the hundreds of possible poses needed to draw a realistic fist-fight, sword-fight etc..) but, due to the especially deadly nature of guns, it can mean that the fight scenes in your comics can plausibly be over within the space of a couple of panels at the most. In other words, there are fewer complicated combat-based panels to draw.

Of course, you shouldn’t include guns in comics where they would look somewhat out of context. So, this technique isn’t a cure-all for being inexperienced with drawing action scenes. But, if you have to include other weapons in your comic, then….

2) Posing: If you need a lazy way to give the impression that your comic contains lots of action, without actually including that much action, then one way to do this is to include as many (or more) scenes of characters holding or brandishing weapons than scenes where they actually use them. Just make sure that you only include this in contexts where your characters would realistically be expected to be brandishing weapons.

For example, my Halloween comic from last year is set during a zombie apocalypse (eg: a context where the characters should probably be armed) and it contains something like eleven or twelve panels where characters are holding or brandishing a variety of unusual weapons, but not using them. On the other hand, there are only something like five or six panels in the entire comic where the characters actually use those weapons.

In other words, although the characters are visibly armed for large parts of the comic, there are about twice as many panels showing the characters not using their weapons.

Doing this sort of thing gives the impression that the characters are in a dramatic and dangerous situation (why would they be armed if they weren’t?) whilst also allowing you to include a minimum of complex action scenes in your comic.

3) Implication: As ironic as it sounds, self-censorship can actually be your friend when it comes to drawing action scenes when you have little experience. Whilst a well-drawn action scene in a comic should show both an act of violence and it’s direct consequences (eg: someone swinging a punch and the punch connecting with whoever they are hitting), this requires a bit more planning and artistic knowledge to do well.

So, one lazy way to get around this is to use implication. For example, one panel of my upcoming Halloween comic shows the main characters being theatened. The next panel consists of nothing more than a melodramatic illustration of one of the main characters firing a machine gun (whilst saying a witty line of dialogue).

The “action” in the scene is conveyed entirely through “sound effects”, dialogue, dramatic lighting etc… But, it’s basically just a picture of the character standing still and firing a machine gun.

But, most critically, the panel after this one is just a dialogue-based panel. The “fight” is implied to be over through the more relaxed demeanour of the characters, and the more puzzling aspects of this scene (eg: where did the machine gun come from?) are addressed through dialogue.

Yes, it’s a lazy way to handle a scene like this but – because there won’t be that much violence in the comic (well, there will be more than usual, but less than in many more action-based comics) and because the comic is meant to be more of a comedy horror comic than a “serious” horror or thriller comic, then hopefully it won’t have too much of an adverse effect on the quality of the comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂