Four More Tips For Writing And Drawing Filler

2014 Artwork Filler article two Sketch

Well, since I miscalculated the number of days in this month (Why does August have 31 days? It makes no logical sense!) I needed to come up with one more article than I expected to.

Anyway, this made me think about the whole subject of writing and drawing filler material. Not that this fine article is a filler article, of course….

Since I’ve already written about this subject last year, I thought that I’d list a few more clever ways of adding filler material to your webcomic, novel, website, DeviantART page, serialised story etc… today. However, I should point out that this guide is mostly geared towards online-based things rather than traditional print media.

As I said last year, you should be careful not to add too much filler material to anything that you create – because it will “dilute” your work and too much filler will make people lose interest in whatever you are creating.

Anyway, that said, let’s begin:

1) Sketchbooks And Notes: This technique will only really work if you’re posting things online at regular intervals (eg: a webcomic, a serialised story etc…), but it can be one of the best ways to add some quick filler material if you’re worried about missing an update.

Basically, just scan/photograph a few pages from your sketchbook (if you’re making a comic) or type up some of your early story planning notes (being careful to avoid spoilers) and then use them for an update. Yes, you’ll have to write a brief introduction but it requires a lot less time and effort to make than a regular update for the simple reason that you’ve already made most of the stuff you’re putting in your update.

Not only that, it’s one of the best types of filler for the simple reason that, if you have any fans who follow your work, then they’re probably going to be fascinated by the creative process that goes into making your webcomic or story. So, giving them a tantalising glimpse into your private sketchbooks/notebooks will help to satisfy some of their curiosity.

2) Competitions: You’ll have to use your imagination here, but a good way of coming up with a quick update is to post a competition of some kind for your audience.

Because you’re posting something on the internet (with an international audience), it’s probably best to give out intangible prizes rather than having to post physical prizes to audience members in other countries.

Good ideas for intangible prizes include things like, adding the winner’s name to your novel as a background character, sketching the winner in the background of one scene in your comic, just saying that this person has won first prize etc….

Not only does this increase audience loyalty to your website, but if you get your audience to post their entries (or links to their entries) in the comments on your site, then you can come up with lots of stuff for people to look at – without having to create any of it yourself.

3) Fictional non-fiction: If you’re writing a novel, then you can add filler by including a scene or segment of your novel where either you or one of your characters explains some trivial part of the world of your story. Because you’ve probably already thought about this sort of stuff before, then there hopefully won’t be too much new creativity involved in creating one of these scenes.

For example, if you’re writing a fantasy novel, then you could include a few short “The Almanac of (your setting)” chapters throughout your novel that explain some of the weird and wonderful things in your story in more detail. A good sci-fi example of this technique can be found in the “Game Cat” chapters of a cyberpunk novel called “Vurt” by Jeff Noon.

Just don’t use this technique too often, because it goes against the “show, don’t tell” rule for good descriptive writing.

4) Alternative comics: I found this interesting horror comic online a few weeks ago and, although there has obviously been a lot of creative effort put into it, one of the interesting things about it is that one chapter of it doesn’t really look like a traditional comic. In fact, most pages of this chapter consist of nothing but “voice-over” dialogue and a single minimalist background image and/or pattern.

So, if you need to make a quick comic- then it might be worth trying this approach. Yes, you’ll still have to put a lot of effort into the writing, but it means that you can either make quick and simple art for each page or just use old public domain/ Creative Commons licenced images from the internet.

Yes, you’ll have to search for the right image for each page (and check it’s copyright/ licencing status) but it will save you having to create lots of art from scratch.

———

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Advertisements

Some Thoughts About Writing and Drawing Filler

2013 Artwork Filler Sketch

[Edit: I’ve just added #6 to the list at the end of this article, I’m not sure why it was left out of the version of this article I uploaded a few minutes ago]

The best metaphor (ok, technically a similie) I can think of for filler in stories and comics is that of a barkeeper diluting their drinks.

If it’s done openly, then the diluted drinks are sold as cocktails and the customer is happy (eg: gin diluted with tonic water, Whisky diluted with ginger ale etc….). But, if it’s done secretly, then it can seriously annoy the barkeeper’s customers and quickly land the barkeeper in serious trouble unless it isn’t obviously noticeable (even then, the barkeeper would almost certainly get caught by trading standards after a while).

Likewise, adding filler dilutes your stories. If there’s too much filler – your story will lose it’s impact, become less interesting and your readers will start to feel cheated.

But for writers and artists on a schedule or for pacing and length reasons, adding filler to stories/comics can become a necessary evil sometimes. It can also be used as a rather crafty way to disguise the fact that you have writer’s block and to buy you time to come up with ideas. It’s also a way for a writer on a schedule to have a much-needed break every now and then, whilst still providing something for their readers and keeping to their schedule.

So, how can you add filler (if you absolutely have to) in a way which doesn’t drive your readers away? Yes, the ethics of this are complicated, but if you’re going to write filler – then it may as well be good filler (or, rather, it shouldn’t be bad filler). Your readers and/or customers deserve nothing less:

1) Make sure it’s interesting:
Although your filler chapter or filler page doesn’t do anything to advance the main storyline of your comic or story, it should still be interesting.
The best way to do this is to either make your filler page/chapter funny and/or to use it for characterisation, but whatever you do – it has to be interesting, otherwise your readers may feel cheated.

2) Art-based pages: This is a really good technique if you have writer’s block when you’re writing a comic, but still have a schedule to keep. Just draw a page or two where there is very little, if any, dialogue and the emphasis is very firmly on the art. Sometimes, of course, this is necessary for creative reasons and most art-based pages aren’t usually filler – but they can be used as filler if you absolutely have to.

Likewise, if you have a webcomic, then just posting drawings of the characters etc… rather than actual comic strips can serve as good filler content if you have writer’s block or are quite busy. Some webcomic artists/writers also like to prepare a store of unused comics to post on days where, for one reason or another, it isn’t practical to write or draw a new comic strip – although this only really works with webcomics which don’t have a continuous storyline.

3) Sneak a short story into your novel: You’ve probably seen one of these in a novel somewhere, where there is a random chapter which has very little connection to the storyline as a whole (and could easily be removed without affecting the main storyline). This can be a useful way of adding filler or buying time if you have writer’s block during a crucial part of the story.

If they’re well-written and relatively short, then they have the added bonus of giving your reader a short break too and also adding more depth and atmosphere to the setting of the novel too. If they’re badly-written, appear at a totally inappropriate time, appear too often and/or go on for too long then most readers will find them annoying. Likewise, if a filler chapter is too boring, then it’s extremely noticeable too.

Filler chapters are also vastly prefereable to just adding lots of convoluted sentences or “purple prose”-style descriptions to the rest of the novel to pad it out.

One disadvantage of using this type of filler is that it only usually works well in novels narrated from a third-person perspective. It can be done from a first-person perspective, but you have to be a lot more inventive.

4) Guest comics: Some webcomics do this from time to time if the comic’s writer/artist isn’t able to make any more comics for a few days and doesn’t have the opportunity to make any beforehand either. Although it requires knowing other webcomic artists who are willing to make guest strips on short notice, this is probably the most fun type of webcomic filler to read – especially since it’s interesting to see familiar characters drawn in someone else’s art style too.

5) Re-use your art, with a few small changes: This is a real tactic of last resort and it tends to work much better with digitally-created art rather than traditionally-created art. It’s one of the most noticeable forms of filler and unless it is accompanied by funny or intriguing dialogue or works within the context of the story, then your readers will probably feel cheated.

6) Make a feature of it: This is a good way to add filler openly if it’s done well. Just have a regular feature on your webcomic or blog or whatever which is less creativity-intensive than your ordinary work, but which is still produced to the same standard as your other work.

One example from this very blog are the reviews I post most nights [sorry for missing yesterday’s one 😦 ]. They’re reasonably fun to write, they don’t require me to think of a new topic to write about (although selecting something to review can be difficult sometimes) and hopefully they are also interesting quite to read too. Yet, technically speaking, they are also filler too – since writing two articles about creativity per day would probably get slightly too intense after a while.

—-

There are other techniques for adding filler too and this is hardly a comprehensive list, but I hope that it helps. Just remember, filler should be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.