Three Tips For Using Introspective Stuff In Webcomics

Well, at the time of writing this article, I’ve started preparing a webcomic mini series (which will feature the four characters who appear in most of my more recent webcomics) that will appear here in mid-late January.

Anyway, one of the things that I want to try to do with this mini series is to make it a slightly more introspection-based one. Here’s a preview from the first comic in the mini series:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 20th January.

So, for today, I thought that I’d take a brief look at several things to remember when including introspective stuff in your webcomics.

1) It doesn’t have to be depressing: Usually, when the word “introspective” is used to describe creative works, it’s often a synonym for “depressing”. But, introspection can be so much more than that. It can include hilarious paradoxes that you’ve noticed, it can include thoughts about a range of philosophical topics, it can include thoughts about all sorts of things, it can include reactions to the surrounding culture, it can include the most joyous of daydreams etc….

Then again, you probably know this anyway. After all, the types of people who tend to instantly characterise “introspective” as “depressing” are usually people who don’t tend to do much introspection. Introspection can be a wonderful and uplifting thing, and it can be a depressing thing. It can be both or either. But I still don’t understand how some people go through their lives without it.

So, don’t just focus on one side of it. Introspection can be happy too.

2) Remember the tone: If you’re going to include introspective stuff in your webcomics, then make sure that you have a good understanding of what the emotional tone of your webcomic is. Once you know this, then try to find a way to fit the introspective stuff into that emotional tone.

For example, if you make a webcomic like Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality” which is filled with philosophical, psychological and emotional complexity, then it’s fairly easy to add literally any kind of introspective stuff to it.

But, if your webcomic is usually an eccentric, cheerful thing then this isn’t really the place to include obviously “heavier” and more depressing subject matter. Or, rather, it’s something that has to be handled fairly carefully if you don’t want to alienate your audience. For example, although my webcomics have their fair share of cynicism and dark humour, I usually try to avoid completely “depressing” comics like the plague.

Yet, the comic strip that I previewed earlier in this article is one about ageing (and, by extension, mortality) and alienation from the surrounding culture. These are pretty heavy subjects but the whole comic strip hopefully won’t be depressing. Why? Because these subjects are looked at through the slightly “frivolous” topic of videogames. Yes, one of the characters has a small existential crisis, but it’s about… videogames.. of all things. So, this counterbalances some of the more serious subject matter of the comic.

So, if you know what the emotional tone of your webcomic is, then you can add all sorts of introspective stuff to it without freaking your audience out too much.

3) Don’t make it obviously autobiographical!: Yes, I’m sure that making autobiographical comics can be cathartic or empowering. But, if your webcomic hasn’t started out as an autobiographical comic, then suddenly cramming a lot of autobiographical stuff in there can confuse the audience.

So, if you want to include things from your own life and thoughts in your comic, then try to look for the general theme or idea behind that thing and then see if you can apply that general idea to something that actually fits into your webcomic.

For example, one of the comics I’ve got planned for this mini series is about the weird emotional dynamics that surround highly-inspired creative projects. There’s this weird excited rush to finish them (when you’re actually making them), but then they’re missed the instant that they’re finished. Yet, although some of my webcomic characters have dabbled in things like writing or art, they aren’t really writers or artists. So, when including this theme in my comic, I had to think of some other type of relevant thing that also had these emotional dynamics.

The comic is still introspective, but by stripping down the introspective/autobiographical thought to it’s most basic idea and then fitting that idea into the comic (rather than make the comic fit into the idea), I’ll hopefully be able to avoid shoehorning any distracting autobiographical stuff into the comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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The Joy Of… Body Horror

2014 Artwork Joy Of Body Horror sketch

Well, since I can’t think of any good advice about writing or art today, I thought that I’d write about one of my favourite horror sub-genres and why it is such a divinely beautiful type of fiction.

I am, of course, talking about body horror. This essay might get a little bit philosophical and introspective, but I hope that it is interesting nonetheless.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you’ve probably heard of “body horror” before – but, if you haven’t, then I should probably explain it briefly. As the name suggests, traditional “body horror” stories revolve around strange things happening to either the main character’s body or the bodies of other characters.

For example, traditional “body horror” stories can involve things like someone mysteriously growing an extra arm or someone slowly mutating into an alien creature etc…

However, I’d argue that “body horror” also includes stories where the main character’s body remains intact, but they discover something “strange” about themselves.

A good example of this would be in a TV show like “Battlestar Galactica“, where several of the human characters suddenly learn that they are actually cylons (a race of human-like robots that the humans are at war with) and they have to come to terms with this fact.

Not only is body horror one of the most theatrical and surreal types of horror fiction, but it is also one of the most introspective types of horror fiction too.

Whilst most other types of horror fiction focus on the main character encountering terrifying and strange things in the outside world, body horror places all of that strangeness firmly within the main character.

In other words, body horror stories are essentially stories about self-discovery, self-loathing and/or self-knowledge.

Often, in body horror stories, there is a strong contrast between the “normal” main character and the “unusual” thing that they discover that they actually are.

Usually, this contrast is intended to scare and unsettle the “ordinary” members of the audience. But, if you’re someone who is already slightly “interesting”, then “body horror” stories can take on a very different – and much more cathartic and educational – tone.

Why?

If – for example – you’re LGBT, then you’ve probably had a moment in the earlier parts of your life when you’ve suddenly realised that you’re slightly different to all or most of the people that you know. Maybe you were lucky enough to fully understand it at the time or to discover all (or part) of it gradually, but maybe you weren’t.

Maybe the first signs of who you are suddenly seemed to come out of the blue, like a dramatic plot twist – leaving you reeling with puzzled incomprehension at yourself and with no-one to explain it to you.

And, emotionally, an experience like this can be very similar to a “body horror” story. After all, in that moment, you’ve seemingly gone from someone you saw as “ordinary” to being someone you (depending on how liberal your surroundings were when you were younger) might see as “strange” or “unusual”.

Of course, this can also be true for any other form of sudden self-discovery too. But, regardless of what it is, reading body horror stories or watching body horror movies can be a wonderfully cathartic experience.

After all, seeing someone else going through something emotionally similar to what you’re going through (or have gone through) can help you feel less alone in the world.

Not only that, “body horror” stories can also be wonderfully educational in a strange way too. Seeing how fictional characters react to strange things happening to them can help you think about how you should react to it. Stories where the main character finds a way to draw strength from their strangeness, can help you to draw strength from your own “strangeness”.

And, even stories where the main character finds a way to hide their “strangeness” can give you a few pointers about how to hide your own “strangeness” if you fear that it won’t be accepted by the people around you. Yes, this isn’t ideal – but if you’re in an enviroment where you feel that your “strangeness” is unlikely to be accepted, then it can be a matter of emotional and social survival at the very least.

It should be obvious, but don’t take any pointers from “body” stories where either the main character’s “strangeness” turns out to be fatal (in any way) or where the main character somehow manages to return to “normal”. As for the first one, the world needs more interesting people like you (seriously, it’d be hell on earth if everyone was *ugh* “normal”) and, as for the second one, you are what you are – trying to turn yourself into something you’re not in order to “fit in” will just bring you nothing but misery.

I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that body horror is such a wonderful genre because it can take on a totally different meaning depending on the type of person you are.

If you’re a “normal” person, then it is just a wonderfully unsettling type of horror fiction – but if you aren’t a “normal” person, then it can be a beautiful – and almost spiritual– genre of fiction.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

“That Feeling” (Art/Poetry)

"That Feeling" By C. A. Brown (this drawing/poem is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence)

“That Feeling” By C. A. Brown (this drawing/poem is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence)

This is a drawing about an emotion which I first felt when I was about sixteen (after seeing an interview with a comedian on TV) and it’s one I’ve felt occasionally in various contexts ever since then. And, believe me, it never quite gets old or boring. Basically, it’s the feeling you get when you read about a celebrity or see a fictional character who has something in common with you.

I don’t think that there’s actually a word for this emotion, but it isn’t one that you really ever forget if you’ve experienced it properly. It’s the almost-spiritual feeling of ecstatic reality which comes when you actually see a central part of yourself reflected in the world around you.

If you’re a fairly “ordinary” kind of person, then you’ve probably experienced this emotion so often that you probably barely even notice it and it’s nothing more than neutral background noise. However, if you’re an inherently unusual kind of person then I’m sure (or at least I hope) that you’ve probably experienced this emotion at least once or twice.

Basically, if you have to ask about this emotion, then you’ll never quite know what it feels like…

Well, after serendipitously experiencing this emotion twice within the past week, I felt like writing a poem/song about it.

A single verse of it spontaneously appeared as soon as I started writing, but I couldn’t think of anything more, so I decided to turn it into a drawing.

Since I liked this drawing so much, I’ve decided to upload it now (I’m usually a few days ahead of what I post online), which is why the art in it looks a lot better than the “Today’s Art” posts for the next few days probably will.

Poem: “Another”

Well, I was in kind of an introspective mood earlier and this poem just kind of appeared. Seriously, the words “another world-ending fear” and “another untranslatable thought” flashed through my mind and I thought that I’d write them down in case I could use them in a poem sometime.

And, shortly after I wrote them down, the whole poem just kind of appeared in my mind line-by-line at lighting speed (although the rather fixed structure of every line probably helped with this).

This poem took me about fifteen minutes to write and it rhymes almost perfectly too. Although I don’t write poetry that often, I often end up surprising myself when I do.

Anyway, without any further ado, here’s “Another”.
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Another

By C. A. Brown

Another glistening tear,
another world-ending fear,
another bright daydream,
another familiar theme.

Another untranslatable thought,
another hope cut short,
another serene solitude,
another glimpse of meaning.

Another story to carry me,
another borrowed philosophy,
another roiling dream,
another inner scream.

Another mistranslation,
another emotional poison,
another hidden mythology,
another strange synchronicity.

Another cathartic fantasy,
another beautiful insanity,
another existential ecstacy,
another moment of meaning.

Another hour too fast,
another day too slow,
another alien moment,
another incomprehensible lament.

Another icy terror,
another sudden error,
another moment of not knowing,
another introspective poem.