Eccentric Humour And Storytelling Must Still Include Logic- A Ramble

Well, since I’m still preparing this month’s webcomic mini series at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk briefly about eccentric storytelling and eccentric humour.

This is mostly because the mini series will consist of large single-panel monochrome comic updates (since I was busy with other stuff at the time of making it). This more limited format means that the humour in my comic has become somewhat more eccentric as a result. Here’s a detail from one of the upcoming updates.

The complete comic update will be posted here on the 22nd August.

Whilst eccentric humour or storytelling might seem like a free for all at first, it is important to remember that it still must contain some kind of logic. Yes, the logic can be a little bit strange – but the audience still needs to be able to discern that there’s a reason, system or pattern behind what is happening.

One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to understand your characters. If you know how your characters think, or even just your character’s personality traits, then you can extrapolate from this in order to come up with eccentric humour and plot elements that either have a consistent logic behind them or have a reason that makes sense on a narrative level (even if might seem strange or silly at first glance).

Several good examples of this can be found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories. Although Sherlock Holmes will often do somewhat strange things, there is almost always some kind of reason for it. Even if it’s just that he’s stressed out because he hasn’t got a case, or that he wants to improve his scientific knowledge (which will help in future cases), Doyle virtually always shows that Holmes’ more strange behaviour happens for a reason.

Likewise, even if a story is thoroughly surreal, then there still has to be some kind of underlying logic, system or reason behind what is happening. In other words, there still has to be an actual story that makes sense on some level.

Even if the underlying logic in your story is more like dream logic (eg: based on symbolism etc…), then it still needs to include actual logic. It can’t just be completely random. There has to be some way for the audience to, theoretically at least, understand what is going on. Likewise, if there’s a possibility of the story being confusing, then there needs to be some other element to keep the audience’s attention (eg: humour, mystery, horror etc..)

A good example of this would probably be a Satoshi Kon film called “Paprika“. Even if you don’t understand literally everything about the story of this surreal sci-fi film, it’s still a very fascinating and memorable film because is also filled with lots of visually-complex animation, creepy horror etc..

So, yes, if you are going to use eccentric humour or tell a somewhat surreal story, then there must be some kind of logical reason behind the stranger parts of your story. Or, failing this, there must be something else to keep the audience interested.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Four Ways To Do Surrealism Well (That I Learnt From A 1990s TV Show)

2017-artwork-surrealism-article-sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’ve been watching an old American TV show from the 1990s called “Twin Peaks” on DVD recently (I haven’t seen any of the new episodes though). This series has something of a reputation for being slightly on the stranger side of things, although it isn’t really as ludicrously surreal as I’d expected it to be.

Still, it does provide some interesting lessons in how to do surrealism well. But, before I begin the list, I should point out that this article may contain some mild plot SPOILERS. That said, let’s begin…

1) You still need a story: For all of the strange stuff that happens in “Twin Peaks”, there’s still an actual storyline that you can follow. Yes, there are lots of twists and turns, but the series actually has a proper plot that – mostly – makes sense. Even the stranger parts of the series often end up having some kind of explanation later in the series.

In other words, for all of the strangeness, there is still a coherent narrative. There is still something that the audience can understand and, as such, they are more willing to overlook the parts of the story that they can’t understand.

In other words, you need to find a good balance between traditional storytelling and strange surrealism.

2) Different logic: For all of the strange things in the show, there is often some kind of logic behind them. As an example, one of the show’s most famous characters is the Log Lady. She’s a slightly strange woman who carries a small log with her wherever she goes. She’ll also talk to the log sometimes and claim that she receives messages from it.

The Log Lady from "Twin Peaks"

The Log Lady from “Twin Peaks” (1990)

Although she could easily just be a “strange for the sake of strange” character, the series contains some mysterious paranormal elements. So, the Log Lady’s initial explanation that the log contains the spirit of her deceased husband makes slightly more sense when you’ve seen more of the series. Of course, given that the one of the main themes in the TV show is mourning and/or grief, it’s also possible that her obsession with the log is merely a psychological reaction of some kind to her husband’s death.

Even though this is left slightly ambiguous, the fact that there is at least one “logical” (in the context of the story) explanation for this “strange” part of the show helps to avoid breaking the audience’s immersion in the story.

3) The ordinary: For all of “Twin Peaks’ ” strangeness, most of the unusual parts of the series are at least vaguely related to ordinary life.

Sometimes, this can take the form of a character owning an unusual (but available) object – for example, one character is seen eating a piece of smoked cheese that has been sculpted to look like a pig. It’s strange, but it’s also the kind of thing that can probably be bought from gift shops in areas where smoked cheese is made.

Sometimes, this can just be ordinary things that are subtly out of place. For example, the pilot episode of “Twin Peaks” includes a scene set in a rural American bank. This is the kind of place where you might possibly expect to see a hunting trophy in the lobby. A stag’s head wouldn’t look totally out of place here. Yet, merely by placing it somewhere slightly unusual, the show is able to add a touch of surrealism to what would otherwise be an “ordinary” dialogue-based scene:

As you can see in this scene from "Twin Peaks", the placement of a "normal" item in a slightly unusual location can instantly add a surreal atmosphere to a story, comic,. TV show, painting etc...

As you can see in this scene from “Twin Peaks”, the placement of a “normal” item in a slightly unusual location can instantly add a surreal atmosphere to a story, comic,. TV show, painting etc…

4) Comedy and horror: The surreal parts of “Twin Peaks” that aren’t fully explained are often still surprisingly interesting for the simple reason that they’re designed to either frighten the audience or make them laugh. Or both.

Since these parts of the show are designed to evoke strong emotions, they are more likely to bypass the more “logical” parts of the audience’s minds. Since these scenes are clearly designed purely for comedic and/or horrific effect, then they are less likely to break the audience’s suspension of disbelief too. After all, “it’s meant to be funny” or “it’s meant to be scary” can often be a logical explanation for otherwise illogical things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (26th November 2015)

Well, a day or two before I made this painting I saw a TV show about farming (or all things). Anyway, one of the interesting things shown on it was a sheep that had this really cool looking black/auburn fleece, so I thought that I’d try to make a painting of this type of sheep.

Although I’d originally planned to turn the sheep into a zombie or a vampire sheep, I eventually decided that it’d be cooler to turn it into something a bit more mysterious and surreal.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Levitating Sheep" By C. A. Brown

“Levitating Sheep” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (3rd April 2015)

Well, I’m still in the mood for making drawings at the moment, but after all of the careful planning I did for my comic, I felt like making something totally random.

This drawing was also a good opportunity to practice drawing slightly different perspectives/ angles too (although I failed miserably at this when it came to drawing the background – hence why all of the scenery looks slightly wierd etc…).

As usual, this drawing is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"...And Dragons" By C. A. Brown

“…And Dragons” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (8th February 2015)

Well, for some reason, I felt seriously uninspired when it came to making today’s painting. In the end, I finally managed to paint a very boring landscape.

But, since it was so dull, I decided to liven it up a bit by using a lot of digital effects on it after I’d scanned it (As well as my usual adjustments to the brightness/contrast level, I inverted the colours and then I increased the saturation shift(?) a lot… well, whatever it was, it made the picture look cooler ).

As usual, this picture is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Lost Island" By C. A. Brown

“Lost Island” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (27th January 2015)

Well, originally, I’d planned to draw a black & white picture of Amanda Palmer, but the drawing quickly went in a much more 1980s/90s gothic cyberpunk direction instead. This picture also gave me a chance to try out a new art technique too, hence the weird colours in it.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Late Show" By C. A. Brown

“Late Show” By C. A. Brown