Shop Talk: Adding the little things…

Shop Talk: Adding the Little Things….

I am a picky reader, especially when it comes to webcomics. In fact it takes a lot at times to keep my interest. Usually that lack of interest is based on a few things…. Lack of story, lack or strong art and then there is the lack of the little things. Lack of the little things you ask? Yup lack of the little things.  These are really enhancements to a story, that when added are not really noticed at first, but in the end can have a lasting impact on good story telling. This not just applies to comics, it applies to books, poems, and movies. Yes every know and then, one needs a little mind numbing adventure…which I am a fan of, this is all good. It satisfies me for the moment and I realize I don’t have to come back and that is still ok.

Then there are those pieces, which seem simple, but in reality they are far more complex. This is usually due to the attention to detail and this attention to detail makes it fun. So how can one apply this to their own works?

A little planning helps first.

Yup that’s right a little planning. Now you don’t have to go overboard with the planning. Too much world building can kill a story quick. That in itself becomes an excuse on why you can just seem to finish your tale.

My suggestion. Get the basic gist of the story done, than start your first act. I break “Bean” into chapters of 38 pages each. This allows me to build the story and the world at a reasonable pace and not try to have one finished before the other. In fact I focus on the characters of the story in the beginning and the setting. This allows me to focus on what is important, and that is making sure the story stays on track and stays  focused.

Once though I am happy with the script, then I start to take a look at the world and the environment. Many people know that I treat the world as a character in itself. I find this to be very helpful as I go from one location to another. Especially when I am dealing with writing and epic. I realized I would be in one spot for several hundred pages. This allowed me to localize the world and not have to worry about far off places just yet.

That’s a pitfall. Focusing on the area not relevant to your current story location. When doing a webcomic, you need to realize that things tend to move at a slower pace…so there is plenty of time to add to your world.

Yet it also allows me to really build on the current location as well. This is an awesome tradeoff for a webcomic. I can really play with style, customs, and do the proper research in putting my world together.  In fact, in the long run it will enhance your story even more.

So, like I was saying, once the script is done, I go back and take a little look on how I can enhance the world that my characters are dealing with. There is always some interaction with elements, and plant life. Yet here is an opportunity to make it so much more. Too often plants, buildings and animals are looked at as card board elements.  Sort of like an old 20’s movie with cardboard props. The world we live in though, is far different. Animals and plants constantly move in and out of the picture. They embed themselves into our lives and many times we don’t even realize it.

I took that approach with “Bean”. I might show a critter in one panel and yet not in another. This is due to the fact that they are always moving and as my characters don’t always see them, neither does the reader.

Just make sure that you do not over do it. There needs to be some balance and many times there is no need to put things in certain panels, but on establishing shots or layout shots that help create mood, it is very ok.

The main thing is to just take a chance. Stop and look around you before you draw a location or a room. Ask yourself how can make this a little more believable. Does is need weeds, are the bottles or trash around. If I am digging a hole does dirt and rock slide back in. Even better does my dirt have texture are there rocks and pebbles in it. Are my trees rooted to the ground and do they have variety. You gotta ask yourself this and then sketch out ways to sneak those things in there.

If you go back and look at some of the best comics you will see the artist did not just focus on characters, he focused on everything. They hid stuff, they gave their work depth. They found ways to get you to look at a page for a long time especially when they were at a lull moment in their comics.. That is a goal I have, what can I do to help keep looking for clues.

It’s honestly more than just eye candy. It’s a way to pull people into your world without having to explain everything. People become familiar with it and it allows them to pick up on things that normally would not have been there. It also frees you up from having to lay it out.

So I add stuff all the time.

And by adding stuff all the time, you never know what hidden gems might lie within the story. You might be amazed on how much you miss. In fact, I give hints all the time about things that might happen a year or so down the road.

So don’t be afraid to add the little things to your works. Your readers will appreciate it.


Here are a few webcomics that really get it about putting extra details in their works. Go look, go see what they hide and enjoy getting lost in their incredible worlds as well.


Get More Information electrical contractor » 4 Dec 2020 » Reply

I’m still learning from you, but I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely enjoy reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the posts coming. I liked it!

trav » 19 Nov 2013 » Reply

There is a lot you can do – i think you need to start looking on google for pictures of mountains and see what is out there. How they look, what kind of life is there, and/or what can you hide in the rocks.

Gabriel » 10 Aug 2012 » Reply

I totally agree with everything you have to say here! Stan Sakai, I think, is a perfect example of what you're describing. The very fact that he puts so much thought and detail into the worlds that he creates is what helps draw me into the story.

You and he, in my opinion, are two of the best i've ever seen at bringing worlds to life.

Flurry the Bear » 22 Oct 2011 » Reply

These bear drawings are SOOO CUTE! I love them so much! 🙂 *HUG*

GoriLLa » 25 Jan 2011 » Reply

This is really useful to me, as my comic just seems kinda boring right now because it hasn't gotten to the main part yet, and it takes place in the mountains, so I don't really know what to do there, maybe create hidden faces in the rocks? I dunno but as soon as i get to the forest I'll be able to do all kinds of stuff! 😀 Thanks for this.

Chris » 19 Dec 2010 » Reply

Good write up I agree

Arlene » 16 Dec 2010 » Reply

Hey Travis, I think that you posted something similar to this a while back and it really challenged me to want to work harder on the backgrounds and believability of the world I'm trying to create. I honestly think about that post when I am drawing backgrounds now and try to add more character to them 🙂 Attention to detail is not at all one of my natural strengths, but it's something I want to improve on and work harder at, although still all too often time constraints win out over my best intentions. So anyway, thanks for posting this, and thanks for the high standard of art and story that go into your comic.

    Trav the bean » 16 Dec 2010 » Reply

    I have mentioned it before, yet I felt the need to go further in depth with it. I am glad though that you are making the effort, you can tell. Just keep working at it.

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