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.