How to develop your (comic) Ideas

A clue.

A clue.

Good news everybody!

I've started work on my new comic! It's exciting! For the past few weeks I've been trying to figure out the answer to the question, "How does one develop a comic idea?". I hope this post will server as a bit of inspiration for those who are having a hard time wrapping your head around developing a comic. I've toiled in this area for a little while, but I've had a breakthrough. I just needed to get out of my own way. The technique I'm using is basic and maybe even obvious to some, but for me it wasn't so obvious.


Side note: The following is mostly a reminder for myself. This post is written with the assumption that you want to create a story or comic but not sure what you want.


Write down your ideas

I've come to a very simple conclusion; just start writing down your ideas. No matter how small the ideas they are, write them down, and write what you know. That becomes your kernel, and with a little time and energy, that kernel can pop into an idea you're satisfied with. In my last blog post I talked about the "dreaded blank page", which can be sometimes be daunting. But if you just have to write something down, anything. You can always change the idea.

After you've written down an idea, think about it. Add in some details. Think about it some more. Refine ideas that you already wrote down. Get rid of ideas that doesn't seem to fit. Write more Ideas. Write. More. Ideas. This may seem very mundane, repetitious, and might eventually drive you insane, but this is how you get ideas to fit together.

"You need a little bit of insanity to do great things". - Henry Rollins

A piece of concept art for my new yet-to-be-named comic.

Eventually, when you've been writing for a little bit, and refine your ideas, you'll have a solid basis for the stories that will take place in the world you've created. 

There's another reason why you'd want to write your ideas down; you'll forget. Unless you're one of those people who won't ever forget, you will forget and your story may suffer. If you write these ideas down, you can refer back to them in the future, and maybe even start to construct a bible to keep your ideas consistent throughout the life of your story.

World Building

That's exactly what you're doing. Building a world. A world in which your characters interact and carry on lives of their own. You are the director of that world, but I like to create characters in such a way that if I were to stop, and I pretended that world actually existed, they would carry on living their lives without external influences. That's my goal.

A store front idea. This is still being worked on. (I know the perspective is a bit off, but I free handed the vanishing points. So... there ya have it.)

When thinking about your world, think about where you want the comic to take place. The following questions may help answer that:

  • Is it a big city?
  • Town?
  • Village?
  • What time period is it in?
  • Is it on another planet? 
  • A different galaxy?
  • On earth?
  • multi-dimensional?


Answer the questions. Take your time, don't rush it.

This is probably a good time to mention that, not everything has to be planned from the start. You might want a general idea of what your comic is, who the characters are, where they live, but anything else can be made up along the way. This is how must series do it. Maybe you have a starting point and major milestones along the way, and even a possible ending, but that shouldn't stop you from starting. Trying to think of everything is overwhelming, so don't think of everything. Just do enough work to get started.

Here's an example of what a world could look like:

1920's Atlanta Georgia, in an alternate universe. A multi-verse theory proposed by a genius named Dr. Ruffus Timesplitter has caused an uproar. Determined to prove his case, Dr. Timesplitter creates a machine that is able to travel between the many multi-verses. The world is primarily inspired by a steampunk aesthetic. The world deals with issues such as ethics, politics and slavery. (More details can be added later, so this might do for now)


Side note:
I like to think "Agile" when creating comics. If you're familiar with "Agile Software Development", then you know what I mean. If not you should read about the method. Apart from software development, it really is a nice framework for just getting stuff done. And not just for software, but it's a good framework for almost anything. You don't have to know all the details at the beginning, but you just need enough to start.


Characters

So now the question is, "How do you build characters with substance and who seem real?". I solved this particular problem by creating a back story for the characters. I start with each character. Even if I don't yet have names for them, I create a narrative surrounding 3 simple things (you can come up with more, but I've found that these 3 are a good start) :

  1. What type of person is this? (kind, smart, mean, liar, etc)
  2. What are their motivations? (to be loved, to be helpful, get revenge, destroy the world, etc)
  3. What is their relationship to other characters?

These questions help me develop the interactions and relationships. These characters should interact with one another in some capacity. Otherwise, why are they in this world? If they don't make something interesting or help move the story along, then I don't include them.  Each character has to have a reason for being in the world you create.

Here are some examples of what that back story could look like:

Sam:
Sam (known to his friends as "Sam-I-Am" is a guy who likes adventure. He likes to try new things. He is passionate. In fact, he is so passionate about sharing what the world has to offer, that he often is seen as annoying and pushy. But his pushiness is just a misinterpretation of his passion. But that doesn't stop him. His motivation is to share his love of the world with his friends, sometimes to the point of frustration.

Dr. Ruffus Timesplitter:
Dr. Timesplitter spend most of his childhood alone in his room, pulling mechanical apart, figuring out how it works and enhancing their abilities. His mother, who raised him alone after his father will killed by a corrupt police chief, recognized his talents. But his new stepfather, didn't care for his antics. His stepfather would often reprimand Ruffus for not obeying or "being weird". Not understanding Ruffus' abilities, Ruffus ran away at the age of 16..... (And so on).

What these back stories do is, inform the present character's actions, feelings, thoughts. These issues or histories don't need to ever be documented in the story, but your readers will understand that there is a lot more depth to the character, and will want to know more about what made them who they are.

I hope this post can help bring your comic or stories to life. One thing I wanted to add as well; You are the creator of this world. You should make it they way you want, for yourself. The readers will come to you eventually. Make something you're proud of, and don't let anyone tell you, your ideas are dumb. It might not work, but it might just work! Only you know what you need to improve, and you are the only one who holds that power.

And Lastly, If readers don't get it (the joke, the story, the ideas), It wasn't for them in the first place.

 

Thanks for reading! I appreciate any and all comments :)
- Darrel

The life of the comicker : Stepping back

Hello there Inter-web darlings!

As I stare at this blank blog-post window, I realize how daunting the "blank canvas" really is. Wow, I never really gave that much thought, but I have been intimidated the unwritten, the un-created, and another thing with the "un" prefix. Oh looky there, it is no longer blank! Hurray! I made it past the hump that caused my fear, and I now see that it's not bad. No more blank blog-post window. This is the life of a comicker (specifically, me).

Note : I cannot speak for other people, and I do not attempt to. All of our experiences are our own and do differ from person to person, but you already knew that. 

Recently, I made a decision to cut back on the comic. In some ways, it's been great. I don't have to worry about publishing a comic, and worry about how funny my comic will be perceived. In other ways, I feel like a failure. I have these moments of "what if that was my last comic" thoughts. There's that pesky fear again! First it's the blank canvas, then this. Geeze, I'm such a mess.... but thankfully, those moments doesn't last. No matter what I feel at the time, I know I can step back, and know that I'm not a failure.

I'm learning to step back more. What I mean by stepping back, is taking a small break, and looking at the overall picture for my art. It's really easy to get caught up into the details so much, that you can't see the forest for the trees. Hell, I don't even know I'm in a forest. I tend to force myself into a process, or position that doesn't foster good creativity. The results are, ok. Not stellar, but not too terrible. 

Stepping back and looking at the big picture has been refreshing. I'm realizing I had goals I've forgotten about. I'm focusing on improving my art. It's not going to happen overnight but someday i'll wake up and REALLY love the art that I do. It'll happen, as long as I keep going. Another side effect of looking at the big picture is the elimination of fear. It's not totally gone, but shining a light on things I've lost focus on, seems to make me realize that the thing I feared the most, was nothing.

The comic will continue. I'm going to try to post at least once per week, but if that doesn't happen I'm going to stop beating myself up for it. Another thing I'm trying to do more of (and it's part of that big picture thingie I mentioned earlier), is create a new comic. Whaaaaaaatt???  It's true. I have some good ideas, but I need to really flesh them out and see if they stick. At the moment I am having that fear of the blank canvas. I haven't really started work on this new comic. I'll have to take my own advice and step back, from the blank canvas. Give some breathing room for my ideas to flourish. So it looks like stepping back comes in a few different flavors! 

I hope this little post has made sense. I'm gonna try to post more of my experiences if it will be helpful to the community.

Until next time!
- Darrel

A New Year, a new website!

Ahoy there, That-Comic-Thingers! 

Welcome to the new website! This has been in the works for some months now and I'm happy to release it. It should function better with mobile devices, and give me more control over my publishing process. I had some work-arounds with the old website that added more steps that needed to be. So this will make publishing comics better for me.

Holidays

I hope your holidays have been great. I hope you were safe, and received everything you wanted from the mythical red suited trespasser! I've been doing great. The holidays are always enjoyable and it allows me to be grateful of the people (including you) that are in my life or have interacted with.

Holiday Card, 2013

Holiday Card, 2013

I sent out holiday cards to people who gave me their physical address and I must say, it was probably my favorite "comic" I did in recent weeks.

If you didn't get a card, Then you're just going to have to wait until next year. I intend to make these limited edition cards every year. So follow That Comic Thing on Facebook so that you can be ready in 11 months or so to receive another special holiday card. (It's free too! Please note that I don't send unsolicited mail).

Oh and I nearly forgot! I got engaged over the holidays! That's right, I'm engaged to a wonderful woman. I only mention it because I want gift. So.... you know what to do! (Just kidding). I'm really only mentioning it because it is something that I'm very happy about, and I thought maybe you'd like to know. If you don't care, that's fine. Just know that the comic will get better, but will be the same ol' craziness that you've come to expect in That Comic Thing.

What's in store for That Comic Thing in 2014?

Well, I'm glad you asked! I'm not sure exactly what will unfold in 2014, but I am starting to find my style. All the comic people say you don't really find out what kind of comic you have until strip 100. And that seems to be true. I am approaching #100 and that will be a neat milestone. It doesn't mean too much, but it is a big deal for me. I can't tell you how many times I thought I should quit, because of some irrational fear of not being good enough. The truth is, if you're creating art, and it's productive for the most part, then you are "good enough". Some people try to belittle others in an attempt to get them to quit so that they can feel superior. They are what I call, assholes. Don't let the assholes win. In my case, I was the asshole who tried to sabotage myself. I haven't stopped and right now, I'm not going to. The more you do, the better you get, the better you feel, the more you do, and so on. Moral of the story is, Don't Quit. If you enjoy it, stick with it, and you'll be rewarded with the sense of accomplishment.

This year may be the year I start to sell some prints and things. I'm not sure if anyone would want a print of a comic, or a specific "poster", but it could be something people might want. Do you want a print of some kind? Let me know in the comments. I'm curious to the amount of interest out there.

A book might come to fruition, who knows. Although I love to collect physical books from creators, I'm realizing it's kinda pricey. Perhaps I'll start with digital copies. Again, if you have an opinion, let me know.

 

Well I think that's it for now. I would love to hear feedback. You can find me on twitter and Facebook or just comment below. 

Have a wonderful start to the new year!
- Darrel