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.


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 (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