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Are your characters writing YOUR comic?
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milton5



Joined: 27 Jan 2012
Posts: 18

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a good topic...it would be nice to get back to it. What makes my comic work (for me anyway) is to have the characters write themselves - but I see what you are saying is going even further - and it sounds awesome and a little dangerous for mental stability. It ties into the idea of "flow" and if all goes well your pretty lucky.

http://miltonfive.blogspot.com/
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vaslittlecrow



Joined: 01 Aug 2005
Posts: 737

PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

milton5

I love the fact that your characters comes across as so natural in their dialogue delivery -- which makes the panels all the more fun. Out of curiosity, do you ever overhear bits and pieces of conversations and let your critters finish them, before putting them down on paper? That's how nice the flow comes across in your comics.

Flow is a wild thing, it can be like a white water raft ride. I remember writing a fight scene for Rasputin Barxotka that I just assumed would take a very specific conclusion. To my surprise I started writing lines for one of my characters that just seemed completely out of place for him. So, I went into "let's pretend" mode and asked him, "Sweetie, are you unhappy because are you are gay and in love with the other guy?" He then replied, "You drew me with earrings and that goofy ass purple top at the beginning of the story. Isn't it obvious?" So I went back, re-read the story, realized that my character was in fact dropping hints all over the place, and thus changed the course of the arc. This was actually the biggest reason why I decided to rewrite the first 28 pages of the webcomic.

I personally think that if I would've gone in the original direction that I was planning on, the story would have been less interesting.
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ThePhilosopherStoned



Joined: 21 Jul 2012
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I plan out chapters long in advance but I've had epiphanies where it dawns on me what a character's real motivation would be, and sometimes I change everything around for it. For just one example, one character is motivated in a lot of stuff she does by abandonment issues that I didn't immediately figure out that she must've had.
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Caliburn



Joined: 17 Jul 2012
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I began writing a story about a guy waking up in purgatory and following a angel across a desert with a few other people. Anyways, they ended wandering the desert having all sorts of strange conversations 3 chapters more than I had originally planned. I had to stop and still haven't quite figured out how to rope them back into the main plot. However, they seem to be enjoying themselves and the people that were reading it really gobbled it up. I think that sometimes its a good idea to let your characters do their own thing.
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Casual Notice
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Joined: 18 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Characters are like horses: It's fine to let them have their head every once in a while, but if you let go of the reins, you'll spend the rest of your life in the same grassy meadow. Luckily, there are methods to ensure that even character-driven stories stay more or less on-plot, or at least return to it.
  • Remember that nothing in this life or any other happens in a vacuum. The easiest way to get back on plot (or keep them there if they look rebellious) is to introduce some element that is out of the character's control. A forgotten minor character re-enters the scene, an overwhelming world event changes the thematic (or physical) landscape, any event that forces your characters to react instead of initiating action provides interest and allows you to ease them back on track.
  • Confront your characters. Any event, whether out of control, or the direct result of a character's action that causes the character to question his own beliefs and value as a (human) being can be useful in getting back where you belong. If Peter Parker had taken ten seconds to realize how selfish it was for him to deny his million-year-old aunt the sweet release of death, then none of Marvel's writers would have had to deal with all that One More Day idiocy.
  • Just switch scenes Without enteringinto a Deus ex Machina situation, sometimes it's best to just switch scenes and focus on other characters for a while. It helps build tension and the probability of introducing an uncontrollable event as listed above, but also it allows you time to process the original character subconsciously without constantly looking at it. When you're cooking, sometimes, you just have to move the broth to the back burner to simmer, while you focus on the peas.

Anyway, that's how I see it, and my methods of working around it when I encounter it in my own work.
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Clint Wolf



Joined: 15 Apr 2010
Posts: 298

PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wrote my take on the subject for my site blog this week. Long story short, I've never felt like the inmates are running the asylum... they don't have the proper perspective beyond themselves, so it's my job to keep a handle on everyone and make sure the story keeps moving along. Otherwise I feel like more of a secretary than a writer.

Long story long: http://www.zombieranchcomic.com/2012/07/25/puppet-or-puppeteer/
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katastrophe



Joined: 19 Aug 2008
Posts: 286

PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny this topic should pop back up, as I recently had a discussion with my husband about characters talking to you and writing the story. He said he'd never had anything like that happen and (until he read a writer blog saying "my characters never write things") felt vaguely that he wasn't a real writer because of it, and he was curious about the mechanics.

The "not a real writer" bit is certainly wrong. The way I see stories, there are four basic elements -- the building block ingredients, if you will -- to each: plot, setting, character, and style. We all have all four but for most of us there's one or two elements that stand out, the elements that drive the rest of the story. For my husband, and plenty of other writers, it's plot. The characters do what the plot demands. And this is fine: I love a good action story as much as anyone. But for me, it's character (and somewhat setting). I don't start with a series of events; I start with people and a world, and if I'm lucky, after I doodle around with them for a bit, the plot shows up. This isn't a more or less valid method of writing. It's just how I work.

As for the mechanics, I'm not sure I explained well even with a sympathetic audience and a lot of hand gestures, but I'll try.

It's not exactly true to say that the characters "talk" to you, or that they're writing the story. I am sane, or at least, sane enough to realize these are not actual people. They're my creations and I control them. But... not always consciously. A huge amount of the story-making process goes on below the conscious level for me. Getting stuff to pop up into my conscious mind is always a bit of a struggle (I have pages and pages of brainstorming that is, in essence, my conscious mind trying to force my subconscious to give up the goods), but when something does pop out of the mysterious depths, it's ten times better than what my conscious mind could make up. It has... depth, and roundness, and... argh, no words for this. It's a real lie. Very Happy My conscious mind can construct a perfectly reasonable sequence of events, but only my subconscious can tell a story.

That doesn't mean it's a good story. My subconscious writes, as it were, in shorthand, leaving huge gaps where my personal experience can fill in the details, filling in bits of story that don't particularly interest it with regurgitated stereotypes. So the conscious bit of writing, for me, is largely editing, trimming the bits where I've let characters ramble on and on into story-appropriate dialogue, filling in the blank spots so that it all makes sense to people outside my head, catching the shortcuts and filling them in with something more interesting. When things are going smoothly I do feel, as Clint says, that I'm just the secretary, listing in and taking notes as the characters tell -- not me, but each other -- their stories. But things don't go that smoothly very often. Very Happy More often it's like... I don't know. Fishing. Or tennis, constantly watching the ball come back in different shapes and colors, taking the useful parts, bouncing what's left back over the net for another go. Or smacking something stubborn repeatedly with a hammer. But I've learned the hard way not to let the editor, as it were, write the book, because the parts that I do the easy way, by simply working out what logically comes next, are... sterile. Sensible. The stories are functional enough, but there's no particular reason for anyone to read them and not, say, an anatomy textbook.

I suppose that's why I haven't responded to this post before. For me, "are your characters writing your story?" is the wrong question. Of course they are -- or at least, my subconscious is, and character actions and voices are the framework my particular subconscious sends me to build everything else on. That's not a useful question. "How do you get them to write well?" is, maybe, although I'm not sure I have the answer. Or perhaps "how do you make them stop?" Very Happy
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Lavenderbard
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 822
Location: Ohio

PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

katastrophe wrote:
"How do you get them to write well?" is, maybe, although I'm not sure I have the answer. Or perhaps "how do you make them stop?" Very Happy


I don't want them to stop, exactly, but if they'd slow down and let me catch up, that would be nice.
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sailorptah



Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is why I can never outline too far or too strictly. Characters insist on going in completely different directions before they can get there.

Probably the biggest example: I had a whole dramatic scene planned out in my head with two characters (Bennett and Cohen), where Bennett would go to Cohen with a secret and ask for help in dealing with it. Then Bennett made a decision that was worse than I had anticipated, the secret escalated to a point of being criminal, Cohen went and got himself involved in an entirely different way, and now Cohen is actually the one coming to visit Bennett...who can't possibly open up to anyone at this point, least of all him.

And that's not even getting started on the teenage character who suddenly decided to run away from home, or the plot-adjacent character I thought would always be a bit of background detail who's written herself into a whole run of panel time this chapter, or...

Not that I'm complaining! If the characters didn't keep coming up with their own actions to take and things to talk about, it would be a lot harder to come up with material. And definitely take a lot longer.
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Marscaleb



Joined: 28 Aug 2012
Posts: 255

PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's often a lot that surprises me when I am writing. Not so much my webcomic, as it has just started, but other stories I've been writing in the past.
To me, it's not like "the characters are writing themselves" but rather that I'm witnessing the story the same as everyone else. I may know a few details not yet revealed, and I get to to see the story first and I have to clean up a few bits and connect a few patches before others can see the story, but when you get down to it, I'm just a member of the audience like everyone else. The story can surprise and shock me. I could go the whole time not knowing about certain events -either backstory or forthcoming- that come to surprise me just the same as everyone else.
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Bill Murphy



Joined: 22 Aug 2012
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a daydreamer. And what I do is imagine my characters in different situations and I let their stories and punch lines unfold in my mind. Then I convert it into a single strip.

While drawing I feel like a director trying to get the actors to express the right emotion. "No! You look shocked. I need you to look sad. NOT THAT SAD! Oh wait. That expression is pretty good for a gag I have planned for next week."
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joedozer



Joined: 26 Jun 2012
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something I noticed in Bioshock, when I was making adjustments in the options menu, the character models were listed as "actors". i thought that was a cool choice of words, and it shows how much respect the developers had for the characters in the game, even the expendable ones.

What makes mediums like movies and TV great is that because actors bring themselves to a role, it adds a dimension to the work no one else could really foresee just from writing. I like to think characters in any format, even if they aren't being portrayed by actors are still acting. While it's important to endow your characters with traits, wants and needs, you'll find that they will in turn give you a better sense of who they are as a person in return. Whether or not the characters are doing the writing for you depends on your vision as a writer, but there's no doubt that the people you create bring you something you didn't bring yourself.
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Casual Notice
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Something I noticed in Bioshock, when I was making adjustments in the options menu, the character models were listed as "actors". i thought that was a cool choice of words, and it shows how much respect the developers had for the characters in the game, even the expendable ones.

I hate to burst your bubble, but that has nothing to do with their status as characters and more to do with their object class. In 3D game design, objects are either static objects (objects that never change)m dynamic objects (things that change according to an actor's actions), or actors (things that can initiate change in dynamic objects and other actors).
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vulpeslibertas
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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
that has nothing to do with their status as characters and more to do with their object class
Hard to say without seeing the context in which its used, but I suspect otherwise. I doubt the studio would have exposed their internal naming conventions to the game player without intending to, so its possible that the game designers did intend this interpretation.
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TheEpicBeyond



Joined: 25 Sep 2012
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I've written stories in the past some of my best ideas come from whims i've had at the moment I was writing.
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