Writing a short comic can be just as challenging, if not more so, than writing a longer story. So here are some resources to help you with your anthology piece for this year.
# Tips for writing short comics
- You have less room than you think to tell a story.
- Try not to do too much. For example, if you are writing a short spec fic story, it may be hard to convey all the details of your world without detracting from your story. Keep it simple. Keep it to the essentials.
- Some stories are unsuited to short comics the way that some stories are unsuited to short stories and are novel-length instead. If you find yourself going on for pages, trimming may not be the solution; instead, change your format.
- Think about arcs: where is the start? Where do you end up? How do you get there in between?
- Try to break it down according to the number of pages you are aiming for. The start of each page is almost like a new direction/new aspect in the story.
- Don’t be afraid to use a higher panel count per page. Most American comics are 5-7 panels per page. But European comics are higher. There’s no reason why you can’t go a bit higher. (Well, your artist might rebel …) Just make each panel count.
- Maximise the storytelling potential of each panel: it has to be there for a reason–to add to the sum of the parts so that the piece works as a whole.
- Always leave room for titles and credits somewhere, because the piece needs to stand alone.
By Karen Beilharz
- Aim for a single unifying concept.
- If a story element is not working, cut it.
- If you have multiple concepts in a story, remove one, or de-emphasise it.
- Use “what if…?” to change, merge or remove story elements that you sense are weak, or are making the story too long.
- Have one defining moment that the story leads to, or is the main reason for the story to exist. (similar to concept, but more specifically about narrative)
- Story planning idea, write a one sentence summary of what each page will contain, and can include why it’s there or how it leads to the next page.
- The story can be a condensed mini narrative that is part of a larger narrative overall. Don’t try to squash the entire epic into eight pages, but choose a single element you want to explore and go from there. The reader should be able to read it as a standalone story.
By Han Nguyen
I think both times I wrote my current two short comics I started with an idea I wanted to explore. Each was a simple idea with two main characters, some crisis they had to solve and a third minor character that only appears for a page or two. Both started with establishing the setting and introducing the characters and their relationship to each other, and then moving into a crisis that they must resolve. (And now I’m thinking I need to create a new story pattern as I’m sounding repetitive!) I started by writing a script with dialogue and descriptions (or quick sketches) of what I wanted to depict and then broke the text down into pages and panels. I think a simple concept and simple complication/fast resolution works well for the short length.
By Jemima Trappel
This is what I do:
- I tend to start with a concept I want to talk about, rather than a plot–eg depression in marriage, growing up Asian in Australia, a boy capturing the monster under his bed. The characters and story then arise from the concept.
- I break things down according to pages and think about what I want to communicate with each page. I think about where things start on panel 1 and where they end up on the last panel. I think about whether the page will be on the right hand side or the left hand side (i.e. what will be revealed in a spread and what will be revealed when the page is turned).
- Then I work on the dialogue/captions—thinking specifically how they flow across a page and how they add to the arc of the story. The dialogue/captions in turn determine the panel count and panel descriptions/shots used.
By Karen Beilharz
Recommended anthologies to look at:
- Four Letter Worlds
- Kinds of Blue by Karen Beilharz
- Thought Bubble anthology
- Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK (2014)
- Womanthology: Space
- The Antler Boy and Other Stories
- Cautionary Fables and Fairytales
- Pressure/Sensitivity (Free)
Sydney Comic Guild’s rules of critique (to keep it constructive and not reductive!)
- Remember the critique sandwich – say something good before and after constructive critique
- Don’t give critique unless someone requests it (no matter how well meaning you are)
- Focus on key areas and choose 3-4 important points – don’t try and fix everything at once since you will only succeed in overwhelming them
- Above all else be kind, considerate and only critique someone to help them (not just to make yourself sound knowledgeable)