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Lesson 1: The Story

Comics Course

Lesson 1: The Story

Introduction

W
elcome to this course! We are going to make a short comicLoading... together.

What is a comicLoading...? A comicLoading... is a sequence of images and text that tells a storyLoading... together in that sequence. Comics are about telling storiesLoading.... The single most important thing the comicLoading... must do is tell a storyLoading.... A good storyLoading... is crucial for a comicLoading... to be good.

What is “storyLoading...”? A storyLoading... is a simulation of life. Telling storiesLoading... is uniquely human activity because we can communicate through language. Telling storiesLoading... is a way to share life experiences with friends and family to teach how to deal with situations.

We're always telling each other storiesLoading.... I am telling you storiesLoading... right now. It is how we share life experiences.
Telling storiesLoading... is about a group of cave people sitting around a campfire, and one saying, “you won't believe what happened to me today! I got attacked by a bear!” And everyone leans in to learn how to survive a bear attack.

Listening to or reading storiesLoading... is a way to live through an experience vicariously, by imagining being the protagonist in that storyLoading... as they deal with the challenge.

We're always telling each other storiesLoading.... I am telling you storiesLoading... right now. It is how we share life experiences.

The fact that we convey life experiences this way may be why almost all storiesLoading... have the same rigid structure: I was living my life when suddenly that happened, and this is how I dealt with it, and this is how that ended. It is how we share life experiences, so others can learn, and perhaps avoid making the same mistakes.

Stories can also be entertainment. They can provide a means to escape your current reality, even if only for a few hours. Telling a storyLoading... that entertains for hours requires more skill than telling a short storyLoading... that shares a life experience.

Comics are about telling storiesLoading....
Before we start: do I always, from now on, have to make comicsLoading... this way? No! But please consider following the procedure I laid out here. You will learn things, and you will end up with a short comicLoading.... But there are no hard and fast rules. You are free to change any aspect as you see fit. OF COURSE.

Why are we going to make a short comicLoading... and not a long, epic one? Because it will allow you to practice every aspect of making a comicLoading... before you tackle the bigger projects.

By doing a few short comicsLoading... first, you are essentially designing your process. With each short comicLoading..., you used a method to create it, and with each subsequent comicLoading..., you improve on that process. You are designing a process, slick and oiled and ready to go when you finally apply it to your grand, epic storyLoading....

If you do want to do something with your epic storyLoading..., then take your characters and the world they inhabit, and try to come up with a separate short storyLoading... that plays in that world, a short storyLoading... that has nothing to do with the epic storyLoading... you want to tell. Doing this exercise will help you later, as you can already start to design the world and the characters during this course.

Why not a big project immediately? Because you will still learn a lot on your journey. If you start on a big project, as you are a few pages into it, you will feel the urge to change earlier pages. Maybe you have become better at drawing your characters, that sort of thing.

Build it up slowly, start with short comicsLoading..., get a feel for the lay of the land, and then start on that huge epic storyLoading... you can't wait to make.

Where do we start? We start by writing a storyLoading...! Comics are about telling storiesLoading....

How To Do These Exercises

Take your time with the assignments. Spend a few days on each if you have to. Only move on to the next step if you are satisfied with the results.

Most assignments are essentially a design project. You will design a scriptLoading..., the comicsLoading... pages, character designs, and the world they inhabit during this course.

The following is how a design process works: say a designer wants to design a chair. They draw it, and then they make a prototypeLoading.... They look at what the prototypeLoading... looks like in different environments. They ask people of different sizes to sit on it to find out if the chair is comfortable. Then they figure out the changes they want to make, the small alterations that maybe make it look just slightly better, or make it sit more comfortably.

And then they make another prototypeLoading.... Designers can go on endlessly making new prototypes, making slight alterations in each version, living with the prototypeLoading... for a few days.

Keep that in mind when doing the assignments. Each version of the thing you are designing is a prototypeLoading.... Look at it with critical eyes, maybe the next day, or after a week, even perhaps, and figure out what you want to change. What is the rush? You are making a comicLoading...! Make sure it is the best it can be. People don’t see how long you worked on it. They only see how good it is. You will become faster as you make more comicsLoading....

We Start With Story

We will start by writing the scriptLoading... for the storyLoading....

Why write a scriptLoading... for the storyLoading... first?

Drawing comicsLoading... is a lot of work. You don't want to find yourself pages into your storyLoading... only to discover you want to change something. And then you have to redo all those pages again.

Scripts take relatively little time to write. That means you can still easily make significant changes to them. It is best if you solve big problems as early as possible.

You also get a first feel for what the comicLoading... will be like in its final form. It is a prototypeLoading... of your comicLoading..., the draft of your comicLoading..., in some sense.

You can also work together with someone else. You could write the scriptLoading..., and the other person could draw it, or the other way around, but I'd like to steer you towards making your own comicLoading.... Because that is one of the benefits of making comicsLoading...: it is a storytelling medium where you can do everything yourself. You don't need a big crew to pull it off.

Assignment 1: The Story

For this assignment, we are just going to write down a storyLoading... in prose form. Try to make it a relatively short storyLoading..., maybe a paragraph or two. This version will just be your first draft, don't fret too much about the details.

Keep in mind that surprises work well in short storiesLoading..., especially surprises that reverberate through the storyLoading... and put what happened earlier in a new light.

Hooks are important also. It is a good idea if, from the start, the storyLoading... raises a question which the reader wants to be answered. People want to know the answer to things, and they will want to keep reading. For example, in a police detective storyLoading..., show the crime at the start, and the reader will want to know why that happened, how it happened, who did it, and why, and they will keep on reading.

There are generally two ways to write a storyLoading...: one focuses on outlining the storyLoading... first and then writing it, and the other focuses on writing “from the seat of your pants.”

The problem, I found, with starting with an outline first, is that you tend to force characters to do things they would not do, just to serve the outline.

My preferred approach, and the one I want you to try for this assignment, is to write from the seat of your pants. Just dump characters into a situation and see where they go. Again, we'll kick the storyLoading... into shape later.

After ‘pantsing’ a storyLoading..., it can be a good idea to outline the storyLoading..., which you just pantsed as a tool to kick the storyLoading... into shape.

But start by pantsing first.

Just write down the first draft of your storyLoading... as a brain dump. Don't worry about quality just yet. We'll kick it into shape in the coming days. Tomorrow, we'll look at storyLoading... structure.

If you find yourself thinking of new storyLoading... ideas, write them down also! You may want to develop these also or instead.

Never fall in love with your first idea.


I will do this course along with you, and here is my storyLoading....

JACK, in his 40s, stands at a bar before check-in at an airport. He has carry-on luggage next to him.

He suddenly hears a seductive voice. He turns and sees LINDA, 20s blonde, this stunning woman in a red pencil dress.

Linda flirts with him. He asks if he can buy her a drink. She smiles and says she has to fly. She leaves with a teasing smile.

He takes a sip, and then he notices his carry-on is gone!

He rushes out the bar and into the airport hall. Lots of travelers are walking in all kinds of directions. He frantically looks around, but he doesn't see either her or his carry-on.

Linda walks out of the airport wearing a long raincoat covering her red dress. She also wears a big hat and glasses, which cover her face somewhat. A guy walks next to her. He has Jack's carry-on suitcase.

We zoom out more and see a guy whisper into a mobile device. Police cars screech to a halt before Linda and her accomplice.

Jack comes running out of the airport and flashes his badge. He arrests her and her accomplice, and they are led to the police cars.


The storyLoading... came about as an idea after having been mugged by pickpockets. What pickpockets do is they distract you. What distracts men the most? A beautiful woman, and so I decided to try that as a premise for the storyLoading.... Then, as a surprising twist, I made it a police entrapment operation.

Notice how I am keeping the paragraphs short, with lots of white space. Doing this makes scripts easier to read.

Next Assignment 2: Good Story