Our review with comic artist Craig Ferguson has been delayed for a week, but I’m still back with another Friday Artist Talk! This week we’re discussing a few tips on good storytelling and how to keep your readers engaged. In a lot of media, it’s really the story that can hold it all together. Sure, you still have to get an audience to check out what you’ve created, but it’s creating that connection and drama that keeps it going. Naturally this is more focused towards ongoing stories.
3. Begin with a rush!
There are exceptions to every rule, but a good place to start most stories, even an introduction, is with a bit of action. While there are times that a peaceful lore based intro can work, with web comics you’re working with a limited focus per update. You want your readers to get something out of each page if you can. Action can get their attention at the start, and keep new readers interested because they’ll want to know what happens next, or why that conflict occurred. Again, these rules aren’t set in stone, but it can help.
Personally, I’ve been there before having a slow plodding intro and after writing it I find difficult to draw the thing. Sure it’s fun to get into the characters lives and all that fun stuff, but after you’ve established that exciting things can happen, it can bookend your happier moments. You always need to remember, you love the characters because you know everything about them. Newcomers to your comic see them as strangers and you need to win them over. That can be very difficult, especially when walking the line of keeping secrets hidden about your story but still trying to make the mysterious folks fun and likeable.
Getting a little bit of action in there can help to promote your characters. Who defends whom? What sorts of dialogue is thrown around in the heat of the moment? Establish your characters based on what they do as well as who they are in more peaceful situations.
2. Give your readers time to breathe.
It’s easy to get caught up in a grand sweeping story and throw tons of detail into every page’s dialogue balloons. Just don’t forget that this can be overwhelming to your readers at times. Especially those trying to catch up. You want to have a good collection of establishing shots and downtime as you progress through your series. That doesn’t mean these moments need to be forced in, but when they fit the natural flow they can add quite a bit to the story. Body language and interaction are important parts to your story, just as those deep yearning emotions that everyone is potentially keeping from one another. Consider these things when moving forward with your story. Would your lead character really explain things in length at that moment, or just hold the person in distress closely and comfort them?
Of course you don’t want tons of pages together with little much going on than relaxed interaction and background scenes, but these can work well as a buffer. Has there been a lot going on? Maybe it’s time to let the readers take a moment to ease into the next scene. After all, you’re probably telling a story with a range of emotions. Rushing from action to despair over and over can be quite jarring. However, it can also work depending on the tone of your story. If you are looking for more of a flow though, it can help to allow downtime to let readers relax. Or naturally too, even comedy to lighten a mood. The last thing you want is for readers to give up with a “Too long, didn’t read” response if they end up feeling too overwhelmed.
I’m not the best at these sorts of things my stories. I prefer to make roller coaster rides and allow my readers some time to relax when the ride “pulls into the station” so to speak. It tends to work well because I do a lot of action scenes, but I’m looking to bring more more drama and understanding into my recent works without alienating my audience with too drastic of a change.
1. Mysteries keeps your readers around.
It’s cliché to include mystery just for the sake of it but it can be these sorts of bread crumbs that can keep your readers around to learn the answers. It tends to be better to make it something more obscure, not a question that could just be asked and answered. Take things like a character who keeps their identity hidden, or an unexplained power that even the user of cannot understand. These topics can be fun. Of course, you don’t want to drag things out too long either, unless it’s your overarching mystery that the series is currently hinging on.
The whole nature of “what will happen next” is what your readers do return for. Adding more layers to this with mysteries can deepen that eagerness, or even better it can inspire your readers to look for clues and discuss your comic. Characters doing stuff is fun, but even something as basic as who your main star will end up with in the end is something to keep your readers going.
These sorts of unanswered questions are fun, but you do want to have some that you’ll answer in good time too. Dragging things along for too long can get your readers agitated. You want to keep them around, but they’ll want to have fun with your comic. If they feel upset with a long wait, they could eventually give up and hopefully check back in months later to see if that story arc has progressed to an answer.
So how about you? What elements do you find to be important in your stories? Let us know in the comments section below! As always, you can log into Top Web Comics on the front page, come back here, and use your current login to post! Join in!