Friday, September 01, 2006

Making Scenes, Lots of Them

I’m used to plotting movies. As such, I know that a good movie is made up of 40 to 60 scenes. A sitcom is based of off far fewer, with only about eight. As that’s what I’m used to, I think in terms of movie scenes.

Each scene needs to have its own little act breaks; that is, it needs to have rising actions and falling actions. Consider a four-panel gag comic for a second, if you think this is hard; the first panel provides the introduction and set-up, the second is the rising or falling action, the third opposes that, and the fourth is the punchline. Or something like:

Panel 1: Dweeb enters with a pie. [Intro]

Panel 2: Layla sees the pie, looking bored. [Falling action] Layla: Oh, it’s a pie joke.

Panel 3: Dweeb puts the pie on the table. [Rising action] Dweeb: Nah, it just looks like a pie joke.

Panel 4: Dweeb lifts the table and the pie hits Layla. [Falling action] Dweeb: Okay, so it’s a pie joke.

Yeah, lame, but it illustrates the point. The page is one scene by itself; in a serial comic, this could have been just the first page of the scene. Just remember that the scene needs to be a three-act play in and of itself, and you’ll do fine.

There are few other things to keep in mind when you build a scene. In a serial script, the scene needs to do something for the script, or it’s wasted space, and that’s bad. You can have special pages (especially for holiday scenes), but that’s an exception. Try to avoid pages done for the sake of art; they sound like a good idea, but not if you’re trying to tell a story. It’s sort of like a bad commercial; it wastes time, doesn’t sell anything, and just annoys the reader (this is why filler pages need to be avoided at all costs).

When you write a scene, keep in mind that it needs to do something for the story, even if it’s just to build a character. And building character is always good, as long as you don’t go too crazy with it; by filling in the blanks, you make the characters more interesting, and therefore it’s more likely people will keep reading the comic.

Keep in mind that scenes tend to work in tandem with other scenes, so any one scene doesn’t need to be incredibly strong, it just needs to do its job and get out so the next one can come along. Because of this, don’t worry too much about each scene being the world’s best; if you do, you may put too much stress on yourself and not be able to write more. Just have fun with each scene and see where it goes; let them write themselves and see what happens…

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