Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Picture Transformations

Werecreatures present an interesting problem from the illustrator's perspective. Basically, the illustrator has to portray the shape-shifting at least once in the comic, and it requires some thought to properly pull it off. If it is going to happen a lot, then it needs to be discussed; after all, you want something that can be portrayed in a few panels. Fortunatley, there are a couple of ways to pull this off.

The One-Panel Multi-Form: Pretty much the comics standby, the basic idea is to start with the original form, insert two or three transition forms, and then end with the final form. Although requires a lot more thought than other forms that work can be worth it. The problem is when either form has clothing and other items, as they need to be allowed for during the change, so this requires a lot of planning if those elements are involved.

The Body Part In Focus: In Panel One, focus on a particular body part. In Panel 2, show the body part changed. In Panel 3, pull back to reveal the changed form. This is a great and simple way to get the change over quickly and with little fuss.

The Focused Multi-Form: You focus in on one body part for several panels, and the part transforms a little more each time until it reaches the final form. This is great for when you need to be subtle and want to have some fun with it.

The John Landis Special: Warning: This may take a few pages. The first time you show a change you may want something a little more....dramatic. Show a few panels of minor changes, then start showing the major changes. Once enough of the changes have happened show the final form. This takes some work and some planning, but can be well worth it.

The Shadow: Instead of showing the transformation, show a silhouette of it. Usually a heads-only situation over a few panels, this is great if you want to have a little mystery in your story. This can also be great if you want to break up some of your other transformations.

The Bar-Pole Quicky: A pole or other vertical obstruction spits the panel into two. As the character moves past it, he transforms. It only takes one panel, and first part past it is the new form while the part that has yet to cross is the original form. Although a great time-saver, it is seen as a cheat.

The Magic Beast: The person transforms into energy form that happens to be a silhouette of the original form, then a silhouette of the new form, and then becomes the actual new form. Listed more the sake of completeness, this can work visually but is usually seen as a cheat.

Those should help a lot. The bottom line is that you will probably use a mix of these methods in order to spice things up as well as have some fun with the transformations, so don't feel as if you need to pick just one. Just go with whatever feels right at the time, and works for the scene in question. Just remember to have some fun with it and you should enjoy yourself. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Layers of History in Your Backstory

Something that can be fun to do is to really explore the past of your universe. There are some times when you just want to throw in some basic history to your world that adds some depth to it without really adding details that you need to worry about. Taking something from the real world, you may want to debate adding some former civilizations to your world.

The great thing about adding dead civilizations to your universe is that it adds some background to your universe without adding any additional story ideas. This does not mean that you may not feature quests for the ancient artifacts or that the civilization won't feature as part of a character's personal arc, but more that the civilization is there to add window dressing to the world. In essence it is something to just show that the world has been around for a while, that there is more than merely current events.

A dead civilization helps you with a lot of minor details. Obviously the characters that benefit the most are archaeologists, historians, and paleontology, but it can add some great details that other characters can have some fun with. It can add some mysterious sites, such as Stonehenge and Easter Island, some great tourist sites such as the Egyptian pyramids, or just some obligatory background puzzle, such as if Troy actually existed. Better yet, you can have a couple of them running around, just to have different races running around.

Even science fiction can benefit, as it can show that some of the worlds really do have a past. It can even show the inspiration for some ship designs or give characters a non-combat reason to explore a planet, as some ruins are bound to just be places for tourists to spend money. They can even provide time travellers some great vacation ideas. Not every civilization has to be one that contributes to current stories; sometimes you want pyramids that are just there for viewing and not for hiding some sort of doomsday device.

In short, occasionally you just want some dead civilizations that add flavor to your world. Have some fun creating them, basing them on real world civilizations or entirely fresh creations, and you should do okay. Just remember that they are supposed to add some local color and not another long-lost race, and you should do fine. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Charting Your Continuity

The best writers have a developed OCD. They tend to figure out all sorts of ways to keep track of their characters and stories, and some of those take advantage of technology. One of those is a continuity chart, where a writer tracks events using a chart rather than a bible. Although a whiteboard can be used, this is one area where a computer may actually work better, especially a tablet with a decent graphics program. Assuming you have a big enough whiteboard or a favorite graphics program, continuity charts are easy enough to develop.

The first thing you need to decide on which colors represent which kind of events. You can also shapes, but colors make them stand out that much better. Generally, you're going to have four or five types of events to deal with, and therefore you'll need four to five colors: major events, character arcs, romance, important but off-screen events, and backstory. A sixth event can be debated for some comics, future events, which need to be noted so that they can be lead up to. That makes for a total of seven colors and/or shapes, depending on preference.

Each time an event happens, you have two choices how to present the information. You can either cluster it, or link it linearly. Clustering events can be complicated, but can work for singular events that need to be noted, such as when a sword is forged or how a character trained. The preference is going to be for linear presentation, where the information is on essentially an x-y axis. The x-axis should be used for different types of events spaced apart just enough to allow for small paragraphs. In other words, all of your various arcs and storylines should be organized horizontally.

On the y-axis, events should be organized so that events should be placed so that they are organized by time. In other words, you should be able to be look down to see which events happen at the same time, and should be able to get a good idea what order events happened. If you can provide dates so much the better as the timing can get a lot more precise, making it perfect for murder mysteries and military stories. You don't need such precision for most stories, so there is some room for personal preference. For that matter, you can organize stories on the y-axis and times on the x-axis, as long as you are consistent with it.

When it comes to events, you need to remember to write as concisely as possible. The ideal is to combine with a bible; the event is noted on the master chart so as to get a feeling for where it belongs in the continuity while a fuller entry (containing details, characters in attendance, important details) is in the comic bible. You can provide character codes in the chart details, but the chart is there just to show you where things fit in the general continuity.

As this can get rather huge, it helps to be able to use a tablet or something else with a touchscreen. You will find rather quickly that the ability to expand or shrink areas and to quickly go from one area of the chart to another can be all sorts of cool, especially when you are exploring character histories. When you need to get a quick glance of the situation a continuity chart can be a real help, especially when determining where an event can fit in when you are writing something and know you want to fit it in, but are worried about it conflicting with other events. For time travel stories that can be a great feature. Luckily this is easy to set up and maintain, making life easier for even the most OCD-blessed writers.