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Eric: A truism from the grave.

Here is a thing you should know, if you intend to produce webcomics.

If I can read five of your strips and, after reading five of your strips still have no sense of what your webcomic's premise is? You have done it wrong.

Seriously. This is not decompression. This is "failing to convey a sense of your webcomic."

Thank you. I look forward to speaking to you again. Perhaps in April.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at January 18, 2009 2:20 AM


Comment from: Morgan Wick [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 18, 2009 3:10 AM

(cue a gazillion novice webcomiceers frantically going "is he talking about me?" and getting a sense of self-doubt even if they have a gag-a-day comic where every single comic virtually telegraphs the premise)

Comment from: Peter C. Hayward [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 18, 2009 8:18 AM

Just remind me...how many strips did it take until we got to the point of Gossamer Commons?

Comment from: Bo Lindbergh [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 18, 2009 11:02 AM

Five pages of prologue showing the fall of the S'phrf'rgn'tdjuu who ruled the universe 20 billion years ago is one of the wrong ways to start. Text-only pages are especially wrong.

Comment from: Will Wise [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 18, 2009 11:06 AM

Gossamer Commons? Five strips, as I recall.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 18, 2009 5:45 PM

Mmm. I wonder whether novice webcomickers read Websnark these days. Webcomic criticism doesn't have the high profile now that it did five years ago, it seems to me. Prove me wrong?

Comment from: E. Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 18, 2009 6:28 PM

Gossamer Commons? One day of intro (a prologue all posted at once into the splash page reveal).

In fact, we did it this way specifically because of the above rule. We did the prologue, realized that it wasn't conveying the actual premise quickly enough, and did it as a single post instead. We wanted to get straight into the fairy aspect of the comic so people wouldn't wonder.

Comment from: DavidCSimon [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 19, 2009 5:38 AM

Great, thanks Eric, now I'm anxiously re-reading the first five pages of my Prologue :(

Comment from: Peter C. Hayward [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 19, 2009 8:46 AM

Personally, I'd say that this was the comic where Gossamer Commons really started to work, started to have a purpose. Before then, I had no interest in it whatsoever - I only kept reading because I admired your writing over here so much.

So I'd say "28 comics" for Gossamer Commons, rather than "one day". Once it got there, I really enjoyed it, but until then, I felt like it was drifting, looking for a hook.

Comment from: E. Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 19, 2009 1:43 PM

Then let us assume that I know from what I speak, because I have done it wrong myself. :)

(The example in question -- which I won't link to -- was not a situation where it was the prologue. In fact, as an experiment I jumped around several times in the archive and read a good block of strips. I came out of it with absolutely no idea of what the strip was supposed to be about. I promise you, it was not "Crimson Dark." ;) )

Comment from: E. Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 19, 2009 1:49 PM

Oh, and one other note--

Don't mistake premise for plot. I have a hard time, for example, thinking that it took Peter 28 days to figure out that Gossamer Commons was a modern day fairy tale, or at the very least a mundane world with a fantastic world sitting alongside it. Or at least "a normal guy who stumbles onto fantasy."

It can take a long time to actually learn what the core plot is -- the Novel form generally involves establishing the regular, then introducing the change that forces growth. In that sense, the norm was "Keith was an ordinary joe with few prospects and a lot of notions about being a writer, just schlepping by" and the change was "oh hai, fairy girl." From there, you have repercussion.

Which isn't to say we did it right, either. But if we didn't, it was wrong in a different way.

The example I mention above, I can't even make that kind of general statement about. And that's where it's just Wrong.

Comment from: PatMan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 19, 2009 5:13 PM

Oh man, Are you talking about that strip? You know the one with the thing?

Seriously though, I browsed through a bunch of comics a while ago and found one that had full-page instalments, but only three panels per page.

It took over 20 strips to tell the main character's origin. The main character even took four pages to appear, leading you to believe that another character is the main until he gets called by a different name.

The sad thing is that the origin could have been told in six panels if it was written smartly.

But at least you could get the basic premise from reading a few strips.

Comment from: El Santo [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 19, 2009 6:20 PM

That's sorta Zuda logic there ... that the first eight pages are the important ones.

Also... April? That's an awful long time, Eric. I'm going through withdrawal right now.

Comment from: Skye [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 22, 2009 1:35 AM

I'm not sure if you'd agree with this, but I tend to put up with a little more "lack of sense of plot" from story based comics like "Phoenix Requiem", possibly because they feel more like a novel to me, so I'm willing to put up with not knowing what's going on. (Of course the beautiful artwork has *nothing* to do it...)

Random thought...but have you noticed that your comments are longer than your actual post?

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 27, 2009 3:15 PM

For a counter-example, I checked out Curvy last night after seeing it advertised on half a dozen of the webcomics I regularly read. One could argue that the premise was established on the first page, but by page three it had definitely been made clear: girl who's struggling with physics sticks her nose in where it doesn't belong and sexy weirdness ensues. :) (The NSFW-ness is also established on page one, along with various character traits thanks to a doodled-in physics notebook.)

As for the plot, that took a bit longer. ;)

Comment from: Morgan Wick [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 2, 2009 7:30 PM

Re: Paul 1/18: I think Websnark's old posts are still useful for novice webcomickers.

Comment from: Phalanx @ Ping Teo [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 25, 2009 10:27 AM

Scratch the first 5 pages. Even if the website presentation is really bad I stop reading.

5 Crimes in comic presentation.

1. Cover page with no clear link to where to start the first page of the comic.
2. No navigation system between comic pages (Don't you DARE make me go back to the archive page to click the next page in line!)
3. Too many obnoxious ads.
4. Badly compressed comics with hard to read text.
5. Slow loading pages due to images not being compressed, or dumping 10 x 300k images in ONE page, or really really really bad host.

You know... I think I've become more demanding *chuckle*. Comes from having less time to spend nowadays I think.

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