Monday, December 1, 2008

Things I have learned

After laying out fifty-odd pages of story I think I am finally getting a handle on pacing the story. As I mentioned last time, I try to end a page on a scene cut or a dramatic moment. Sometimes that leaves me with a lot of business to cover in that page and sometimes it leaves not very much. When that happens I have to look at whether to stretch or condense the action. Do I squeeze it into one page or stretch it out over two, and if so how much goes on page one and how much goes on page two?

I don't think I can explain how I make these decisions right now. All I know is, it is getting easier to make them. But here are a few things I have learned in the process:

1) More panels on a page means more work for me. This may seem fairly obvious but it wasn't to me. For example, Christine's fight with the goblins at Puck I used a couple of sixteen panel pages. I asumed that more smaller drawing would be take the same amount of time as fewer larger ones because the pencil mileage is the same. I was wrong. Perhaps the drawing time is the same but I didn't account for how long it takes to work out the composition. (Significantly longer that it takes to do the drawing.) So extra panels ends up being a lot of extra time per page.

2) Size matters. The size of a panel does influence the seeming passage of time. In Comics and Sequential Art, Eisner states that a longer panel will seem to occupy more time than a shorter one. Even though I had read that, I thought that the number of panels is more important than the size. Now I have to conede that Eisner knew best. (I quess that is why he has an award named after him.)

3) Blow by blow action is really boring. In a movie it is great to see a fight in intricate detail. Fast cutting can make any number of shots feel as fast or slow as you want. But in a comic, too many drawings slows things down. Even though I know this, I still imagine that action as a movie, which I then have to distill down for the comic.

4) Planning is essential. Not just thumbnailing out pages and panels, but taking the time to really think about what the story needs. I tend to thumbnail out twenty or so pages at a time, then draw them, then thumbnail out another twenty, and so on. By the time I get to the twentieth page of any given set, I have been thinking about it for weeks more that the earlier pages, and they (not surprise here) turn out better. The pacing is better and the story works better. So, as in all things, measure twice, draw once.

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