Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Great Advice for Writers - From A Cartoonist

First of all, I have to admit I don't know much about Bill Griffith. But after reading the following quote on his Wikipedia page, I have to think I want to get to know him and his stuff better:
I also dislike Calvin and Hobbes. I think it's nothing much more than a re-hash of formula kid strips. Everyone says Calvin and Hobbes is about a real kid, but to me there's nothing real about it; it's clearly the voice of an adult in a kid's body. It doesn't make much sense to me.
So I've got some catch-up reading to do in Zippy the Pinhead. But as I do my remedial reading, you can consider the adivce Griffith recently shared with budding cartoonists; advice I think has broad application to budding writers as well. Read the advice here.

I'll comment on just a few, because, hey, that's what a blog is for, right? And then I'll go on to find something productive to do with my hands besides type 79 words a minute with no errors.

2) It can take years to find something to write about.
4) Laughter is in the eye, ear, nose and throat of the beholder.

10) Cartoon characters have souls.
I try to remind myself of this as I write. I like, however, to look at first drafts as getting the skeleton and body ready to receive the soul that comes -- mostly -- in subsequent revisions.
15) Find your writing "Voice." Try to keep it natural and conversational.

17) If you use text above the drawing in a panel or series of panels, don't make it "explanatory." Its best use is to complement the drawing -- not describe the drawing.

23) Comics can tell any kind of story. They're infinitely flexible. Comics will never disappear. New media do not replace existing media. "New" forms free up existing forms, allowing them to do more interesting, less commercially-driven things.
Thus blogging was born. I look at it all as practice.
25) When starting out, try to get into print as quickly as possible. Seeing your work in print is tremendously educational. All your mistakes leap out. Educational, but painful. If you do strips (as opposed to longer stories) try your local weekly papers first. Self-publish. Any way to get into print is good, including the web.
So true. Pity is that we don't recognize it at the time. Waaaay back in 1995, i was on the web, thanks to free web space at the University of Idaho and a desire to experiment with HTML. I left U of I in 1997 and it took me until 2007 to get back on the web. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I was in print all the time beforehand, but still, stupid, stupid, stupid.
31) Aside from trying to communicate, don't think of your readers when you create your comics. Please yourself and a few friends. Then hope for the best.

32) Don't reach out all the way to the reader -- don't worry about being "obscure" or ambiguous -- if you're sure of what you're doing, ask the reader to meet you halfway.
Ah, the constant battle here between writer and editor. I always get that -- "You're being obscure, I don't understand this." Yes, take the reader by the hand. But sometimes insist they work for what they want.
33) It's not always necessary to write out the entire strip or story before you start drawing. Many times, the story (or characters) will "tell" you where to take it. On the other hand, sometimes it is best to have everything written beforehand -- just don't set it in stone.
My bugaboo. I don't like to plan. And sometimes, it shows.

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