To recap some of the more important parts;
1- As you are about to prepare your project assemble your components!! It's like trying to make a complex gourmet dinner and you throw out the cookbook and then wonder why it was so hard to do.
So what do you need for components?
- A- A well thought out plot or script-- if you don't know where this is going how can you possibly know how many pages a scene has or what a character motivation is?
- B- A cast of characters-- I use real people or actors for my characters that way I know how they "sound"-- this will not only help to keep the characters clear in your head it will make them that much easier to draw consistently.
- C- Reference Materials-- settings, vehicles, clothing, etc-- you can't draw it out of your head nor should you!
- D- Thumbnails! Draw out your plot or script in small layouts to figure out where stuff is going to go before you face that big blank page! If you're laying out a particularly complex page try doing a first draft where the panels are all the SAME SIZE just to figure out the shots you want, then once you have that figured out you can then get "fancy" with different angles and panel sizes.
Ask yourself with each scene the following questions:
What is the important element, prop or action I'm trying to show in this scene?
Does the progression from panel to panel flow cleanly and logically?
Are my characters and setting clearly defined?
It's important to see these things from the eyes of a reader who doesn't have all the knowledge about the project that you do.
In the above example by Jim we have a nicely drawn page but the message is slightly muddled.
To help clarify things a bit....
Move the background in panel 1 down and flatten out those tables a bit more. The complex perspective he's using doesn't aid the initial introduction and that book that's lying on the table needs to be more prominent if the female character is going to refer to it in the scene.
In comics we call this mistake the "magic trick" -- in that a prop or element just appears out of nowhere. It's confusing and disjointing to the reader.
He's got those great distillery bottles all around so in panel 2 let's break from shots of the whole characters and get a closeup or her hand holding one of the bottles. This allows us to give our readers a closer look at what's in the room.
Panel 3 I would drop out the woman and give us a tighter shot of the man here.
Panel 4 I would increase the size of the bottle so that we see the woman through the distorted image of the bottle. This also gives the sense of the congestion of the room.
Panel 5 I'd have her reaching for the book so we eliminate the magic trick.
Last panel I would bring the book in closer and show just her hand on it- give the reader a chance to see what this book is about.
Jim's next page has some beautiful elements to it but there is a big misstep here.
The way it reads; A bike a wagon and a horse rider all come to an intersection, the horse goes through first, the wagon takes a left and the bike rider follows after him.
Panels 1 to 4 all work.
Panel 5 is the stumble because now as we change the angle of the shot seeing the bike rider trailing behind the wagon another wagon and a building appear out of nowhere (magic trick) because it seems from the first two panels that Jim has established a North By Northwest type of intersection in the middle of nowhere.
You see a reader calculates subliminally how much time is passing by the panels you lay out before them. So with panels 1 to 4 we assume about 10 seconds have passed.
What Jim was trying to get across was the idea that Panel 5 is a few minutes later and that's where he crashes and burns.
HOW DO WE SHOW TIME PASSING IN COMICS?
There are a couple of ways--
The first, and I would say the worst, is to have a narration balloon that simply says LATER up in the top left corner.
I don't like it, you don't like it, but it works.
Another way to do it is with a change to another scene and a page break.
So we would cut away from the bike following the wagon to a scene of two other characters interacting somewhere else in our story (remember how in another class I discussed the benefits to sub plots and supporting characters? This is one use of them). Then we can come back to this EXACT panel now riding into town and it all makes a lot more sense.
Because the reader fills in time.
The reader assumes that the bike rider is still riding while we cut to another scene and they are perfectly willing to assume it's later when we come back to them.
Speaking of time...
GIVE YOUR STORY TIME TO DEVELOP
Babs compelling story of addiction and how it affects families is something I'm looking forward to reading.
Don't be afraid to treat your work as drafts-- ask yourself those questions from above, most importantly WHAT am I trying to show to my reader?
So in this case we open our story with our librarian retiring and enjoying retirement. On the left you see Babs original take while on the right are my minor tweaks to make it stronger.
Panel 1 at the top-- lot of dead space, so I simply took her idea of having the retirement being covered by the local paper and moved it to that space. I also googled Boston Globe Front page to make it look more like a paper's masthead.
Notice that the font in panel 1's story and in panel 2 is the SAME FONT-- that's because we're still reading the newspaper in panel 2.
Panel 2 I recut and brought the camera in tighter-- there was too much deadspace around the original and by getting in closer we see the character more and it's a stronger panel.
Panel 3 Babs shows the retiree lying in bed, the trouble here is there isn't enough information in that panel. In retirement you sleep? Don't we all? Is she enjoying it? Is she dead? So in my take I stuck an ALARM CLOCK at 11 right in the reader's face, made the retiree nice and comfy in the bed and a big window behind her showing it's clearly daytime-- now that's retirement!
Panel 4 is great the way it is, I simply resized WEEK TWO to match the other weeks and put them all in narration boxes.
Panel 5 is a little unclear, if you don't know what clam shucking is you might think she's been put out to sea with an anchor-- but the big change I made here is I enlarged the figure so she breaks the plain of the shoreline. Having her head hit the flat line is a bad idea, you want it to be clear that she's not under something and there's no reason the figure SHOULDN'T be bigger, you have the room.
On the next page Babs gets into why the character doesn't enjoy retirement but I think it's too rushed. I think it would be better to continue what you're showing here and play up the downside to retirement which is what first seems thrilling (sleeping until 11) now becomes mundane.
You could do this by having Week Four she's sitting and smiling in her yoga class, Week Five she's sitting with a circle of other retirees who are all yammering on about stuff that she doesn't care about and maybe you see a SLIGHT drop in her smile.
Week Six she's in bed again but now her eyes are open and it's dark out-- she can't sleep. Week Seven she's standing next to her bike and the tire is flat. Week Eight she's shucking them clams but it's raining, then we could show her at a speed dating social event where she's wallflower like standing off in the corner saying to someone "this was a mistake, I'm too old for this" etc.
GRADUALLY showing us that she's not enjoying retirement and also giving the reader an understanding as to WHY she isn't. Most of us don't think retirement through-- you have no place to go now-- what do you do with your day? You sleep in everyday? Makes it hard to sleep at night. And so on.
By doing this you get into the characters situation better and you invest your reader.