The blog for The Solitaire Rose Experience. Yes, the blog revolution is utterly and completely over. However, I haven't figured that out yet, so I'll be listing articles, ideas, links, and other internet debris. Now, you can join in! And be mocked mercilessly!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More about World Wide News

So, where was I?

Oh yeah, writing the comic strip. To be honest, it's a three part process, so if anyone is interested in that, here are the details:

1) Ideas. I keep hearing from people when I tell them I write “Oh, I have this really great idea for...” Yeah, yeah. I'm gonna be a jerk here and say that ideas are dime a dozen. I have NOTEBOOKS full of ideas. Ideas are not a problem. I have a notebook without 30 upcoming story arcs for the strip, and most of them are ones I either came up with while writing the pitch document, or after Dan agreed to draw the strip. Some are ones that showed up as consequences of stories I had fleshed out, for example, an upcoming story arc is about the station being moved from one corporate division to another...there were a couple of throw-away characters that will becoming part of the strip, and a story dealing with them came to me as I wrote their initial story. Usually, they are just “springboards” like:

-Bill O'Bradley finds out there's a blog that points out all of his errors.
-The the old movie projector starts up during a news broadcast and no one knows how to turn it off.

And so on.

2) After I let the idea sit for a while, I then come up with the story for the idea. This is usually a list of gags and story beats that have to do with the idea, anywhere from 4 -15 different strips that will spin out of it. If I come up with the punchline while doing this, I make sure to note it, otherwise it's just a breakdown of the idea and notes on what I can do with it. This is actually the hardest part for me, since I have to both think up jokes AND figure out how to the move the story forward. Since I write mostly prose, I am used to having a lot of time to set up mood, tone, and characterization, while in a strip, you have amazingly little time to do EVERYTHING. Yes, the art helps a lot, but as I look over the strips I've written so far, I keep seeing things I need to do better in terms of those things. So, I hope the strip is getting better the more I work on it.

3) This is the most time consuming part of the strip, the actual scripting. I take the ideas for each strip for part 2 and block them out on paper. I take paper, divide it into about four rows and then four columns, and write in the dialogue for each strip. This is where I see if the jokes work, and if they don't, they get pitched. After doing to the blocking, I write the strip in a Open Office document in such a way that Dan can draw it. Usually there are limited changes between the blocking and the actual scripting, but there are times I tweak the joke a bit, look for better phrasing, try to pare down the verbiage and so on, but really, once it's blocked, it's pretty much a final draft.

Bored yet?

One of the other things I take into consideration is which characters haven't I used in a while. As I write the strip, I find that may favorite character is Bill O'Bradley, and if I'm not careful, the strip could very easily become all about him in the same way that Happy Days slowly became all about Fonzie. He's a funny character, lots of fun to write, and it's incredibly easy to come up with situations and jokes for him. I also like Jack (one of the writers) a lot, because he's easy to use the snarky commentary I would throw in.

Finally (and we all cheer) I re-read the pitch recently, and in it, I said that I would be playing with the fourth wall a lot. In “Asylum” we didn't just break the fourth wall from time to time, the entire strip was ABOUT breaking the fourth wall...I mean, the artist and writer of the strip were characters IN the strip itself, and there were tons of jokes revolving around that, and we played with the characters being “actors” in the strip and the like. It was very meta, and very fun, but it wouldn't work for World Wide News. As I worked on the strip, I realized that it had to have it's own integral reality, and breaking the fourth wall would be a cheat to get an easy laugh.

Not that I'm above that, of course.

So, no fourth wall breaking, no “It's all just a comic strip” stuff, and while there will be some weird things happen, we won't acknowledge that they are “unreal”. Just cartoony. Kind of like “30 Rock” in that way.

There/ Two blog posts in three days. Not bad.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Behind the scenes at World Wide News

They say that if you want a big following on your blog, you need to write in it every day. As you can see from the fact that this blog has been going for a few years, and yet it has no following, I don't do that. It's not that I don't have a lot to write about, it's that it's not all on one topic. So, I get an idea for what to do with this thing, then see that I have other ideas, and eventually, I don't do anything.

So, instead of just wasting away, blogging when I get mad about something, or when I'm working on NaNoWriMo, I'm going to just blog away, sometimes it'll be comics, sometimes politics, sometimes TV shows, sometimes just thoughts, and sometimes I'll write about writing. How Meta of me.

Today, and to start the year(Yes, I know January is almost over...shush with you), I'm going to write about the comic strip I'm doing with Dan Mohr, World Wide News.

I came up with the start of the idea YEARS ago when I was working on the late, lamented “Asylum on 5th Street” strip. One of the characters worked in radio, and I had a LOT of ideas about someone working at a talk radio station that got terrible ratings, and the personalities who worked there. The artist, on the other hand, wanted more stories about herself, and since she drew the thing, it was a good idea to listen to her. So, I put the idea away, and it went onto the stack of notebooks I have by my computer.

About a year ago, when I got laid off, I figured that now was the time to start working on some of the idea floating around in those notebooks, and I worked up a pitch. It had the basic premise, and I took a couple of days to come up with the characters that I would need for the strip to work. In the past, I've usually come up with the situation, and then the characters, so it wasn't that hard for me to figure out what would be a good mix. Oddly enough, a few people have said that I must have been influenced by “Newsradio”, and I don't have the heart to tell them I haven't watched the show. Same with “Sports Night”, “Lateline” or other similar TV shows.

No, my biggest influence was “Doonesbury”.

Maybe now that I mention it, you can see it. Or not. I see the starting of Doonesbury as taking a few characters who are the core of the strip, and then as time goes on, it builds outward. World Wide News (I call it WWN) started with the 2 writers, the station manager and Bill O'Bradley (who is fast becoming my favorite character to write). Then, I figured I'd add a few more characters who could be good foils for the whole thing, and expect to add more as time goes on.

After I got the characters in my head, I figured I would structure the strip so that if the main artist wanted a break, or if I couldn't get a main artist and instead had a few people work on the strip, it would work structurally. I wrote the strip with story arcs of 5 – 10 strips about a certain situation, and then would have more topic strips inbetween. It's the same way that the current Spider-Man comic works...they have different creative teams for each story so that the book comes out three times a month but no creator has to do three comics in a single month.

Luckily, Dan, who I met through NaNoWriMo, was very excited about doing the strip, and didn't need to take breaks. At least not yet. I still have a few people who have said they want to draw their own story arcs (I'm working on one now for a new artist), but for the most part, Dan has taken the ball and run with it and I'm damn happy with the results.

Now that he's working on the last story arc from the initial pitch, I'm writing up the stuff in the notebooks that I came up with about a year ago, and since I've gotten to know the characters better, I think the upcoming stuff is MUCH better than my earliest scripts.

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