How Long Is Too Long?

Postby Yupyop on Sat Dec 01, 2001 1:58 am

You can hold on to a concept too long only if its your only concept. I think its a mistake to focus on one idea especially after its been rejected. IMO if the syndicate likes the concept they'd tell you. That doesn't mean abandon the characters. Some examples:
Change the focus from Lester to another character. Imagine the strip from Warren's POV or Mom's or the kid's...
Change the setting. Dump the family and put Lester in a different setting. Lester alone. Lester and Warren the Odd Couple. Lester the only man at an all female school...
Writers for TV and film know never have just one idea (six is the recommended minimum). Why? That person you are trying to sell might hate your favorite idea but love one of your other ideas. Maybe the person loves HOME FRIES but just bought a similar idea the day before. What is more important getting Lester syndicated or Scott syndicated?
Your ability to visually tell gags has improved enormously since Comics Edge. But HOME FRIES has IMO changed little. Reading the current version of HOME FRIES will be wonderful for us, but won't get you syndicated. Take some chances here, experiment with your characters, try other ideas. Have some fun.
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Postby Scatman on Sat Dec 01, 2001 2:13 am

Lester as the only man at an all female school? I'm getting ideas already. Have you been reading my letters to Santa?<P><p>[This message has been edited by Scatman (edited 12-01-2001).]
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Postby Scatman on Sat Dec 01, 2001 9:59 am

I've already indicated that the characters in Home Fries are developing with every strip. I think that this kind of development requires good planning and especially time.<P>Over at toontalk, I heard that once a strip is rejected by the syndicates, it's time to move on. I found this hard to accept. Granted, the concept for the strip might just be bad. But if the concept is good, I feel that a great deal of improvement can be made in letting the characters develop. People read some strips because they've come to like characters that have evolved very real personalities. I may have to move on from Home Fries eventually, and I've got other ideas in the wings. But I don't think an ideas been given a fair shot until the characters have matured.<P>So how long is too long? The answers may be different depending on your goals. But if the brass ring is syndication, when is it time to pull the plug?
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Postby Scatman on Wed Dec 05, 2001 1:58 am

I guess there's the question for me of comfort vs complacency. I'm getting more & more comfortable with the characters and there's a sense of security in that. While I think that comfort with your characters allows their personalities to take on more dimensions, complacency can prevent you from making changes for the better.<P>Some of the characters I'm starting to really like while others have never really had much of an impact. I like your point, Yupyop, that the characters don't have to be scrapped for me to take my work in new directions. Greg, you also seem to think that small changes can have a big impact. That helps me to think about changes a little more easily.<P>That's not to say that my work won't go off in an entirely new direction. One day you might log on to friedgreencomics and see a new strip about cockroaches. But for now, I might try to see what develops by looking more deeply into the existing characters' lives. Andy (the grandson) is in the fifth grade. There are so many strips about kids because life at that age is ripe with humor, irony, frustration, etc. I don't think I've tapped the potential there yet.<P>There will always be room for Lester. I've gotten to like him too much. But how he'll fit in I'm not sure yet.
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Postby Yupyop on Wed Dec 05, 2001 7:10 am

Scott, why not try a little CE here? Feature two strips a month, one appearing Sun, Tues, and Thur; the other Mon, Wed, and Fri. At the end of the month the forum would pick one to survive into the next month to face the challenge of yet another strip. This would allow you to experiment with different ideas and characters using reader feedback to develop samples for submission to the syndicates.
Greg, what changes have you made to BIT? Did you drop the sporting goods store? I feel the comic worked best when you focused on Hubris and the girlfriend (You'd think after all the complaining I did at CE about the need to mention her name I'd remember it <IMG SRC="http://www.keenspace.com/forums/frown.gif">).
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Postby GregCartoonist on Wed Dec 05, 2001 7:44 am

Well, since no one else seems inclined to add to the discussion, I'll add my two cents worth (actually worth much, much less in today's rough and tumble fiscal world) I've been working on a strip called 'Because It's There' for a little over a year now. I'm lucky enough to have a dialogue with an actual editor at an actual syndicate to push me along every so often. The first advice she gave me dealt with the setting of the strip- the backdrop as it were. Everything since then has involved the characters and the dynamics between characters. Their development has ranged widely within the confines set by the backdrop, and is about to change a little more before I draw up the next package.<P>It's easier to change characters around in big bursts than in day-to-day cartoons, so I've got that over Scott, but the characters voices don't roll so easily through my head either- Scott's advantage by drawing his strip continuously.<P>Long post short- Back off and look at the big, big picture when making alterations to your characters and their places. Changing a character a little might have a very large impact on the others around him- and on your whole approach to the strip?<P>Whattaya think?
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Postby Scatman on Wed Dec 05, 2001 10:13 am

I like the idea of battling toons, adding a little Survivor/Weakest Link drama to the site. The only thing that would keep me from doing that is time. As I get better at this, I crank out the strips more quickly, but I can never seem to devote as much time to the toons as I'd like.<P>Maybe there's another way to introduce new ideas from time to time. What do you think of the first week every month being devoted to a new concept? The feedback would help me decide what to develop. Would the variety be appealing or the lack of continuity be distracting?
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Postby Yupyop on Thu Dec 06, 2001 6:25 am

I like the idea of a new try out strip one week a month. But is three strips enough of a sample?
Greg please correct me if I'm wrong but it is my impression that a cartoonist's ability to handle a daily deadline is the second most thing to syndicates (number one is talent). Scott, you have the talent. Its my impression you set up this website to develop a strip the syndicates would buy and improve your skills as a cartoonist. Right now what you are doing is fine because it is helping you with those goals. But once you find the strip and characters you are happy with you will have to show you can meet deadlines and do the strip every day for the rest of your life. I understand the problem of time. As a writer my Muse enjoys taunting me with great ideas knowing time has me trapped a dozen ideas behind. You have read enough at ToonTalk to know being syndicated does not mean you can ever quit your day job <IMG SRC="http://www.keenspace.com/forums/frown.gif">.
Have fun here! Experiment with the very form of the comic strip. When you are ready start working on your ability to handle a daily deadline. Once you have a strip you feel comfortable enough with to go daily with then you should worry about continuity.
Another suggestion. Feature the same moment in every gag one week, but each gag is told from a different character's point of view.
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Postby GregCartoonist on Thu Dec 06, 2001 10:25 am

I find that I learn more about comic strips and what's really possible when Scott (Stantis) writes one that I would have thrown out for some reason- (too wordy, too empty, too whatever) That stretch to find the best way to fit a lot of dialogue or only one element in a single space. I throw away preconceived notions, and word balloons destroy boundaries... shadows become elements... all stuff that I would have rejected if I had been working alone and for myself.<P>Scott, I think you should stick to HomeFries for a bit, but what about taking suggestions for your scripts? post a brief description of the characters and settings and let a few of us throw curveballs at you. Your hitting may improve, and in ways that'll surprise you.<P>and Yupyop, I haven't decided yet whether the Outdoor store stays in 'Because It's There'. It probably will, even if Hubris is no longer the owner. There are a couple of other interesting characters who belong there. As for Kara, Her relationship with Hubris may alter, because Hubris may revert to an earlier version of himself. I've got to go back and study some notes I made back when he was primarily a TV show host/ complete ass.
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Postby Scatman on Fri Dec 07, 2001 2:28 am

I like how Lester's behavior made Kristen completely reverse her idea of the roads being too bad to drive. Your perspective could give me fresh ideas too. Anyone else out there?
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Postby Scatman on Fri Dec 07, 2001 6:00 am

Yupyop, just after I posted, I also thought that 3 strips wouldn't be enough to get a new idea through. It was around 1:00 AM when I posted, and I promised myself I could go to bed after I got a strip scanned in.<P>Since I'm not ready to move on from Home Fries yet, I'll stick with it on this site for now and throw in some ideas for changes within the strip. I'll work on other ideas on the side so that if the time comes to move on, I'll have a strong start on the new characters.<P>You're right about the purpose of this site. But the most important thing is for me to have fun with it because I know syndication may never happen, and this site or others may be my best exposure.<P>I know I've got to manage my time better. My wife's been supportive, but I don't think many other people believe that this should consume so much of my time. When I tell them how busy I've been, they look at me like I'm a little kid who claims to be up to his eyeballs with coloring books. But I use this as an excuse sometimes. As I said, it's really a matter of time management.<P>Greg, I would love script suggestions. Even someone else's new idea could spark a flood of creativity on my end. I'll throw out some ideas on a new thread very soon. In the meantime, maybe I could get some help with a specific strip. I almost posted this one the other day, but replaced it because the punchline bothered me. It seemed like a real strech of character for Lester. Here's the setup:<P>Panel 1:Exterior shot of house on a snowy day.
Andy:Mom, will you drive me to the mall?
Kristen: No, Andy. The roads are terrible, and it's freezing out there.<P>Panel 2:Andy & Kristen looking out window
Andy:But the Playstation's broken & there's nothing to do. I'll go nuts!<P>Panel 3:Same scene
Kristen:You won't go nuts! Believe it or not, spending a quiet day at home never hurt anyone.<P>Now the 4th panel has Lester sitting at a typewriter with a deranged look typing over & over, "All work and no play make Lester a dull boy..."<P>Maybe the gag works with other characters, but I think I really forced it on these characters.<P>Anyhow, any ideas for retooling the strip? I'd like to change the 4th panel altogether. The setup could remain the same or be changed, but I'd like to keep andy as the speaker in panel 2, and Kiristen in panel 3.<P>Any ideas are very much appreciated. Thanks.
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Postby Throbbin Johnny on Fri Dec 07, 2001 7:40 am

How's this:<P>Panel 1:
shot of house, snow falling.
Andy: Mom, I'm bored! Will you drive me to the mall?<P>Panel 2:
Mom: Andy, the weathers terrible, and the driving would be dangerous! Find something to do in the house.
(Andy, looking bummed)<P>Panel 3:
Lester: Hey, Andy, I know what you could do!
Andy: (smiling/happy) Oh yeah? What??<P>Panel 4:
(shot of Andy outside, shoveling the walkway)
Andy <IMG SRC="http://www.keenspace.com/forums/frown.gif">thinking, frowning) this isn't what I meant!<P>This could show Lester as a little grumpier/old school disciplinarian. How do you like???<P>"Throbbin' Johnny
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Postby GregCartoonist on Fri Dec 07, 2001 7:41 am

Okay, how's this-<P>First panel: Exterior shot of house on a snowy day.
Andy:Mom, will you drive me to the mall?
Kristen: No, Andy. The roads are terrible, and it's freezing out there.<P>Second panel: Interior shot, Andy staring at mom. Andy says "There's nothing to do inside! We'll go nuts!"<P>Third panel: Kristen says "Staying inside never made anyone go n..." Lester, wandering by with some odd thing in his hand (axe, bullwhip, banjo, skateboard, whatever...) says "GOING NUTS!"<P>Fourth panel: Kirsten says to Andy "Avoid eye contact with him while I warm up the car."<P>That's my first draft. Let's see where it takes you.<P>
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Postby GregCartoonist on Fri Dec 07, 2001 7:44 am

Okay, how's this-<P>First panel: Exterior shot of house on a snowy day.
Andy:Mom, will you drive me to the mall?
Kristen: No, Andy. The roads are terrible, and it's freezing out there.<P>Second panel: Interior shot, Andy staring at mom. Andy says "There's nothing to do inside! We'll go nuts!"<P>Third panel: Kristen says "Staying inside never made anyone go n..." Lester, wandering by with some odd thing in his hand (axe, bullwhip, banjo, skateboard, whatever...) says "GOING NUTS!"<P>Fourth panel: Kirsten says to Andy "Avoid eye contact with him while I warm up the car."<P>That's my first draft. Let's see where it takes you.<P>
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Postby Yupyop on Sat Dec 08, 2001 9:06 am

My gag suggestion or suggestion that gags...
PANEL ONE: Andy and Kristen inside looking outside at the blizzard.
Andy: Mom will you drive me to the mall?
Kristen: No, you would have to be crazy to go out in that storm!
PANEL TWO: Kristen moves away from window. Andy follows. They head towards our right.
Andy: But there is nothing to do inside! I'm going nuts!
Kristen: You sound just like your Grandfather.
PANEL THREE: Andy and Kristen are off panel leaving us looking out the window. We see Lester, dressed for summer, running crazily in the blizzard.
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Postby Scatman on Sat Dec 08, 2001 12:06 pm

All good ideas. I'm favoring the ones that have Lester going a little nuts somehow. Anyone who's been stuck in the house and gone stir crazy could relate. <P>How about a more subdued form of craziness? I may be giving the idea away before you see it on the site, but I'm thinking Lester dressing up the dog in little costumes. Too chilling?
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Postby Ronski46 on Sun Dec 09, 2001 12:32 pm

I got something free you might like. It's a computer program I wrote, called Gag Store. It doesn't write gags for you, of course, but I find it helps me get the creative juices flowing sometimes. It's a free download at my site...on the Prods page.<P>Runs under Windows 95, 98, ME, and I guess those other Win OS's, too. The program contains (I forget the exact number) about 22,000 words and phrases. If you wanna try it, just download and extract the ZIP file in the folder of your choice, and run the EXE file. No "install" crap, so it's easy to zap if you don't find it useful.<P>I use it every day. Sometimes just a single word will spark a train of thought. Sometimes not.<P>------------------
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<A HREF="http://public-eyes.com" TARGET=_blank>http://public-eyes.com</A>
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Postby Scatman on Mon Dec 10, 2001 5:33 am

Thanks, Ronski.
I'll give it a try. Sometimes just a funny word or phrase can trigger the old brain. I'll let you know how it works.
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