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Pacing...

It seemed a little quite in here, so I thought I'd try to make things interesting...

I've seen this debated in other places, but it seems like a worthy topic for discussion.

What are people's take on pacing of a web sequential?

This question is mostly the concern of stories which have more of an involved plot than those which are mainly one shots.

It seems that it is possible for a broadly arcing story to to succeed in the web medium, since there are numerous examples. However, what is the most effective way for that to present such a story.

Of course, one could simply present it as it would be presented if it were to be printed up into a book, but since the update schedule of a web comic is usually one page at a time, there are instances where this would cause breaks in the story at akward plot points (i.e. key conversations).

Also, in print, one can take multiple pages to setup an important event since the reader of something in print can easily just turn the page; however if that's done in a one page at a time update this would mean that some of the pages leading up to the payoff would be a little annoying to plod through, since it might take days or even weeks to wait for a single page. A good example of this is a fight sequence. In a print comic, multi-page fight sequences work pretty well. However, if after two or three weeks of updates, a web comic is still showing a fight sequence that in reality would take less than a minute, it can get really annoying.

So, what are people's thoughts? Is it worth the effort for a web comic creator to plan out pages to provide a payoff every update? Or, is it just a waste of effort?

Pacing...

It seemed a little quite in here, so I thought I'd try to make things interesting...

I've seen this debated in other places, but it seems like a worthy topic for discussion.

What are people's take on pacing of a web sequential?

This question is mostly the concern of stories which have more of an involved plot than those which are mainly one shots.

It seems that it is possible for a broadly arcing story to to succeed in the web medium, since there are numerous examples. However, what is the most effective way for that to present such a story.

Of course, one could simply present it as it would be presented if it were to be printed up into a book, but since the update schedule of a web comic is usually one page at a time, there are instances where this would cause breaks in the story at akward plot points (i.e. key conversations).

Also, in print, one can take multiple pages to setup an important event since the reader of something in print can easily just turn the page; however if that's done in a one page at a time update this would mean that some of the pages leading up to the payoff would be a little annoying to plod through, since it might take days or even weeks to wait for a single page. A good example of this is a fight sequence. In a print comic, multi-page fight sequences work pretty well. However, if after two or three weeks of updates, a web comic is still showing a fight sequence that in reality would take less than a minute, it can get really annoying.

So, what are people's thoughts? Is it worth the effort for a web comic creator to plan out pages to provide a payoff every update? Or, is it just a waste of effort?

This is a very well thought out point. I've had problems with this for some time. Admittedly, a fight sequence can get really annoying if it goes on for, say, two weeks. BUT if you can make it fun and interesting enough and leave a cliff hanger at the end of each comic you can get people to come back.
The real problem with pacing is that it can only be taught to a degree. After that it's all intuition and personal judgement. A general rule in comics and manga are that no scene should be more than three or four pages or else it lags the story. Sometimes though you're going to find that there's no way you can really do some scenes in that short a space. I know I do. I try to cut those after five pages. Anything more and it's boat material.
Let me explain. . .
When I was starting Kota's World I had a sequence on a pirate ship going to Germany. I'd never tried sequential art before and I had a lot of stuff that needed to happen of this trip. IT TOOK ME THREE MONTHS TO FINISH. The entire first storyline was eight months! Needless to say I've begun sticking to my guidelines fairly strickly since then. I've made a few jokes about storylines getting to be as bad as "the boat". In the end, shorter and more direct storylines without subplot are your best bet and keeping each "scene" to three pages or so should help with pacing. The fight may end up short, but people will end up thanking you for not being like a Dragonbal Z sequence.

I have a 12 page sequence coming up that is pretty much just people waking up in the morning. Its going to be spread out over 3 weeks. For anyone that folllows my comic with each update, it will be a bit of an annoyance, but for anyone reading through the archive after its completed, I'll get the desired effect, and I think the overall quality is better. Attempts to deliver with each update annoys me, as far as story based comics are. Too much arbitrary humor that doesn't help things much,and I think is often just an unnecessary interruption, or the pacing is shot to hell to keep a decent flow with the slow segmented updates a webcomic has. 3 months on a boat is only uninteresting if the things that happen on the boat aren't interesting.

These are my thoughts. For the average fellow checking out your comic, I think they'll be better served with delivering with each update, however, I think the overall quality of the comic will suffer if you do this in favor of a natural flow. Depends on what you're shooting for.

rezo

I think that, to a degree at least, just following the pacing of print comics is a good start. Sure, a webcomic might update a page a day and take a month to get through a story arc, whereas a comic book could be read in 15 minutes or so; But if you pay attention to how the writing is handled in print comics, it can still apply to the web. The best writing can make a page seem complete and almost self standing, but at the same time add to what was written before, and build tension for the next page.
My advice would be for webcomics not think of a "page" in such a traditional sense. Unless you plan on one day bringing your work to dead tree format, there is no reason why your story has to fit in a 7x10" box or whatever. Just make each update, or "page" tell enough of the story to not screw over the reader too much, but still fit your vision.

[quote:e2caa426d4="FractalDragon"]What are people's take on pacing of a web sequential? ...what is the most effective way for that to present such a story.

For my money, episodic strips tend to work best with each installment ending on a cliffhanger or implied cliffhanger. By "cliffhanger," I mean a scene where the character is literally caught in mid-action with no apparent hope of survival. By "implied cliffhanger," I mean text that foreshadows some menace or something lurking in the shadows, etc..

That's the approach that we favor with ATHENA VOLTAIRE. While we create the strip for print reproduction (I work 11" x 17", files are saved at 400 dpi comic-sized), we consciously attempt to pace the story to bring readers back every week.

We realize, of course, that the pacing differs from that of a comic book, but it's not a comic book--it's a weekly web comic. While print publication is an eventuality down the road, we must first cater to our existing audience. To that end, we're creating a horizontally formatted page (think Sunday newspaper strip) that contains bite-sized installments of a larger adventure. It's certainly a more compressed approach to an adventure than we would handle in a comic book.

Along that line of thought, we're in the process of working on an entirely different ATHENA VOLTAIRE story arc specifically for a print comic proposal. After that is picked up, we would then reprint the web comics in a horizontal collection (ala Frank Cho and Scott Kurtz).

Formatting and pacing an adventure comic for the web is entirely different from formatting and pacing a comic for print. This is the path that we've taken to hopefully generate some synergy from our web and future print efforts. I'm curious what everyone else's strategy is.

--Steve

J-Sun's picture

Good Pacing is certainly no simple task...

I feel that Indigo Kelleigh does a really good job with pacing his story over at circleweave.com.

He updates weekly(ish) and somehow manages to end each installment with a micro-cliffhanger everytime!

It has certainly helped to keep me coming back for more every time and the story has evolved quite a lot since the beginning.

:)

[url=http://www.cybertropolis.com/comics/index.html][img]http://www.cybertropolis.com/downloads/banners/cyber366x50.gif[/img][/url]

I'm beginning to get the impression that EVERYONE who has ever even CONSIDERED doing a webcomic has run into this problem. My comic bounces between a gaming/humor comic and some serious character development and the two have VASTLY different pacing. For the former, it's pretty easy to have a punchline per day and then string together a couple of running jokes. It's really only with the character development that I've run into problems. Even there, though, I try to make sure that there's SOMETHING to bring the reader back the next day, some moment of tension at the end of the strip that says "Hey, you REALLY wanna know how this ends, don't you?" It's not easy and has stretched a few story elements into what my artist calls "Piro-time" but I like to think it's worked so far.

I'll second the above comment that it's largely aesthetic and more of an art than a science. We all read webcomics here and know what we think works and what we hate. Try to emulate the former and avoid the latter. That's really all I can suggest.

One shortcoming of comic books is that you can always flip ahead to find out what's coming next (which being a devious child, I did quite often). With webcomics you can't do that and think that anticipation allows you to get into the story more so than you would in comic book.

And (though I don't keep up with comic books anymore) I remember the annoyance as a kid having to wait a whole month before the next issue comes out. With a webcomic you get the same amount of pages in the same amount of time, just more spread out and I think that makes you appreciate it more.

But what do I know....

Each thing I put online exists to service the whole.

And print is for people who dont know any better.

I think pacing is very important in a webcomic.

I know a guy who did a comic but didn't pace it. At the end of a few years, despitre numerous updates and an archive of hundreds, basically nothing had actually happened in the comic yet.

It was a very cool comic, but it got bogged down with too much irrelevant details and thus died.

An intersting question, but I'm not sure it is important.

I make no concessions to web serialization in my pacing. I do occasionally put little mini-cliffhangers at the end of pages, but I'd do that if I were drawing for print. And what I find is that readers read through my archive a lot. It's not at all uncommon on update days to see readers re-reading a whole scene, or at least the last few pages, and I facilitate this by providing a link to the begining of the current chapter next to the link to the update on my homepage.

Of course, that may limit my readership to people who are willing to do this, but I'm willing to accept that, as I think that it makes the final product read more smoothly.

I used to try to make some concessions to the web by putting at least one punchline on each page. I actually started with the goal of making each page entertaining by itself, with no prior knowledge of other pages.

It got to be limiting for a complex story, so I'm pacing it for print now. I try to keep it relatively fast paced by print standards so it's at least bearable on the web. A few of my readers have told me they prefer to read through each chapter when it's finished rather than reading each page as it updates.

scarfman's picture

I'm not aware that I put a lot of conscious effort into pacing. Perhaps it's less of an issue with gag-a-day, or perhaps not, but there you are.