Monday, February 2, 2009

Writing Resources Added to Psychedelic Treehouse

Psychedelic Treehouse , the webcomic how-to site we run, is undergoing its first big overhaul.

We never planned for the early version to become popular, but we did make it live, so what else can you expect? Traffic goes where it wants.

Because of my varied commitments, I can't make it all happen at once. You may already notice changes, and there will be no big unveiling with an oompah band and sweetmeats.

We'll be culling out the least useful and unveiling new useful stuff, plus redesigning and improving infrastructure. As soon as we get done, a great new tool should arrive, allowing us to begin anew.

Here's a short article from the new webcomic writing section, about writing humor. Feel free to criticize; it will only help make it better.

Thanks for your patience. There's an unusual number of interesting topics coming up here, and they'll be ready when they are ready. Meanwhile, I hope this preview is interesting.

Writing Webcomic Humor

There are plenty of essays, blogs and tutorials debating whether a webcomic has to be funny. The essay Serious Comics is a good example. It's not the author's best work, but it has good points.

The question is not whether you need to be funny, it's what genre are you working in. Only a few genres lack humor; for example, tragedy. Pure horror and gothic sagas may be unrelieved by humor.

Well-executed humor is such a crowd pleaser that it's hard to imagine someone choosing not to use it.

Pieces that don't use it better be good, because they are skipping one of the most popular devices of entertainment.

The Types of Humor list has serious omissions, like absurdity, but may help. I recommend avoiding gags and puns in favor of more sophisticated forms; there are plenty of short form comics mining gags, and the form is so played out that they have followed The Far Side into absurdist single-panels. There are comics pulling fresh ideas out of that vein, but the single panel form is only done well by a small minority.

Due to their complexity, opportunities for humor abound in story arcs and long form tales. You often can't plan them. They present themselves, and preconceived notions of whether you are working the comedy side of the tracks can rob you of opportunities.

One of the harshest moments comes when you present a comedy sequence you have done to someone who doesn't get it. Often, it's not the joke that's the problem, it's the set-up. Clues that lead away from the comedy distract, but signs can be inserted to indicate something is coming. When a comedy moment eludes a test audience, try identifying what tripped them up and make alterations.

Stay away from eyes rolled upward, hands on hips and other tired gag reactions. You might as well draw an "Applause" sign if the humor is so weak it needs a chuckle cue. When you look around the cartoon universe, it is not the things that are done routinely that you want to imitate. Rather, those are the things to avoid. This is why reading widely is so important: you need to read anthologies of classic comics, New Yorker cartoons, webcomics of all types, reprints of 50s and 60s kid titles and foreign work.

Plenty of what's around is mildly humorous, producing at best a sort chortle. I don't like such timid fodder. I want to make you go to pieces, laughing on and on, until people come to investigate. I want you to laugh so hard soda comes out your nose. I want that to be your goal, assuming it doesn't conflict with your personal vision, because if you achieve it, it may push you forward in popularity and keep you building as you develop.

A recent tally of the top ten search words in all categories placed "writing" at 3 and "humor" at 4.