Tuesday, April 3, 2007


How do cartoonists develop material for new comic strips? That's a question with as many answers as there are cartoonists.

Lee Nordling, former syndicate editor and a comic strip writer himself suggested this recently on the Toon Talk message board:

"So, here's A process--not THE process--for developing a strip. I suspect it'll work for some but not for all. If you want to try it, change the stuff you know isn't for you. For example, people who write best in the evenings and not the mornings should probably change the timeframe for #1.

1) Every morning, before the daily chores of life have started to shove your creative process/thinking aside, write at least one week's worth of strips, daily and Sunday. Get them to the point where you're happy with them.

2) The next morning, write another week's worth of strips, daily and Sunday, then review what you wrote the previous day and edit accordingly. Take out the ones you're not happy with...but ignore the ones you wrote this day.

3) Continue this for at least three weeks. (Are you doing the math? Ignore it if you are; it's the quality that counts, not the quantity).

4) As you get up each morning and write a week's worth of strips, review what you've written and start to fashion your sample. Theoretically, you've culled out the weakest gags. Here, you'll realize you may need more defining gags for characters or relationships.

Filling these holes will be a new task, and, in repeating the process of writing every morning, you'll have many to cull from to fill those holes well.

Notice I didn't suggest you draw any of these gags.For me/this exercise, the point is to learn to become your own editor, to learn to cull cull cull from gags that aren't good enough (yet) to draw."

I tried this method on one of the strips I'm developing. I didn't get a week of strips written each day, but I did churn out a surprising amount of material: nearly 60 strips in six days. Not all of them are usable, of course, but most are solid, a few are really good, and even the bad ones are good idea starters.

How do others work? Anyone want to offer a different method?

1 comment:

Alex said...

I look through the internet, newspapers, magazines or anything to get a topic to brainstorm about. Then I either walk or rollerblade or swim (not so good for taking notes) to send the ideas around my head. I can come up with ideas by just sitting down with a big sheet of paper and jotting connections, but I find it easier when blood is going round my brain a little faster.