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Tips on Writing for a Comic Strip

Updated on July 4, 2017
Craypoe profile image

Bob Craypoe (Also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist and creator of the Punksters Comic Strip Series.

Meet the Band. from left to right are: William "Bing" Billingsly, Gerry "Bang" Bangston, Stanley "Crash" Cash and Jerome "Boom" Bloom. that's Bing, Bang, Crash and Boom.
Meet the Band. from left to right are: William "Bing" Billingsly, Gerry "Bang" Bangston, Stanley "Crash" Cash and Jerome "Boom" Bloom. that's Bing, Bang, Crash and Boom.

Introduction

Over the years I have met a number of people who have considered doing their own comic strip. Basically none of them have actually ever gotten around to it. I have also gone online and seen a number of people in various forums discuss how they have considered doing a comic strip but have never gotten around to it either. I think one of the reasons a lot of people don’t follow through is just that they don’t really know what to do in order to get started.

With me, it all starts with a basic script. But the script has to revolve around a few things like the characters, various locations, perhaps a continuing story and so on. Not all comic strips you see out there will have a continuing story, just as not all comic strips are humor based. My own personal comic strip is a humor-based comic strip that occasionally will have a short continuing story. My intention with this article is to tell you where I get some of my ideas for it, so that hopefully it will help you to come up with the ideas you would need in order to write for your own comic strip.

The two characters in this comic strip were the first two I had created.for the comic strip series.
The two characters in this comic strip were the first two I had created.for the comic strip series.

First You Need Some Characters

Before you could even create a script, you need characters. What I did with my comic strip, Punksterss.net, was to develop the primary characters first. I wanted to create a comic strip that primarily revolved around a punk rock band. I am a musician and have been in a number of bands throughout the years, so I have a good amount of experience with that and it’s easy for me to come up with some humor regarding that sort of situation.

After creating the members of this fictional band, I created other characters like their family members, girlfriends and co-workers. In total, I probably created about a dozen or so characters to get started with. With each character, I created a basic description of their personality and the type of people they were. The description for each character was only about a paragraph long, just enough to get started with.

The first group shot I created for the website and promotional purposes.
The first group shot I created for the website and promotional purposes.

You Need to Decide on Your Format

The format I use for my comic strip is a four frame format. I basically stick to four frames for each comic strip. It’s better for consistency and when I release an e-book, it’s easier to do the layout when every strip is the same size. Also, it works well for posting them on the website. Every page that a strip is posted on is basically laid out the same. They just have a different strip on each page. I use a template for them all and just post each new one in the template page and it’s done.

In the four frame format I use, the first free frames basically set things up for the punchline to be revealed in the fourth and final frame. Since I use the same format for every strip, writing a script for each one is easier. They all follow the same rule of using the first three frames to set it up for the punchline that is revealed in frame four.

Notice how the first three frames set the strip up for the punchline to be revealed in frame four.
Notice how the first three frames set the strip up for the punchline to be revealed in frame four.

Develop a Script

For each comic strip, I will develop a basic script. The script consists of the dialogue that will appear in each strip. So the dialogue is divided by frames. Sometimes I will write down which characters are appearing in the strip and where it is taking place. The script might just revolve around a certain joke and I decide which characters would be the best ones to use in order to create the scenario in the strip and deliver the punchline. When creating the script for the strip, I usually have an idea as to which characters to use.

Whenever I create a script, I will type it out and send it to myself in an e-mail. I do that from anywhere that I may have access to a computer.Then I take the e-mail and store it in a folder where I keep all of my scripts. Then, I will decide when I want to use each one of those scripts. I try to alternate the characters from strip to strip. I like to mix things up a bit. Sometimes I might not have the entire script written out. Sometimes I will just have an idea for a punchline or a certain scenario. I will still type them up and send them to myself as an e-mail and store it for later use. I will often take those ideas and complete a script from them later on.

Where to Get Ideas for Your Script

The ideas I get for my comic strips come from a variety of of sources. A lot of the ideas will come from my previous life experiences. Sometimes I will use humor that I derived from working a previous job. So I might take some of the scenarios I have experienced myself from previous jobs and apply them to a character on his job. Just as I may take ideas from when I was in certain bands and apply those scenarios to the band situation in the comic strip series.

Sometimes an idea might come to me from watching television. Sometimes it will be a drama that I am watching and I think of a funny take on the scenario that is taking place in the television show. I sort of do a parody on it. Even when I am having a conversation with someone, I may say a joke and will later think to myself that it was pretty funny. So I try to find a way to use it in a strip.

I got the idea for this comic strip from when I used to work at a company that had meetings all of the time, where we would discuss how to get work done. Unfortunately, the meetings took time away from us actually getting the work done.
I got the idea for this comic strip from when I used to work at a company that had meetings all of the time, where we would discuss how to get work done. Unfortunately, the meetings took time away from us actually getting the work done.

Outline Where You Plan to Go Over the Long Term

It’s good to have some idea as to where you want to go in the long term. It’s very helpful to have some sort of a sense of direction. I have laid out some of the long term ideas on a piece of paper or typed them out in a document on my computer. Sometimes I will write out how I plan to introduce a new character and what that new character’s relationship might be with the other characters. I have developed a few short continuing stories that way as well.

I also keep track of when each character is used in a comic strip to give me some idea as to whether or not I need to do strips with certain characters more often. I wouldn’t want any of them to feel neglected. When I see that one has not made an appearance in a very long time, I try to create a comic strip with them appearing in it. Like I said before, I like to mix things up.

This was part of a continuing story where a colonel was running for president. He eventually wins the election and becomes a dictator. Much of the story was laid out well in advance.
This was part of a continuing story where a colonel was running for president. He eventually wins the election and becomes a dictator. Much of the story was laid out well in advance.

Save All of Your Ideas

Whenever I come up with an idea for a comic strip, I make a point of saving it. Even if it is not really that good of an idea. Often, I will go back and take an idea that was mediocre and tweak it a little bit to make it into something better. So be sure to save all of your ideas. You really never know what may become of them if you develop them further. I have had a lot of ideas that weren’t that good at first but after letting them sit for a while and eventually getting back to them, I will suddenly come up with some ideas that will improve it significantly.

You might even have ideas as to what you might want to do with certain characters. You might have ideas for certain scenarios but might not have ideas for jokes or punchlines to go with them. Save those ideas anyway. You may come up with those punchlines later.

Creating the Strip from the Script

Once I have a script, I will then create the scene for each frame. I will put the characters where I think they will need to be in order to best serve the scenario. I complete each frame one at a time. So I will lay out the scene in frame one and then add the dialogue that the characters will engage in for that frame. Then I will go on to the next frame and repeat the process until all four frames are done.

After a while, it all will get easier. Once you get the hang of it all, it will take less time for you to complete each one, simply because you will get better at it with practice. Since I have been doing it for so long now myself, I do a strip in less than half of the time it took me when I first got started. I have no doubt that the same would be true for anyone else.

Taking it to the Next Level

Summary

There are so many places where you could get ideas from. Your own life and past experiences would be good places start. What may have happened during your day or a joke you might have heard that could be given a different take or be applied in a new or different way could help as well. That’s why writing down your ideas can be so important. Just as writing a simple script for each strip will help. You can also take things to the next level by trying to get into video as well. Writing scripts for the comic strips will give you some experience in script writing that could eventually be used for videos.

These are all tips I feel could be most helpful to someone wanting to start their own comic strip. You are free to use them as you please or take them with a grain of salt. Either way, don’t say I didn’t at least try to help you.

Where do you think you could get the best ideas for a script?

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© 2017 Bob Craypoe

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    • lori811 profile image

      Lori B 3 weeks ago

      Very well written, Bob - I have a friend who is a professional cartoon illustrator. Good money to be made with the right contacts. Thank you for sharing:)

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