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Lately I've been noticing a trend that has been bothering me a little. There's been a lot of talk about cliches, but very little actual talk about cliches. What I mean by this is I've seen a lot of "don't use cliches in your comic", "this is cliche and you shouldn't do it", and "this is cliche, so it's bad". The problem is, we're not really addressing what a cliche is, what makes them problematic to writers, why we should avoid them, and if it's okay to use them in certain situations.

First, let's define a cliche. Cliche can refer to an overused expression or saying. For example, 'every cloud has a silver lining' is considered a cliche expression, as is saying 'all in due time'. Verbal cliches are things you should avoid in writing, but they're still sayings that we use. The problem with using these in writing is they're not original, because we're used to hearing them. But verbal cliches are not the ones people tend to demonize.

Cliche can also refer to an overused plot, or even a stereotypical character. For example, 'the liar revealed' is a cliche plot that involves someone lying or misleading others, and then eventually everyone finding out about it. Another plot cliche is the 'underdog story', where a meeker character is picked on by everyone else, but eventually ends up saving the day.

A character cliche may be the obvious bad guy with red eyes, dark colors, a mean face, and 'bad scars'. But, a cliche character can also be a nagging mother, or a character who is very large (possibly fat) and very dumb. There are certain cliches we seem to be much more willing to accept than others. These are things we see in popular, successful movies, books, shows, and games. So what's the problem with them?

Cliche plots can often be predictable, and therefore boring. If we, the audience, know what is going to happen next we won't be as invested in the story. It takes out the immersion, and can also leave us feeling insulted. We don't want to be treated to simple plots, like good vs evil where everything is black and white. Cliche plots often lack depth, and require little thinking from the reader. Good guys and bad guys are easily identified, the former never making mistakes and the latter going out of their way to be as evil as possible. This is just one example, however.

Character cliches are considered 'short cuts'. A writer will assign obvious stereotypical traits to a character so we immediately know what to expect from them, based on other characters from other works. You've seen the big dumb guy in many movies, books, and shows. They're usually strong or overweight. They can either be a bully, or they can be naive child-like gentle giant. But these cliches, like the plots, lack depth. They are cheap tricks the writer uses in lieu of actual character development.

So does that mean we should never use them? There's no simple answer to that. For children's books and movies, we often use cliche plots and characters because it is easier for them to grasp. Additionally, many of the classical characters from legends and folklore rely on stock character types. It's also not uncommon to rely on simplified, static characters for smaller side characters to save focus on our more dynamic, developed protagonist.

We also haven't discussed subversions, inversions, and deconstructions. A subversion is when it looks like an author is using a cliche, but then ultimately we see they're not. Calling back to the previous example, we may see a large, strong character and expect them to be simple minded and stupid. However, it is subverted when the author reveals they are actually intelligent and very well spoken.

An inversion is when the opposite of the cliche happens. So we have a beautiful, blue eyed damsel who is poetic, has a charming voice, but she's the 'bad guy'. Or, we may have a female protagonist who had to rescue a prince who has been locked up in a tall tower. These are the opposite of what we expect to happen based on our understanding of cliches.

A deconstruction is when a cliche is taken, and then played to its logical extremes and analyzed. So there's a 'great war of good vs evil' and only the 'chosen one' can save the world. At first the chosen one is happy to lead the charge. But as the story progresses, we see how much pressure our protagonist is under having to live up to the expectations. He sees his friends die in battle, and instead of stoically continuing his march, he is broken and left with tremendous guilt. He doubts himself, or maybe he abuses his new found power over others due to his title. In the end maybe he does save the day, but he is left a broken, shattered mess that no one can ever fix. Or maybe he is so overcome with guilt, self-loathing, regret, and pressure, that he lets the world fall apart. Deconstructions examine what would happen if a cliche were to really exist.

Again, what does this mean for cliches? The problem is that they are often overused as cheap short cuts and never properly examined. Cliches have their time and place, but new and unskilled writers do not know where or when that is. Instead many writers will rely solely on these cliches, as they have seen them in more popular media. Cliches become damaging when writers use them instead of thinking up ideas for themselves. However, I think it's important that new writers understand the how and why of cliches, instead of telling them blankly that 'cliches are bad and shouldn't be used'. It is always better to understand why something is a problem, than simply being told not to do it.
-A run down of why most comics end up dead after just a few pages.

Hyping It Up Before It Exists
:bulletred: A lot of people will put up promotional artwork, covers, character references, and other related work for their comic before putting up a single page. People often say if you want to write a book or you want to lose weight, it's best that you not tell anyone. When you tell someone you plan on doing something, they will praise you for it. The problem is, you are now receiving praise for something you haven't actually done yet. You don't have to work for that praise; the mere act of saying you will do something rewards you the same external way you would get for actually doing it. Sadly the result is many people are content to stop there. It's not even a conscious decision, but a lot of people will get caught up in the hype without realizing how hard making a comic actually is. Hold off putting up anything related to your comic until you at least have a few pages up; it will be worth the wait.

Spoiling Their Own Plots
:bulletred: Alternatively, don't put up any work that explains your comic, the characters, or their backstories. The reason for this is a comic should stand alone, without additional material explaining things to us. However, many people will give away important details about their story before it even comes up in the comic. Don't tell us your character's history on their ref sheet, reveal it to us over time so that it impacts the story. Don't tell us that someone will become the bad guy eventually, let us find out by their actions. If you haven't shown the event in the story itself, you shouldn't put it anywhere else. Don't spoil your own story.

Working Without A Plan
:bulletred: Don't make up your comic as you go. Too many people start with a vague idea, and go only so far as planning out each page as it comes up. This is why so many comics waste pages upon pages with nothing happening. I've seen comics where several pages are spent showing a character getting up and walking over to something, with nothing else happening. An entire page wasted. Each page takes countless hours to make, and when a weekly update is a far-fetched idea for most casual comic makers, that means it may be another 2-3 weeks before you see another page. Don't waste your pages. Plan out your story several pages in advance, so you know where it's going. Don't waste panels on pointless dialog or pointless scenes. On a related noted...

Not Managing Time and Effort Properly
:bulletred: Stop wasting your time and effort on unnecessary details or scenes. You need to find at what pace you can work that is best for your quality, and well as quantity. It's a common saying that artists want to focus on quality over quantity, but when you're telling a story the better story is the one that is finished. Not the one that stops at the beginning, or two chapters in. You won't be able to make every page as high of quality as your regular artwork; that's just not realistic. Simplify your art. I'm not saying for you to scribble and slap on colors, but find the balance that works for you, and your story. If it takes you one month to make one page, that is 12 pages a year. Where is your story going at 12 pages a year? Refer back to your script often, and keep in mind how long each page takes, and how long it will take your story to reach each plot point. Plan and draw accordingly.

Irregular Updates
:bulletred: Pick a schedule that is realistic for you to work at, and update your comic according to that schedule. When a person says they will work on it 'whenever', that tends me mean 'rarely ever'. Set deadlines for yourself, and make a habit of keeping them. It's very easy to put something off when you have no due date.

Wanting To Change Things
:bulletred: Even when a comic does get past its first 10 pages, too many creators want to go back and make changes. Either to the art or the story or the characters or what have you. But this often starts a loop of constantly editing without progress. Fixing things like typos and off-model errors is one thing. But don't go back to change your story. Yes, the longer it takes to tell your story, the more it will evolve on its own. Instead, force yourself to build upon whatever already exists. Imagine that you have laid down the foundation for a building. You can't change that foundation, only build upon what is already there. The best stories are those that have placed some limitations on themselves, and you will find that if you are creative enough, you can work around whatever elements you disliked to use them in your favor. As for art, most comics have bad art at first. But your time is better spent progressing the story, not retreading old waters.

Starting From The Beginning (IE: Birth)
:bulletred: We don't doubt your character was born from another living being. You don't need to start from their birth to prove us this. Unless your character is a child for most of the story, there's no reason we need start with their childhood. Events that happen in their childhood can be brought up later, but start the story where the story begins. Not where your character began.

Creation Myths, Dreams, and Ancient History
:bulletred: Similarly, we don't need a story on how the universe began. If your made up religion is seriously important to the plot, then show it being important to the actual plot (meaning the conflict of your protagonist). Bring it up when it becomes relevant, but don't give us a history course from page one. Besides being a tired old cliche, it takes too long for the actual story to start. We are not here to learn about the world's religion, we're here to see the characters and their journey. The longer you take to start that story, the less invested we will be. This is also why you don't start on the ancient history about some ancient war. It's less time for the reader to get invested in our protagonist and their conflict. Focus on their story, not the one that happened years ago. And never start on a dream sequence, because it's wasting space and does not progress anything. It's wasting time on events that didn't happen, and misleading the reader unnecessarily.

Uninteresting Protagonists
:bulletred: A bland protagonist will bore both you and your audience. Remember there's more to a character than a few tacked on traits and a backstory. A good protagonist has flaws (not just physical ones) and will develop over time. Their decisions and mistakes fuel the story. A character who is always right and always makes the right choices is not relatable.

Not Earning Our Sympathy
:bulletred: You will not have our sympathy, investment, nor attachment from page one. You will probably not have it for at least 15-20 pages. What this means is that whatever horrible tragedy you show us before then will have very little impact. If anything, it will come off a bit silly and forced. If you start your story by showing us the evil overload slaughtering children, or our protagonist mourning the loss of their parents, it's not going to have any affect on us (the audience). We don't know these characters yet. We don't have any reason to feel sorry for them. You have to build that relationship between the characters and the audience. So save the tragedy for later, when it will actually meaning something to us.

Starting For All The Wrong Reasons
:bulletred: Creators most commonly quit their comics because they become bored. That's also because they started their comic for the wrong reasons. A writer makes a story because they have a story they want to tell, that needs to be told. It's not because they want to show everyone how awesome their story is, or to impress everyone with how cool a character is, or to come off looking dark and edgy. They have a story that they love so much, have poured so much of their soul into, they simply have to tell it. They are driven to tell it. Artists don't realize how mind-bogglingly time consuming it is to make a comic, especially as a hobby. It is a labour of love, and if you don't love your story, there is no way you're going to get anywhere.

Not Having Fun
:bulletred:  Too many comics start off way too seriously and take themselves way too seriously. Yes there is a time for drama, and being dark and edgy. But you have to earn that first. You have to enjoy what you're doing and have fun with it, which means not making all of your characters brooding tormented souls. So many of the best stories have found their balance by starting light-hearted. Once they have earned their audience's attention and investment, they start to become more dark and serious. But you have to earn that first. Both from your audience, and yourself. You have to be entertained by your own characters, and your own story.

Written by:
:tea: Songdog-StrayFang
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CrimsonAlpha Featured By Owner May 6, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I feel like I have messed up with my comic, It wasn't until a friend here on DA pointed out that she couldn't follow whats happening at all (this along with other stating that they were confused as well), it's only in the prologue pages right now, I wanted to see what people thought before really getting into my first chapter and the prologue was suppose to have an air of mystery,
But I've been told that rather be mysterious it's just confusing :(

I layed the pages out before me and really looked at what was happening from a readers point of view, without the writers insight, and realized that by page 4 I started rushing things, I no longer was drawing panels out one scene right after another and instead kept jumping forward! I see now that I started moving to quickly and pacing things too differently than when the prologue started.

I want to restart and pace things better and use the art tips that was given to me by other DA artist who reviewed my earlier pages, but I don't know, should I just upload the the latest page that I have drawn out then immediately do a restart? I can't really get myself motivated to finish a prologue which in my eyes seems to have gone horribly wrong!!! :(

Anyone got any advise? Has anyone done restarts like this? The story and what is happening is exactly the same, many of the scenes will be redrawn as they are now in fact, it's just I need to add more panels to help pace things out better so that what's happening isn't so confusing --  Here's a link to the folder holding the pages, just from looking at the panels in the folder without clicking into any of thems, it is obvious now as to how the scenes are getting confusing and start jumping around, pages are i n order from bottom right to top left (my first pages have no colour) ...…
RAE-J Featured By Owner May 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Hello! I see Songdog has already offered advise, but if you would like to note me as well, I have done total restarts on a few of my projects
La Brea 7 by RAE-J
La Brea: Page 9 by RAE-J
CrimsonAlpha Featured By Owner May 8, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Defiantly I will send you a note :D
Songdog-StrayFang Featured By Owner May 6, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Hit me up a note; I still give critique and advise to those that ask. I can be harsh when it's critique about plot and characters, but with the physicality of layouts, formatting, and the technicals, I can temper myself some. It's daunting when someone points out a major flaw, but to grow we have to take those comments to heart I suppose. That's the nature of the beast :tea:
CrimsonAlpha Featured By Owner May 6, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks I'll send you a note so :D
Dalminah Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am thinking of creating another improvisation comic! If you would like to join and hear out more, please check:…
KeIIion Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
huhu would be nice when you add this in your group 

Lupains Air Raid by TX-aster

my friend :iconshanethewolf:  fiction is :icon2020ad:  (alien anthro wolves called Lupain against Humans)

my fiction :iconakira-bounty-hunter:  (alien cyborg werewolves against one anthro and humans)
PaintedCricket Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
All they have to do is join and submit when it's been updated, really =3
ArtWolf99 Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2014  Student General Artist
Hey guys! Thanks for letting me join! Much appreciated!
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