That scripting thing

I couldn’t make a webcomic out of just gags. There’s some awesome examples out there of people that can, but I’d stumble on inventing so many gags a week and still trying to keep it fresh. And while I certainly have moments of funny that I come up with and think are great, I sincerely doubt I could concoct something based purely around them.

So. Behind all the gags, the fighting and the design of Beyond the Tree, there’s story to tie it all together. There’s plenty of things I try to hint at now that will have reasoning or rammifications futher along the way. While I’ve – so far – loosely followed some lower level quest lines from World of Warcraft, I’ve introduced my own little tweaks and changes in a few places, sometimes as design choices but also to hand out some degree of Ominous Foreshadowing. While I try to keep things at the least reasonably believable within the context of the Warcraft setting, I do take some liberties in setting things up for my own little what if scenario.

Beyond the Tree is meant to be lighthearted – neither Hani Foonmall nor Rei Tiny is anything like the epic hero archetype, nor are they any sort of bastion to represent all that’s pure and good in the world. And while they do fix things, I’d like to think their own journey is ultimately personal. Entertaining, hopefully, but still personal.

To maintain coherency through all this then, we need a script; or in the least I need a script, I need to write dialogue down somewhere so I can follow it appropriately. To this end, I have a handy little (well, past 75k now and ever growing) file with planned events, story arcs, page titles and scripted dialogue. A page will next to always take form there first with all manner of comments on what sort of shots or dialogue I want with the rest following.

Most page titles are quips or references to something. Page #24 shown here was originally called Bacchanalia after the feasts in the honor of the greek god Dionysos / Bacchus who in turn had some relation to the greek mythology Satyr. After enough browsing about Wikipedia however, the Satyrs seemed to have a much stronger (at the least, visually) relation to the greek god Pan, so I shifted the title about so the context seemed more sensical. Not all titles are references to something, but most are either a reference or a quip or a pun in some manner – very few are actually played straight.

A script is a rough blueprint, not at all the final word. As things go from script to pane layout, dialogue can many times be changed to fit speech bubbles better, or because a certain joke didn’t pan out right in a pane layout, or because some dialogue is missing or isn’t needed or whatnot. Sometimes an image is expected to say something particular and doesn’t, sometimes an image says more than expected. Before you actually have that image, it’s hard to tell how things will go.

This is even more obvious when renders and backdrops come into play – sometimes a certain angle doesn’t look right or doesn’t work at all, and ideas have to be shuffled around. Sometimes while meddling about with getting a pose right you can just suddenly discover that one, perfect shot that works great and you have to reshuffle the dialogue to accomodate it. It’s very much a dynamic process where everything can change pending a sudden idea that makes things work better. Since there’s characters, dialogue, backdrops and pane design that all need to combine together into a single coherent message told, any one of these can suddenly cause change on account of the others. Much of the time, I’ll simply go on what feels right.


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