Last time on the comic development blog I discussed the best way to come up with a theme for your strip, and announced the working title of mine, Trader Don’s and some initial thoughts.
Today I’m going to disclose my “Hook” and talk about one of the main characters who will rarely be seen, but is still a central figure… Trader Don Rongo. Then I’ll discuss this process for aspiring cartoonists too… read on!
Trader Don’s will be about a 30 something year old who reluctantly inherits his estranged grandfather’s old Tiki Bar.
Trader Don’s isn’t just ANY old Tiki Bar… it’s inhabited by little living Tiki characters that only true “believers” can see and interact with. The tikis, of course, are mischievous little beings. What other surprises lay within the walls of Trader Don’s? Cursed mugs, secret drink recipes and elixirs…
The original Trader Don, like many members of the “League of Traders” scoured the globe for adventure and searched to uncover ancient secrets. Think, “The Most Interesting Man In The World” meets Robert Ripley.
Don would often bring back artifacts to the mainland, secret recipes, concoctions… but the best thing he ever brought back were his stories. Some say he was a Hugh Hefner type, with a woman on each arm, holding his favorite drinks. Others say he was just a storyteller…
Originally I had planned on only featuring Trader Don’s hat as what was leftover from Don besides a few prominent pictures near the bar and his favorite table. But as I began thinking about this character more, I thought it was a strong possibility of having some fun “flashback” strips that show you what REALLY happened within some of the legendary stories told around the bar. Like…. “Wow, this drink is amazing! Where did the recipe come from? What’s in this!?!” — then it cuts to Don on a far off island, swinging above an active volcano or something…
The “hat” was planned as a tribute to my big brother, who left this world in May. He was an adventurer in his own right, and it’s a cool hat, so I wanted to give it a tip in his honor. I’m sure he would have loved that. It was a BIG inspiration inheriting it.
For no reason at all, here’s a photo of the hat, me and King Kukulele at Hukilau 2011…
But I digress…
The rest of the blog will be dedicated to creators out there, so anyone who gets bored by shop talk can exit… but check back soon because next time I’m going to show some other character designs and talk about fleshing out the world of “Trader Don’s”
Of Hooks, Plots, Bells, Whistles…
After you’ve decided on some sort of theme for your comic strip, it’s important to just sit down and really THINK. Ask yourself questions and write the answers within a little sketchbook. Instead of asking the BIG question of “how is this strip different?” or “what is the meaning of life” – ask the small things. Usually the SMALL things end up leading to your BIG THING…. in my case, dealing with a Tiki Bar, I thought of these small questions….
- What kind of tiki bar is it? Is it old school 60’s? Or some modern tiki bar trying to be the old thing?
- What kind of characters frequent the establishment? Who are the “regulars”
- Does this tiki bar serve only mixed drinks? And what happens when someone comes in looking for Bud Light and classic rock?
- What’s in the “Adventure” room in the back? A collection of artifacts from Don’s journeys?
- How do I make this different from “bar” humor comics?
- Will a blowfish talk? That could be funny. What would it say? Would it insult people? Shout “Last Call!!!!”
Once you get into that train of thought and answering these little questions, usually a nugget of gold will fall from the sky in the form of a good idea or “hook”— the hook is what will make your comic stand out from the crowd. If you don’t figure one out, don’t fret… it might come later. Many comic strips don’t really have a hook, they just rely on the characters and dialogue and situations. Think of a hook as something that makes people go… “OH, that’s neato!” when they hear it. Every now and then you’ll discover hook nuggets that will make other creators say “Why didn’t I think of that!!?!”
The Elevator Pitch…
The old saying “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” are wise words. Ultimately, you want to be able to boil down your idea into a sentence or two. Something you could actually tell not only a busy hollywood executive in an elevator… but also just something easy for the mind to digest. Ideas sound better and stronger when they are simply put and you take all the crap out. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve asked a creator what their book or strip was about and they fumble around or send me a page of text… no, no, no! Hit people over the head with the core idea and the “hook” will have them wanting to hear more…
For fun, let me boil down my “pitch” for Trader Don’s… I’m sure it could be even smaller.
Trader Don’s is about a 30 something year old who reluctantly inherits his estranged grandfather’s old Tiki Bar. Trader Don’s isn’t just ANY old Tiki Bar… it’s inhabited by little living Tiki characters that only true “believers” can see and interact with. The tikis, of course, are mischievous little beings. What other surprises lay within the walls of Trader Don’s? Cursed mugs, secret drink recipes and elixirs…
Pretty good, but not quite QUICK enough for my liking…let’s try…
Will Rongo reluctantly inherits his estranged grandfather’s tiki bar, only to find it crawling with little living tikis, ancient secrets and mystical drink recipes. Oh, and a creature named Geoff.
That’s better. You’ll note that I included the main character’s first name there. It’s fun to do that if your character has a fun sounding name. Notice how I keep the words “reluctantly” and “estranged” in there. These are key words that will make a listener stop and thing… “why is he reluctant?”Â – “why were they estranged?” — it immediately creates a sense of drama or a situation that the reader’s mind wants resolved. I could totally go without those words. It’d look like this.
Will Rongo inherits his grandfather’s tiki bar, only to discover it’s inhabited by mischievous tikis…. and a creature named Geoff.
Any of those are good. Remember them. You could use the longer pitches at conventions, and the shorter ones when you’re in an elevator or meeting with Ari Gold or Steven Spielberg. 🙂
BONUS TIP: Chris Brogan offers up some solid advice in the comments below about using the word “UNTIL” in your pitch. It’s totally going to make my pitch even better. 🙂 Thanks Chris!
If you draw a comic, post your “pitch” in the comments here, and a link to your work! Or just practice your hooking skills right here.
Or, let me know what you think of the Trader Don’s idea so far. Would you read a strip like this?
Next time I’ll jump into fleshing out the world and thinking more about the other characters and what purposes they serve to the whole idea. Thanks for reading!
Okay, so, here’s what I loved: the art, the premise, the way you took from life and make it interesting, the concepts and the backstory.
Here’s what was missing in the pitch to me: “until.”
“Will Rongo inherits his grandfatherâ€™s tiki bar, only to discover itâ€™s inhabited by mischievous tikisâ€¦. and a creature named Geoff. Things were going well UNTIL … ”
And that is what makes the killer pitch.
Marlin and Nemo lived a wonderful safe life in the reef UNTIL Nemo got away from his class and was lost at sea.
Wall-E lived a wonderful life happily in his junkyard, finding old things to cherish, UNTIL Eva came along.
Bob and Helen Parr lived a wonderful, secret life with their two kids UNTIL Bob had to have a midlife crisis.
See? I think every amazing pitch has an UNTIL.
Oh, and I didn’t really think much about that until (hahahaha) I read your post and realized what wasn’t grabbing me. There wasn’t the until.
Oh! Great point Chris! I literally just wrote this a few minutes ago, but I want to add a note about that now. In the case of my plot I wasn’t considering an “until” because he was “reluctantly” taking it. BUT there totally is an “until” later, because basically the kid thinks he’ll just sell it, he doesn’t want it, UNTIL he discovers there’s more going on there.
Thanks for bringing this up! You’re right. It totally makes it better. Perhaps…
“Will Rongo reluctantly inherits his grandfather’s tiki bar, which he doesn’t want UNTIL he discovers it’s inhabited by….”
Now we’re talking. : ) I’m writing about you on chrisbrogan.com tomorrow. Because. : )
Thanks man. I can say your previous tips about showing people your process really inspired me to do these blogs like this as I’m actually developing. It’s usually not until after the fact, and I think some magic gets lost! For instance… that blowfish sketch? I totally just thought that up as I was writing and then opened the sketchbook to scribble it, then took a photo and inserted it into the blog. Now I want him on a t-shirt. 🙂
I’d like to point out that boobs are a pretty good hook. It’s been workin’ for me for over 3 years now! Whee!
Seriously, though: This is good stuff, man! I will be keeping an eye on your processes to help me in developing The Next Thing I want to do after Locus is done at the end of April 2012. So don’t hold nothin’ back!
And that “until” thing is gold. I dig that.
I’ve tried to avoid the “boobs” thing forever. But, luckily with the TIKI lifestyle comes awesome Wahines! Basically I always promised myself I wouldn’t just draw that stuff to draw that stuff… nothing wrong with what you’re doing at all, mind you! But I just always felt “odd” forcing it. That said….. YES, there will be good looking ladies in this strip, because there are good looking gals in the tiki world. 🙂
i thought Bob was your boob in the strips…oh ‘boobs’ nvm….. ;P
Concerning the discussion of using the UNTIL factor: I’m thinking the Seinfeld Show eliminated the UNTIL from being a prerequisite for a story arc, since it wasn’t really about anything. I’ve read this is what made the show so difficult to pitch though, so it couldn’t hurt.
I’m liking that ‘until’ note. It makes you focus on change, how your characters world is shaken. Who they were before and who they were after. and why that change should be a dynamic force for your story. I know I’m prone to develop worlds that are cool but easily forget the character’s need for crisis and growth. The until moment:
I don’t run a webcomic, but if you’re interested, I storyboard events in my life (it’s easier to work out the story that way :))