Let me tell you a little bit about some other structural things that you may need to know. You heard me say, “Introduce your characters” a couple of times. What does that mean? What I mean by that is, whenever you are trying to establish your status quo, Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, you have the same duty as the newspaper reporter–who, what, when, where, why, how. You’ve got to give them a clue about what that status quo is so they can understand how it’s disrupted. That means also understanding who these characters are.
When you bring your character on stage, on the figurative stage, you want to let the reader know enough about this guy so he’s got a handle on him. Now you never stop letting the reader know about the guy. Introducing interesting characters doesn’t just end, you keep doing it. When I say introduce the characters what I mean is give the reader a clue. If you go to any professional performance let’s say, a Broadway play, a movie, watch a TV show, or read a good book, usually the first time you see a character the author takes great pains to give you a handle on that character. If the guy in a Broadway play is a tailor, almost certainly the first time you see him he’ll have a tape, he’ll have pins in his mouth, a pair of pants over his arm, chalk marks on his hands, it will tell you he’s a tailor. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes there’s a scene where he’s in a tuxedo and he’s going to the opera, but the reason they’re doing that is because they are saving it as a surprise–one of the actor’s costume splits, is there a tailor in the house? I’m a tailor! That’s the kind of thing. You guys watch TV. You see movies all the time. You read books all the time. Start watching movies (good movies) twice–once for fun and once with a note pad in your lap, and the pause button in your hand. Start looking at what the writer did, try to figure out why’d he do that. You’ll find that what I’m saying is true. With any professional piece of work the characters are brought on stage, they’re introduced. You get to know them enough so that you can now understand what they are, who they are, so that when the disruption comes you can see it. You’ll also see writers doing all kinds of tricks, literary devices to get their points across.
Aside: Just to bring it back to where we live: ever read a Barks Uncle Scrooge? The first time we see Uncle Scrooge, he’s ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING CHEAP OR MISERLY. He continues being avaricious throughout the story, doesn’t he? But the first time we see him, for sure, he’s fishing a nickel out of a sewer grate with some gum on a string or somesuch. Do it well, make it amusing or dramatic and no one notices that you’re introducing the character.
Remember that’s what we’re doing. We’re communicating. If you don’t communicate, what’s the difference if you have a great story? You’ll see professional writers foreshadow things. You’ll see them do parallel construction to make points. You’ll see them do juxtaposition of scenes to try to drive home a point or create contrast. You’ll see them use irony, or contrast, or mood, or imagery. Now I’m not equipped to stand here and have the time to go through all that and try to explain how’s it done, and in truth in a collaborative medium like comics it really is much better for me to get on and to show you the artwork and then you’ll start seeing how some of these things interplay. Go to the library, but use your eyes. Start examining what you’re looking at, the movie you’re looking at, examining it, and finding out what the guy’s doing and why. Try to figure out what was in the writer’s head. You’ll find in Star Wars the first time you see Luke Skywalker, they tell you who he is. And I don’t mean they just say, “Hey, here’s Luke.” They show him doing something that is germane to his character. The same with every other character. As I say they don’t stop, and every once in a while they’ll change up on you, they’ll show you something contrary so that they can reveal later that the guy is a tailor, but basically you should look for that.