I’ve been rereading back entries in Jane Espenson’s blog, where the Buffy/Firefly/Gilmore Girls/Battlestar screenwriter gives you tips on writing your spec script. I’m not an aspiring TV writer, but I like reading anything behind-the-scenes, and a lot of her advice can be applied to general writing, especially when it comes to dialogue and joke-writing.
It’s also made me really want to talk about My Process. I’m not an expert or anything, but I like to know how things are made (even mediocre things like plain donuts or ABC Family shows), and I hope you do too!
So here’s insider tip #1. You might not know it from the roughness of my art, but I do pencil before I ink. (I just get bored sometimes…) I even pencil in all the words individually. It’s tempting to just leave some empty space for the word bubble–who wants to trace over a bunch of block letters?–but I really can’t predict how much space the letters will take up until I put them all down. Pencilling in the text also gives me a last chance to see if the dialogue works with the drawings. Also, if there’s going to be a part that trips me up–a word I always misspell, for example–it’s better to make the mistake during pencilling.
Sometimes I make on-the-fly changes to the script as I’m inking. This is a bad idea. For example, in the script for this strip, it ends just as you see it here. In the inking stage, for some reason, I added a line for Lance at the end: “Speak for yourself.” As soon as I’d written it I knew there was a reason it wasn’t in the script: it doesn’t really make sense, it’s unnecessary for the joke, and it detracts from Eskimo’s punch(ish)line. The image of Lance preening makes the point much more eloquently than the line. So, after I scanned the comic in, I erased the final line.
Which brings up to tip #2. If at first you don’t succeed, fix it in post.