[“It’s Time for Cake” is my ramblings about about webcomics, art, writing and other stuff that comes to mind, feel free to read it or reply to it as you see fit.]
Today’s wall-o-text was inspired by reading a comic that does not know how to use source material in a good way or use the precious art of foreshadowing/WORLD BUILDING. The name of the comic and author will be omitted as usual. I will go so far as to say the artist in question has improved their art but it still needs a lot of work and their writing is EASILY the weakest I have seen and primarily what this is about (though I may reference the art since at TIMES it does hinder the “story”).
As usual: You’re welcome to like the comic (if you can figure out what it is), but in my humble opinion, it is terrible by a majority, if not all academic standards out there.
How NOT to use Source Material [light version]:
I’ll save a more in-depth talk about this for another Cake Time, but basically when you pick something to retell/reboot/reinterpret/re-whatever, you should UNDERSTAND why you are picking that source material.
In this particular comic they ignore the setting, characters present in the original work, any semblance of cultural significance, themes/messages and even the characters themselves. It’s to the point that mentioning the source material at ALL is a gimmick-grab rather instead of any sort of significance.
This isn’t to say deviation/subversion isn’t allowed, but as an author/writer one should REALLY consider the significance of the deviation/subversion as well as why adhering closely to the source material could be beneficial to the story. (There is a difference between “inspiration” as well, this will be talked about more in another Cake Time.)
Anyway, long story short, the author doesn’t use a single significant thing from the “source material” aside from the name of the main character (however, note that is a fairly common name) and that one of the other characters is superficially the same as the antagonist in the source material.
How to show you aren’t a competent writer/how NOT to foreshadow.
The comic is about 200+ pages long, about 100 pages prior the magical creature character gave a wall-lecture about exactly what he is. In this case, a shape-shifting dream-walker whose primary purpose is to act as a messenger for the gods and guide humans.
Okay, fine, you do that author, that’s an acceptable thing.
100 pages after, he can manifest armor out of nowhere because the other character is at risk of being KILLED by the rest of the magical creature’s clan-
“But blankd, maybe it’s a taboo!” Well guess what, the magical creature dude not ONCE mentioned a damn thing about how it is a taboo or even WHY this schmuck human must be hunted down. (He also didn’t breath a word to how the human was in danger despite how the wall-lecture came after the dream-self of the human being VAPORIZED in a dream. The bad writing is compounded by how the magical creature is characterized as being possessive and VERY protective of the human.)
This whole “arc” is amid deluges of mind-babble.
This also makes so little sense from a world perspective, the creature’s clan exists to serve/guide humans- contacting them should NOT resulting in the execution of the human.
“Maybe it’s because they can’t let anyone know about the magical creature!” you might say- but at the same time these same creatures are (in this story’s universe) said to have crafted the fucking BIBLE (to paraphrase “are you familiar with the burning bush?”).
Hell even the risk of a magical creature/human hybrid is thrown out the window because BOTH ARE MALE.
There IS a taboo in magical creature’s society where arranged marriage is still a thing- but it would not result in killing a party that did not know this, much less know the clan even existed.
So what does this do?
-Makes the magical creatures powers come off as an asspull
-The creature in question is overprotective, yet information pertaining to the human he supposedly “loves” is either omitted by him at best or comes off as another asspull at worst to force a “twist”
-The icing in this development is that it has NOTHING to do with the 200 pages prior.
-Armor seems completely ineffectual to magical creatures that are anvil-heavily implied to be able to literally STARE-GLARE YOUR SOUL OUT.
-When the magical creature’s first “love” was being killed by this magical stare-glare power, he did not summon this armor at all.
-This power is implied to come from being “part of the clan”- but again, he doesn’t seem to need their consent to channel this and he is clearly doing something -against- their laws, so why would they enable him to do it?
-Seriously what does gaining this armor bullshit have anything to do with being messengers?
Other badly foreshadowed things:
-If at any point you have a character telling another character about an off-screen encounter you’ve fucking blown it.
-You can attempt to salvage it by showing a flash-back, it’s still bad form but it shows you care to TRY to show it. Or if you’re this author you can never flashback to it! In which case you’ve BROKEN IT.
-If you proceed to not even delve into or even BEGIN to address what the fuck this event was for another 100 pages, you have set fire to any bridge you may have had!
TELLING (instead of showing) things never cuts it, it’s shitty story-telling because you cheat yourself and your audience at any credibility, you also cheat your own world out of any kind of depth or realism.
GOOD drama is through little signs and hints and other unsaid rules. I won’t claim to be a MASTER of it but it goes without saying that good twists have things leading up to it. Slapping together left-field things DOES NOT and WILL NOT ever equate to a GOOD TWIST.
MORE badly foreshadowing things:
The human main character is implied to be special, yet this is shot down by the magical creature.
The human main character is implied by the author to be special because he “alone” can channel a dead girl (who happens to be the former love of the magical creature; WHAT A TWEEST!)- oh wait he can’t, the dead girl can fetch the magical creature to save the ass of the human when the human is about to be killed by one of the clan. OH DARN!
-Additional damning logic: “But blankd, she said she didn’t have the power to contact the magical creature!” But poor fan, she said you didn’t and the entire conflict HINGES on how she can’t talk to magical creature- yet she COINCIDENTALLY has enough to save the human’s ass when she could have been getting CLOSURE with the magical creature!? NO that is BULLSHIT.
Yet ANOTHER asspull:
The magical creature exiled himself because abloobloo his former lover and him decided to bump uglies and get her preggers instead of have safe dream sex with each other.
-Did you know that she is some kind of -psychic-/bearer of the god’s WILLS?
-She was killed because she was pregnant!
-She’s a psychic but cannot predict that she would get pregnant in the first place.
-Did I mention she is a fucking important oracle of sorts for the clan? The same clan that is BUILT around receiving orders from gods (and she is the only sort of person that can -receive- these?!)
-Dream sex is “just as good” as physical sex according to the human the magical creature had dream sex with
-No effort was made on her end to object to the arranged marriage, no attempt to lie and say “it’s the will of the gods!” or anything.
-Her super special soul is now magically tied to the human or some shit, not even she can explain it.
-No effort is made to acknowledge, question or anything else about how a ghost is now haunting some human’s ass.
Things that do NOT help:
-Magical creature has a character 180 throughout the pages, from being a molester to being protective.
-The human has asspulls of “growth” ranging from an inability to do a simple job for his father to suddenly knowing how to tend to person with a broken arm (as well as hunt for his own food in the wilderness!)
-The magical creature is chock full of anachronisms: Knowing what Twilight and Oprah is despite living out in the wilderness and being 800 years old, he’s implied to have only spent 20 years out of whatever hermited place his clan operates on.
-There is still no implication of what his duties of being a chieftan’s son are- and again it is baffling how he behaves despite apparently being in such an important position.
-Time is helter skelter in pacing, I have no idea when he had the original love affair with the oracle, was it 20 years ago, 25 or 200? She did DIE about 20 years ago.
-She died 20 years ago but somehow attached -spiritually- to a human who is barely 18.
-The magical creature claims the human started calling him about 5 years ago.
-The human has only started noting dreams with the dead oracle within the last few “weeks” of the story starting.
-It took 20 years for a pack of wolves to track down a guy via his dreams.
-The properties of the dream world is NEVER elaborated on, nor how one “breaks into” one.
-The life-glaring is never directly stated despite how heavy-handed everything is.
-The weird glow in the human’s eye is never talked about- implied to SOMEHOW be the dead oracle but then all the wolves do the eye-glow bullshit too.
-Still no reason or explanation as to why a clan of creatures that turn specifically into wolves when apparently their most “powerful” form of fighting is that of a human or that the main magical creature often operates in his human form.
-Still no reason why the clan (in a flashback) appears as humans in perfectly human clothing.
-A fellow clan member tries to take on magical creature solo- makes no sense since wolves often move in packs, and since the wolves are already looking for him, why wouldn’t they be in a pack? WHY MAKE THEM WOLVES AT ALL IF YOU DON’T EVEN USE ANYTHING FROM THEM!?
I could go on but that would require me actually looking at the damn comic again and I don’t want to do that.
But essentially, what you should take away from this is the following:
1. Plan out your world and do NOT change details to suit your drama.
2. Leave hints about what is to come, magical creature should have been shiftier about his surroundings, put in the hints of “weird dreams” for the human, etc. ANYTHING to acknowledge the points before they happen!
3. If you make a narrative mistake, rectify it, not bury it! OR if you can’t rectify it, STOP THE FUCKING COMIC. You can do this with “post” ret-con by writing things cleverly. (This is more of a case-by-case basis.) In this comic’s case, instead of the BULLSHIT plot armor say they head for the fucking dream-realm or something within the realm of the established comic’s world!
4. In the worst case scenario, reboot the shit out of your comic, adding things won’t make it better, it just tangles it further and gives narrative whiplash.
5. The second you put in a text-wall you are pretty much fucking cemented in place. Especially the character (who is supposed to know more) is telling this to a character who is IGNORANT. [This can be applied in a twist manner, but this comic fails that hard.]
6. If a plot detail directly contradicts previously pages you have fucked it up. If a casual reading reveals this contraction, you have FUCKED UP and you should FIX IT. [Or if the detail is a KEY POINT and it is a contradiction you have fucked up.]
7. If you’re going to reference other things you better weave it in in a sensible way, or don’t mention the reference at all. This comic refers to a musical set in RUSSIA about an upstart brat nearly getting killed by a wild animal- only by outside help did the animal get killed/put into a zoo. If there is a theme at all it’s that the kid was incredibly lucky he did not get his ass mauled.
-This comic decided to make it a story about how the animal that wanted to maul him, REALLY just wanted to have truwuv rebound buttsex because his waifu is dead because he got her preggers- however there is ONE thing foreshadowed and that’s the magical creature SHOULD REALLY STOP STICKING HIS DICK INTO THINGS BECAUSE THAT SEEMS TO GET THOSE THINGS KILLED, FUNNY THAT.
Well that turned out rantier than I wanted, oh well, CALLING IT QUITS FOR THIS ONE GUYS. And once more, I have nothing personal against this author/artist, but good lord she has a LONG way to go from a writing perspective. If the author finds it and makes it to this (the end) you have my respect for reading this and if you want help, I could help you if you’d like.
Regardless, thanks for reading.
Comments? Feedback? Questions? Is there something you’re like to hear me ramble about?