also by the MotA team
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Commission Keith W!

Northward, Southward, Awkward


For anyone who visited Mysteries of the Arcana in the last few days, I apologize for the oddities. There was some sort of technical problem involving the interaction of the server and something new in the code and, as a result, every internal link led straight back to the front page.

Now, on with the commentary.

I've had people mention, before, my seeming fondness for a low panel count on pages. Today's a good example. I certainly could have squeezed more onto this page. Why didn't I, though?

Writers, no matter what they write, follow a rhythm and they have to pay attention to breaks in the rhythm. What I like to call downbeats. For television writers, those downbeats come right before the commercial break. For novelists, they come at the end of a chapter. Webcomic folk, even the full page ongoing drama sorts like me, have to deal with a downbeat at the end of every page.

You can notice it in the work of Order of the Stick, Dreamland Chronicles, Misfile, Flipside, Looking for Group, Fans, and many, many more. Every page tends to have a little ending that either satisfies the action on the page or sets up the action on the next page. Webcomics have to balance the knowledge that many people will be reading the comic a page at a time, two or three pages a week with the fact that other people will be reading the archives or a printed compilation. For people who are keeping up with the update schedule deserve a little bit of satisfaction with each page. A feeling that it is worth visiting two or three times a week. So, each page tends to be slightly self contained. On the other hand, people who are reading through the archives or a printed book care less. The action on page 33 doesn't need that satisfying feeling to tide them over until next week. They can turn to page 34 right there and then. I always try to keep the needs of both types of reader in mind and balance them.

What does this have to do with the low panel count on this page? Because here I did just the opposite. Instead of adding a little satisfying “ahhhh” moment at the end with a wrap up of the action or seting up the next page, I purposefully wrote something that hopefully looks and feels awkward. It is awkward. Chrys pushed Theresa too far and Theresa answered. Chrys celebrated her social victory without any sort of real grace, making it all worse. Now, there's this silence between them. A moment, nothing more, but one that speaks volumes about how little they really know about each other. Adding more panels would have moved them past that moment and diminished the importance of it. So, only four panels.

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Guest post by "Gillsing"

I thought Crys was just happy because she found out a little more about Theresa, not because it was a social victory. Shows what I know. Also explains why I thought the awkwardness was due to something that Theresa is about to say, not that moment of silence that just passed. You have to remember, Crys is a crazy elf who's there to tame a new cloak. Anything she says or does can be interpreted in any number of otherwise unlikely ways.

And hey, this text input window overrides my right-click in Opera, so now I can't switch the language for spellchecking. Just to push it, I copied the text to another text input window on another site to spellcheck it there, but whyyyy? (OK, I don't really care, it was just mildly annoying.)

Submitted May 27, 2010 at 5:02PM

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