Thursday, June 28, 2018

Guest Post: Mede Colvin and 3 Rules for Effective Dialogue

Hello! My name is Mede Colvin and I'm the writer behind the deepwater Southern horror-fantasy comic The Human Atlas, which I do in collaboration with my friend Nintala. I'm not going to say a lot about what I am or what I do... you didn't click on this post for that!

What I'm going to talk about concerns dialogue and how to write it effectively and impactfully. Dialogue is one of the most important parts of a comic: it is the main way that a story advances and explains itself and it is the main way for readers to glean information about what's going on. There are comics out there that do not have any spoken lines or even lines at all, but those comics instead rely on extremely strong visuals to tell their story. Most comics will have dialogue in some form or other. You can sometimes get away with weak visuals, but dialogue is make-or-break material, and weak, ineffective dialogue can utterly kill a comic.

When writing dialogue, I try to follow three main rules:

1. Have almost every line convey some kind of information about the speaker or the situation.

Occasional filler lines are okay, in the same way that beat panels are okay! However, unless you're writing a particularly peaceful scene or a pure slice-of-life comic, lack of direction in the dialogue can leave the reader lost. As with all things, there is a balance; sometimes characters do indeed ramble out of nervousness and things like that. But if it gets to the point that reading your word bubbles is like reading a book, shorten them.

2. Keep your characters' dialogue as concise as possible.

This is closely related to the first rule. Unless you're writing a specific kind of character or trying to write a humorous scene where a character rambles, don't have your characters say in a hundred words what they could say in ten. Try your hardest to keep your bubbles around four or five lines long or less. Remember that comics are a visual medium. We’ve all been told to “show, not tell” when writing, and even though “showing” is the default in comics, this is still valid advice. You’re not writing a book! Walls of text tend to kill pacing and momentum and often leave readers feeling like they're reading a novel instead of a comic.

3. Make it so you can tell every character apart just from their dialogue.

The reader should be able to tell which character is speaking at all times, even without visuals! A lot of characters can talk in a similar manner especially if they're from the same background, but if most of your characters sound exactly like each other, then that's something to fix. A good way to test this is to mentally take out the comic's visuals; by focusing solely on what's in the word bubbles, you should be able to tell at a glance who is speaking. If you can't take enough of a step back at your own work to be objective, have a friend be the judge. If you are the creator and you have access to the comic's raw files, you can even go one step further by hiding the art layer(s) and keeping the word bubbles. Can you still say for sure who's who?

Above is a snippet of The Human Atlas, featuring the characters Iko (the mulberry-colored one with mint green eyes) and Filore (the russet-colored one with glasses and liseran purple eyes). It showcases my approach to writing dialogue, and I'll go over how it demonstrates each of my three rules.

1. Have almost every line convey some kind of information about the speaker or the situation.

This is a fairly slice-of-life-esque scene, but if you analyze each of the characters' lines, they tell you a lot of information about the characters themselves. Iko and Filore are both members of the same fishlike humanoid species: undines. Their dialogue, however, sets them worlds apart. And in just these three sentences, many conclusions about these two characters can be drawn.

Iko's one line seems scolding and extremely strict, hinting at her nature as a reserved but easily provoked character who is insistent upon her own boundaries. Filore calls her "friend" and Iko's very quick to inform her: "we're not." Her use of the archaic terms "nary" and "thee" further paints her as quite old-fashioned, if not even a little bit pompous.

Meanwhile, Filore combines Iko's name with the ancient Greek word "ecumene" - an obscure pun that many readers will find borderline incomprehensible - suggesting great intelligence but a lack of care as to whether or not people understand her. She's irreverent and playfully antagonistic but not quite mean: she very subtly jabs at Iko's formal dialect with "ye olde" before immediately softening the blow by calling her "friend." And her fish-themed riff on the phrase "cat got your tongue" also suggests that she is not above silliness.

2. Keep your characters' dialogue as concise as possible.

There's not really much to say here, both characters' bubbles are fairly concise and accomplish what they need to. Now Iko's bubble is only one sentence long, but Filore's actually seems like it's breaking this rule! It's actually not, and let me explain why.

She could easily have just selected either one of the two sentences she currently says, and dropped the other one. But shortening the line would have risked sacrificing the presence and communication of Filore's character. As stated above, you can infer from her lines that she is a whimsical, wise-cracking type, talking a little more than usual to fill the void of Iko's silence, and this is something that may have been lost if Filore's bubble was downsized.

I want to emphasize that these rules are not strict. Don’t be afraid to occasionally bend them for effect, like I did here.

3. Make it so you can tell every character apart just from their dialogue.

This blends in with the first point somewhat. There are many, many ways to have characters stand out from each other when it comes to dialogue: dialect, speech patterns, brevity or lack thereof, verbal tics and filler words, repetition, and everything else. Most differences tend to be very subtle, but part of the reason why I chose this particular segment from my comic is because these two characters' speech patterns are different in very obvious and extreme ways. Just from a glance at the dialogue, you should be able to form a very good image of these characters' personalities and how different they are from each other. Even if you take the visuals out of the picture!

And that's it! Just like with dialogue, I believe the best columns are short and concise. These three rules are by no means set in stone, but they've helped me improve my writing and I hope they help you as well. And if you've gotten particularly good results out of these, don't be afraid to show them to me - I'd like to see how my advice has helped you!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Watercolor Palette Comparison for Beginners by Aisazia Creations

I apologize for the lack of update on Monday, but I hope this amazing guest post by the phenomenal Aisazia will help make up for it!

If you're like me, some of you might be paralyzed by all the watercolor palette choices we have these days. In fact, I waffled in my choices, partially due to my indecisive nature but because I wanted to find one that worked for me.

But you're in luck! Today I'm bringing you the things I've learned since buying all my palettes to prevent you from spending all your hard-earned money until you find the ONE palette that triumphs over them all. I hope that this watercolor palette comparison for beginners helps you make wiser, more informed choices before you spend your money. I don't regret learning but I do have a lot more palettes than I really need now but those could always be redistributed or donated.

NOTE: I'm assuming the palettes mentioned are all empty of watercolor pans so that you can customize it to your favorite colors. Also your mileage may vary if you like using a lot of colors as my comparison is not specific to the amount of colors/wells/pans you might need. I'm talking about the basic material, cost, and flexibility to exchange colors on the palette.


      Lightweight (this is great if weight is an issue if you travel a lot)
      Affordable (for about $10 or less you can get a nice plastic palette)
      Lots of wells (there are slanted well options if you don't want to damage your brushes)
      Lots of plastic palette options available

      Color staining (if you use staining watercolors, it might be hard to mix true colors unless you dedicate a certain part of your palette for that color but the stain can be removed with a white eraser)
      May crack under pressure (so if you stuff your palette in your bag, you might want to handle it with more care)
      Can't remove or swap colors easily without using up all the paint in the well first but not an issue if you already know your favorite colors


      Appears to be more sturdy but can dent and get scratched
      Has a thumb ring to stabilize holding the palette (typically has a ring at the bottom for you to hold if you like to paint in the open),
      Removable/customize-able paint pans (you can easily swap your pans on a whim, for example if you like half pans or full pans or want to change a color)
      You can add more pans if you remove the metal interior pan holder
      More costly (However, I've seen some empty metal palette being sold online for about $12 but the quality is hit or miss)

      Palettes are a bit heavier (if weight is an issue)
      Metal can rust (if you're a messy painter and get water and paint all over the place, it could increase the chance of it rusting)
      Metal palettes aren't customize-able in terms of exterior size (they all seem to be either rectangular or square)

I know there are Ceramic and Porcelain palettes but as I've not used it myself and I don't feel they are travel friendly, I've opted to not include it in this comparison but I've heard positive things about it if you have a studio space to include it.
There are many custom-made palettes which look amazing but I don't have the funds to purchase any of them, but as with all tools, they are an investment if you see one you like.


Now if you feel crafty or can't find the perfect palette but feel up to trying to make it yourself, here are a few creative ways I've seen done. I've tried a few myself and enjoyed it.

I do not claim to be the originators of these following ideas, these are ones I've seen during my research but the pictured palettes are all my own. You can compare the thickness of the various palettes below. The thinnest is the make up palette so would make a nice travel palette.

I realized I preferred plastic palettes for their weight, price, and accessibility. If you prefer metal palettes then these DIY options might be more of a challenge. You might have to spray paint it with a water-resistant coating to prevent it from rusting.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:

If you've bought student grade watercolors and like the palette, why not keep the palette (either once all the paint is gone because you or your kids used it all up, right?) and put in your own favorite colors. You don't need a fancy palette to make a fantastic painting! That is a lie I told myself so I could purchase more palettes. Don't hoard like me.

Make Up Palette:

I'm assuming most people reading this might be a woman, if not I apologize, but this could still be relevant if you have some female friends.

Some ladies and fellas buy make up palettes, primarily the eye shadow palettes where I could get one from my local dollar store (Come on, how great of a deal is that?). Those are conveniently separated by wells (can range in the number of wells so make sure you get one that holds enough paint colors for you) so all you need to do is use up your make up, which you're going to do anyways, right? Then when it's all done, if there is metal at the bottom of the wells, spray it down with white water-resistant spray paint. Then add your watercolor paints of choice. Voila! Instant watercolor palette! Mixing space may be small but it works. It's super lightweight and compact.

Vitamin Organizer:

These can be found in your local dollar store so they are easy to find and affordable but it limits your number of paint colors and you'd need to find a good mixing space unless you mix on your paper. You don't usually need more than 6 colors but I understand wanting to have convenient colors at my disposal when I'm out and about painting.

Altoids or Metal Tin

Now this idea has been around for a while. Many creative crafters take an empty Altoids or mint tin and spray paint it with white water-resistant spray paint.

I've seen a few options for the interior wells:
  1. You can buy empty pans and fill it with your favorite paints and add magnets or poster tack to keep the pans steady in the tin and you can still swap them out
  2. Empty plastic gum containers can be used as wells but it might be a challenge to find ones that fit the tin well but if you chew a lot of gum you'll have plenty of options
  3. Plastic bottle caps are easy to find as wells but they leave empty spaces in your palette
  4. Baking clay in the tin and shaping the wells to the size you want is fun and creative but might add more weight to the palette. You wouldn't be able to change colors as easily.

There are plenty of customized watercolor options available on Etsy if you have the funds but honestly you don't need a lot to make your own palette.

Before you go, I want to leave you with a friendly reminder that a watercolor palette is a tool, much like the brush and paint. It doesn't make you a better painter but it makes it easier for you to access the colors you love and most of all it gets you excited to get started to paint!

While it's nice to want to use the palettes a popular artist uses or even what the old artists used, it still doesn't change the fact that you need to use these tools to learn and grow. You may eventually outgrow your current palette but at least you'll understand the little quirks you like to use in your tools that make you happy and excited to use them.

That's all the tips I have for you for now! What are your thoughts? Do you have any advice to share with our fellow beginner watercolorists? Share them in the comments below!

About Aisazia Creations
I’m a solo creative from the Midwest who is multi-passionate about design, stories, and technology. I can usually be found either sketching, illustrating, watercoloring, writing, reading, or front-end web designing and development. If I’m not doing any of those, then I can be found thinking about it as I binge watch TV shows or scroll through social media.

More fun tidbits: Lover of all dogs. Gluten free sweet loving Celiac. Loves sleeping and staying at home yet still wants to travel the world.

Feel free to connect with me!
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