The ideas mill

I struck me earlier today as I was working on comics that the strips I have running right now eat ideas for breakfast. They literally suck them in, chew them into a meaty pulp and crap them out a little later, in a form that is no longer usable. It’s quite an ideas mill we have going here.

This presents a bit of a problem from my point of view. On the one hand, I have to get a new strip out every day, Monday to Friday. On the other hand, there are only so many jokes I can make with the characters I have available. What, then, is a person to do?

Well it’s simple really. Either I revisit old topics and try to put a new spin on them, or I bring in a new character to change up the dynamics. Alternatively, I can move the story to a new setting and bring in difference that way.

At no point should “just stop the comic, you’re done” be something that is considered. Rest the comic, perhaps, if you really feel you need time away from it, but don’t drop it altogether because I guarantee you’ll start thinking up new ideas for it; probably right away.

Over the last few weeks I’ve tried all three of my options to bring life back into the comics. The Life of Nob T. Mouse got a new character recently in the form of Speckleton Q Speckworth, the Journalistic Reporter of Newsworthy News. He has let me make fun of traditional print media and the way newspapers were a vital part of frontier life when towns were just being formed in the Old West.

Not that you’ll see that in what has happened with him so far, of course, since I now plan storylines out in full before they get released. I learned that the hard way after the last storyline, with the Abstract causing all kinds of trouble for Nob Mouse. That was supposed to be a three week long story but it went on for so long that I went house hunting, arranged a mortgage and actually moved house during the time it was running. Never again am I getting into that trap. Never again!

The other two techniques came up on All over the house. Firstly I have been revisiting old topics for a while over there because it’s part of life that some things repeat but play out differently, so going back to the ideas well makes for a more realistic strip. I repeated a topic within the first fortnight of the strip running, in fact, (episodes one and three are both about “interactive telephones”) and I’ve no problem doing it again.

Lately Emily moved jobs, getting her own government department to run. This introduced a whole new dynamic for the character and opened up far more joke and storyline potential. It is part of a long-running plan for Emily’s character development so it’s not like I did it on a whim because we ran out of ideas but it does serve to demonstrate how a bit of a change of scenery lets us do more with the character than we otherwise probably could.

Today is episode 335 of All over the house. The strip has now run to more episodes than Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation combined. If we add to that the 300 or so episodes of The Life of Nob T. Mouse, you can imagine that I might be thinking about the possibility of running out of ideas for these strips a lot and it’s true, I do worry about it.

Nevertheless, as long as Jenny and I can keep coming up with new jokes, we’ll keep running the comics. It’s just too much fun to be stopping now.

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