Here is another batch of writer notes on Sorcery 101. If you want to read ahead on these got ahead on these head over to my patreon.
Sorcery 101 was my first comic. It took me 11 years to completely. In that time I learned a lot about storytelling and basically grew up. It’s hard for me to look at the beginning chapters because the pacing in those early days meanders a lot. Now I definitely prefer tighter stories. That change in preference and my general tightening up of writing has left Sorcery 101 lopsided. Looking at the two omnibus volumed, a lot more happens in the second half. It’s also unclear what the story is about in the first half, even though I always planned to end it the way it ends.
I’ve gotten comments about the ending being abrupt and leaving nothing resolved. But there isn’t much else to do with Danny. The unresolved bits are parts of stories that are only tangental related. It would have been impossible to wrap them all up without another several hundred pages. I put them all in there because I saw in the stories I really enjoyed hints of other stories going on beyond the one we were paying attention to. It was something I wanted to replicate. But with my inexperience in storytelling I gave too much screen time to what should have been shorter looks at the world beyond Danny. As I realized that I started to cut out stuff in the latter half of Sorcery 101, most of it about Jeff, Connor, and Kayla. Their stories effected Danny the least, so I cut them down to what was tied to the main plot or had an effect on it, like Connor sleeping with Seth.
The amount of filler in the beginning of Sorcery 101 makes it a weird story to read. It doesn’t quite work online or in final print. I’ve notice this odd pacing in a several other webcomics. It makes me wonder if the influence/source of the problem was the same. I’m dyslexic and didn’t get into books until I discovered audiobooks in college. At the start of Sorcery 101 my main influencers of story telling were mostly TV and a handful of manga. Both of which are designed to keep going until the audience loses interest rather than to tell a story. I liked stories where there was a big picture getting slowly built from tinier stories. Shows were you still had to watch episodes in order. Those episodes had filler but never for too long and usually that gave the characters room to breath and grow. I tried to do something like that with Sorcery 101. But it is hard to read when you get 3 pages a week. It wouldn’t even work if you got a page everyday. See when TV had a filler episode or manga had a filler chapter, you didn’t have to wait long for the next chunk. Next week their be more. Where as a filler chapter of Sorcery 101 meant a 3 month break. Then if you are bingde reading the book, your story is getting interrupted by something that ends up not mattering. It reads a little bit better in print but it’s still a weird pacing for a book. Overall, after writing 1400 page comic I think long and hard about how long my stories are now and how they read but as they update and when they are finished. I also frequently ask myself is this page/scene/chapter necessary to the story I’m telling.
Another thing I started thinking about more toward the end of Sorcery 101, was world building. But that has more to do with why I’m probably not returning to the Sorcery 101 world rather than Sorcery 101 itself. Until about 2012, I fully intended to do more stories in this world. After all, then I could actually tell all those stories I was hinting at in Sorcery 101. At that point I had started to tighten up Sorcery 101 main storyline. It was easier because I told myself “Jeff and Connor starting college can just be it’s own comic.” I even wrote a whole draft of the story of how Brad became a werewolf and met Ally. But as I wrote that I started to chafe at the Sorcery 101 world. It was too close to our universe and I was tired of telling people this world wasn’t ours. Also I was going through audiobooks pretty quickly and getting a taste of better more interesting world building. I wanted to put something together that someone would look at the art and instantly see the story didn’t take place in our world. That’s why I ended up writing Fame and Misfortune and started The City Between. It would be a series I could start and stop as it interested me since that stories would all be able to stand alone and I could fully design the world. I would keep the made up histories and city names there and keep anything that needed a setting like the modern day real world in the modern day real world, like Misfits of Avalon.
I’m glad I stuck to my plan for Sorcery 101 over all though. As flawed as that end was, I don’t think I would have finished the comic if I had to come up with a better ending. There was too much about the comic I had out grown. The redoing the first 450 page to make a book made that clear. A lot of the jokes got toned down or thrown out cause they weren’t funny were over done or just plain offensive. I still liked writing and drawing Danny and everyone at the end of it but I was also starting to get offers that would help push my comics career further. Nearly everything about my life was telling me it was time to move on from this.