Seriously, Where’d They Go?

Posted by Ben on 2011-07-03

I’m happy. There’s been a lot of activity recently in our comments section (Around the Elven Ball plotline for those of you going through the archives). Activity means active readers, which means Tria and I are doing our jobs well. One topic that keeps popping is a basic question, “where the heck are the the other characters?” mostly from user Clubtail. It’s a perfectly legitimate question. So far only Mary, Sue and Elator have gotten screen time. Some characters have gotten cameos, but mostly it’s just those three hogging the spot light. Actually, I’m glad that the characters and setting are rich enough (and Clubtail is astute enough) to even ask that question. For the most part, you guys (the other readers) have been doing a great job of coming up with theories and explanations and a general Fanon for where the rest of the Dubious Company crew is (with some help from Tria of course). But I thought I’d take this rant space to give a slightly more official (you’ll see why it’s only slightly in a moment) on what is going on. Also, to prove to Tria that it takes me more than ten minutes to write a script (it’s more like fifteen).

First off I’d like to put to rest any fears that I’ve forgotten the off screen characters. I know Team Kreedor hasn’t gotten much screen time (Re: Any screen time) outside of the Sues, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone into the void that characters go to when they aren’t used anymore. They’re still around, I try not to do that to my characters. Heck even poor Captain Barry is still floating around in my head. Mostly, it boils down to the issues of focusing on the current plot, space available, and pacing so this whole thing doesn’t drag too much (more than it already has).

Great. Awesome. Plot focus, available space, pacing, that explains everything…or that explains nothing. I’m going to assume the latter so I can keep talking (writing?). So here’s the thing, I’ve since learned that when I write a plot, I need to focus on that plot. I can’t just write random scenes and cram them in arbitrarily, because then I lose focus on the plot. If that happens you guys (the readers) lose focus on what was happening, and then no one knows what’s going on; that’s a very bad situation. In extreme cases it makes the comic almost unreadable. So apologizes to Phred, but art before worship.

Which is a great sentiment and all, but it also means that if I can’t think of a reasonable reason for characters to be in a scene that relates to the current plot, they get cut out. That’s probably the number one reason for disappearing characters. In the Elven Ball plot line, I honestly could not think of anything for most of Team Kreedor to be doing that also related to the current plot (involving the King, Elator, Raque, etc.) Tiren and Walter get a pass because their drunken debauchery relates to Elator’s “solutions” as a king, and Sal is acting as my Mistress of Exposition (Leeroy is technically her bodyguard so if she’s around, he’s around).

The other two reasons, available space and pacing, are actually directly related to one another. You have to understand that Dubious Company appears to move along at glacial speeds. In order to compensate for our slow updates a lot of stuff gets cut out before it actually hits the page. Basically every scene takes up space (like actual physical space, we usually to devote at least a panel, if not several pages to a scene). If a scene doesn’t drive the focused plot forward by at least a certain amount, then it’s slowing the pacing of the whole comic down. It’s something I’ve more recently been trying to avoid. I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now, but that’s the reason, more often than not, characters who aren’t directly related to the current plot get their scenes cut, we just don’t have the space/time to fit them in and still keep the comic moving.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s happening to the characters though. I usually have something that each character is doing during each scene, just in case I need them (or someone asks me). The thing is: it’s not finalized what’s happen off screen until it’s made mention on screen. So what the off screen characters are doing is subject to change. For the most part the guesses you guys made in the comments section are correct. But if for some reason I need say, Marty to have been hitting on Raque (somehow) off screen, then that’s what he’ll have been doing.

And that I think mostly answers your questions. Feel free to email me or Tria if you want further details (probably me, I’m pretty sure Tria didn’t even know this). And as always keep reading and spread the word.