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March 2003

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Experimenting on Friends m07

Noooooo....  M:tG has invaded the strip now!  When will we be safe! (TIAJ) - Kazuhiko
What's entertaining is the way that the creatures pop up in little illusory poses above their cards.  That's cool.  The worrying bit is that I believe it's a planned feature for the Fourteenth Edition of Magic's base set, due for release in 2015...  ^^;;  --AlexChurchill
StuartFraser wonders how this will work with the Morph mechanic....
Illusionary? Just wait till you see the collateral damage from the new combat mechanics. As for MTG: Armageddon... Well, just don't play on the nice carpet, huh? -- TheInquisitor
Some people have been watching YuGiOh, haven't they?
Presumably, but I'm not one of them. TI

The Hazards of Puzzle Bobble m08

Go to your HappyPlace? SunKitten[Happy winged girls in a desert!]

For examples of why Piro ended up like he did (*g*) see Kanon...

Did anyone else notice that the bobble players are the wrong way round (tho' I guess it depends on key definitions) Garbled

Is it Friday yet? n02

And much as it pains me to say it, it seems to be losing its way: the interesting concepts and intriguing plot seen at the start have recently been sidelined in favour of what seem to be pointless strips which neither advance the plot nor are particularly funny. This is particularly evident in [this strip], which just features two characters discussing their lecture timetables: not the most enthralling topic.
Sorry. I was under the impression that the current planning and writing was rather an improvement on the first year's mad and disorganised chaos and grotty and badly-laid out strips, but possibly not. I'm afraid I can't do anything about a difference between our senses of humour, nor that the plot may not be as obvious as it has been before. Most of the strips so far this year have contained at least a little plot although, to be fair, there's not much in this particular strip (should this discussion go at the bottom, btw?) - SunKitten
FWIW, I rather liked that one. The strange interplay of familiar conversations and locations, with just enough of a twist to throw you. It *is* rather a specialised audiance it's aimed at, though. Ah well - different strokes... TheInquisitor
Hmmm... Further to that, I think half of the reason I like assorted fantasy/etc so much is the worldbuilding, rather than the action - I suppose that warps my view of what's a 'waste' of space. TI
Thanks ^^ - SunKitten

Hopefully things will pick up soon; but many more strips without anything interesting happening and you may start losing readers.
That's your choice. I'd be sorry to see you go - now I'm aware of your existence - but this webcomic is written by me (and MoonShadow) for free, and not to please anyone else. To this end have I resisted a certain person's desire to introduce large bubbles, for example ^.~ If you want to check back in a week's time, you may find things have picked up again, although to my eyes the next two strips are fairly important since they introduce a character. - SunKitten

It wasn't meant to be a threat or anything -- just advice. No one becomes a better writer without feedback, especially when things aren't working, so I was trying to help out. When your comic only comes out twice a week (even if those twice-weekly installments have art as impressive as several of most daily strips put together) you really can't afford 'dead' strips: every one needs an impact, whether that's in terms of plot, character, or humour. At the moment too many seem to just be random conversations which don't move the plot on, don't reveal any new aspects to characters, and don't have strong punchlines.

I'm trying to help you improve your writing here, to get it up to the standard of the artwork, not just tell you it's crap for no reason.
Thanks for the thought - and thanks especially for the compliment about the drawing standard.  But - do you not think it is possible that I don't regard this strip as unfunny and without plot? I may have included pointless strips before, but I'm trying my best to avoid it now. Also, why can I not 'afford' such a thing, should I want one? I appreciate the feedback - really - and the intent, and I'm aware that the writing lacks practice, but I don't really understand from your comments how to improve - see my comment after Kazuhiko's, below.  -  SunKitten

I guess the above writer does sortof have a point here.  I have to confess to feeling a little... not quite cheated, but... undersupplied ;) when a plot doesn't have either punchline or visible plot-development.  Of course, sometimes the plot development isn't visible, and far be it from us to require it be more obvious.  And sometimes the punchline comes in the middle of the strip.  Either of these are fine situations.  But while it is SunKitten's choice how to develop the strip, I can understand the reader's feelings giving rise to the above comment.  My 0.02... --AlexChurchill

Hmm.  I don't know.  Feedback is a good thing I guess, but its interesting to note that of the web comics I read, a number have stated that they draw what they want to draw and its up to the audience to decide if that is what they want to read.  Otherwise, why bother doing a webcomic?  I happen to enjoy reading what SunKitten draws, hence I read PhoenixFeathers...  Not I read PhoenixFeathers, hence SunKitten draws. - Kazuhiko
To Kazuhiko - thanks. That is certainly a point.
To rapun.sel.cam.ac.uk, and to Alex - I'm not entirely sure how to deal with your criticism. I can do nothing about the sense of humour difference and amn't going to try. However, the point about the story disturbs me for a number of reasons.
Last year, Phoenix Feathers began with a pre-planned story which quickly ran out. The next few months were spent floundering and only just getting the strips done on time. The plot was pretty much inserted at random and strips were included for the humour value and not because they advanced what plot there was. A number of the plot strips were appallingly badly laid out. When I did get round to planning for the end of the year and the next two years to come, I had to squash what should have been several strips' worth of story and character advancement into one or two strips, thus making the plot about as subtle as a ton of bricks (eg [this strip]). I hated that, and some of the earlier strips made me cringe.
This year, I have an over-arching plot line with a number of threads that I have to tie together in a timely manner. I've got time to extend and develop the plot so things happen naturally rather than being wedged into the timeline with a crowbar. I know better how to lay out strips so that (to my eye) they are aesthetically pleasing and easier to read. Next week's strips are done and ready, and I know what's happening the week after. I'm much more pleased with the general line so far, although we're not far into the second year.
So when you guys say this, I'm confused. I really, really don't want to return to flying by the seat of my pants; it's a very uncomfortable way to write a webcomic and I don't think I do a very good job while I'm in that situation. I certainly will not do what seems (to me) to be a worse job on the plot on purpose, and I will avoid the big plot club at all costs. So - what do I do? - SunKitten

That the story is planned out is good. That was one of the impressive things about the beginning of the strip: there was a real sense of motion, of story. Unfortunately that quickly dissipated into the confusion you mention.

Now, the problem is that the plot appears to be moving at glacial speed. The plot which you say 'quickly ran out' was, I think, running at about the right speed. The solution to running out is not to slow down the plot but instead to have more plot, preferably planned well in advance so you're not making it up as you go along.

As SunKitten explained, this is what she is doing at the moment and has been for some while now. - MoonShadow

First thing I would do is ask yourself, of every strip: what point am I trying to get across here? As a rule, everything -- every strip and, on a lower level, every line of dialogue, should either:

 * Advance the plot
* Reveal character
* Get a laugh

And preferably more than one. So for each strip find out which of those it does, and if it doesn't do any, abandon it. The essence of good writing is good editing: what you leave out is more important than what you put in.

That is very good advice. However, it is all subjective. Just because you don't necessarily think a strip does any of those things does not mean the author or other readers would agree. The current strip certainly got a laugh from me. It pokes fun at a feeling familiar to most students. - MoonShadow

AlexChurchill: I'm going to duck out of this discussion with two comments: one, what I said above was in no way meant as a criticism.  I really did try to phrase it as un-criticism-ly as I could.  It appears I failed :(  But please know that I didn't *mean* it as criticism, anyway.  Point two: I think there's some interesting points come to light about the nature of WebComics as a medium.  I'm going to go and start a rant/discussion on that page.

What I said was a criticism, and I make no apologies for it.As I wrote, no writer improves without honest, constructive criticism. The worst thing for a writer is to be told that what they do is great, because there are always flaws that can be eliminated. I was assuming that Morag wants to improve her writing (as I am unable to coprehend the notion of a writer who doesn't want to write better) and trying to help.
I've got no problem with that (and I was using 'criticism' in the constructive sense). Of course I want to improve. The problem is, you seem to be highlighting the things I used to do by necessity (and regretted doing) as good - for example, squashing the plot, lots of action. I prefer now and would have preferred last year to be able to draw things out a bit so it didn't feel so badly planned and hurried. I have taken in what you've said (I hope) but I can't apply it because, frankly, I disagree with what you say is better.
That is, I disagree if you've said what I think you've said. If you meant something else, then I merely haven't understood and apologise - SunKitten

As an example: what was the point of the strip referenced in the first comment above? If it was to establish those two characters are in the same classes, that could have been done in one frame.
[This strip] grew out of a need to start the day somehow, to make it clear lectures were going on and to set the scene for what will happen in a week or two. However, I was originally going to set the scene in two panels and then go on. This wasn't possible 'cause I screwed up the timing - it's a Thursday, not a Friday in Phoenix Feathers world. So, I expanded the scene-setting to include (what I thought was) a joke and some background - what is called 'world building' in more reputable media, I think. I couldn't have jumped a day inside the strip 'cause that would have looked odd and felt odd. I couldn't go on to next week's plans because I don't think switching scene and characters in a six-panel strip is a good idea (as happened early on in the first year), and Friday's strip would have been squashed onto the end of Tuesday's and looked bad. I decided upon this course of action because in my opinion, the storyline when Sha'am appears suffered from such squashing, and could have done with a little stretching here and there so that each strip contained one scene.
Next time this kind of thing happens, I will consider what happened this time, but I maintain that the strip has a point. Just not a totally obvious one.
FWIW, the story contained in these strips (starting from [this one]) will still be told in the same number of strips. The story will just be distributed slightly differently from when I first thought of it- SunKitten
Thanks for the explanation.  That's quite interesting, and helps to understand the considerations you have to bear in mind.  I'll look back in a week's time to see if I can understand your reasons a bit better :) --AlexChurchill

A Long Lecture n03

Wahoo!  A certain obstreperous theologian makes her debut!  Currently unnamed, although this may just indicate she only gets a cameo.  In which case it'll be fun avoiding getting Meg's long-haired glasses-wearing lecture-mate mixed up with /Peri's long-haired glasses-wearing lecture-mate. 
What, you mean the one with long dark hair and the one with long blonde hair? - SunKitten

Don't mind us MoonShadow, we were just speculating...  *puts on glasses*  Oh.  SunKitten, what happened to MoonShadow?  I'm sure I saw him around here a second ago... - Kazuhiko

I actually wondered for a second why Megaera had transformed into Peri but rapidly realised my error ^^;;

We also have the introduction of a truly terrifying Miss /FluffForBrains (in K-sama's words)...!  --AlexChurchill

:p - K-sama

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