How to Write a Cartoon – Tips for Creating a Single Panel Comic
Cartoons are great way to connect with your audience. Using humor to promote your brand is not only fun, it is often some of the most sharable content you will produce.
Coming up with funny and on topic jokes can be a challenge. This is especially true if you have to come up with a lot of material.
Here are a few tips I have learned over the years that help me write cartoons for any situation.
1.Pick a Topic
Even though it may not seem like it when you are faced with writer’s block, there is just too much out there to write a joke about. It helps to get the juices flowing if you can narrow your focus to a single topic.
Sometimes this is chosen for you. If you are writing jokes for a hospital, obviously the jokes will be about healthcare. Even if you are free to choose any topic you want, I find it more helpful to pick a topic such as parenting or dating and then move to a new topic once I have exhausted that topic for the day.
It may sound limiting, but narrowing your focus will actually free you to be more creative and help you focus.
One of the first things I do before I start to write cartoons is to get inspired by those who have come before me. I usually spend a few minutes reading comics looking are art styles, and just laughing at cartoons to get me in the mood to create my own.
I never copy anyone else’s jokes, but there is something about reading a large volume of cartoons that helps put me in the right mindset. Sometimes I will even make a list of common themes.
Try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, you still got to enjoy a lot of funny cartoons!
3.Think of Clichés
More often than not the punch line of a joke is just a twist on a familiar situation or popular saying. Making a familiar situation funny is just a matter of moving that character or saying and applying it to a new situation. This is a classic fish out of water situation.
So think of how a certain professional or personality would react in a new situation. So put that elephant in the china shop. Take a firefighter and put him in a day care. What if your doctor treated you like your mechanic?
Using classic figures from history or legends is a great way to do this, especially if they have a notorious reputation. Abe Lincoln was known as “Honest Abe” and George Washington supposedly “could not tell a lie” So what would happen if your next to a modern day politician or lawyer? (Two professions that have the stigma of being liars)
What would happen to King Arthur’s Lady of the Lake if there were an oil spill or fisherman? What obstacles would Humpty Dumpty have to go through to get medical attention in the modern world?
All of these professions and characters are already established so you don’t have to explain their personalities to anyone. That’s what makes them ideal for a single panel comic. A lot of the background leg work of establishing a character’s personality or story is already known by the reader.
4.Write it down
I can’t write jokes just by thinking about them. There is something about writing jokes down that works wonders for the creative process.
Something to keep in mind is that you have to write everything down. Even the dumb ideas that you know you will never use need to be written down. Writing a joke is a process, and jotting down lame jokes is part of that process. On average I use about 1/8 of the jokes I write down. Sometimes I just have an idea but no solid punch line. Other times one bad joke might evolve into another one that actually works. Whatever the situation may be, writing every joke down its part of the brainstorming process.
You never know when a joke will come to you. When it does it is important that you write it down because you will forget it if you don’t. I used to carry a pen around with me where ever I went. Now I just use my smart phone. However you do it, make sure you are writing down those random punch lines that come to you when you least expect them.
There is A LOT more that I could share, and probably will in the future. Hopefully this has left you with a little more ammo for your joke tool kit.
I know I make it sound easy, but with a little practice you could be writing professional quality jokes. Or you can always hire me to write your cartoons for you ;)