How many panels should you have on your page?
A fellow creator once shared that they were told that a comics page should have between 4 and 7 panels per page. Not only is this bad advice, but it removes the focus from where it ought to be.
I’m reading the most AMAZING comic! It has between four and seven panels on every page! It’s absolutely delightful!— No one, ever, in the history of comics
Here’s the problem with establishing a rule of thumb like the 4-7-panel rule. It puts the emphasis exactly where it doesn’t belong. Because while you’re sitting at your drawing table counting panels, the successful creator has their eyes on a much different prize:
What do I need to do to make something SIGNIFICANT happen on this page?
Making good comics isn’t about panel-count. It’s about creating a desirable reading experience. It’s about compelling storytelling. It’s about not boring people. And that’s a challenge to keep us, as creators, busy for a long, long time.
In short, designing a page with 4-7 panels is easy. Being interesting is hard.
Therefore, if you’ve created a compelling page that has only one panel, then that’s a good page. And if your page is enthralling at 14 panels, then by golly, you get to work on that 14-panel page!
Here’s the problem with following that terrible rule of thumb. It’s not only bad storytelling advice, it’s downright deadly web-publishing advice. That’s because that page you’re working on is most likely the next update on your website. And if you paid more attention to counting panels than you paid to making something interesting happen, then you are running a double risk:
- You’re not gaining new readers through that update
- You may be losing the readers you have
Remember: Every day someone is coming to your site (or your social media) for the very first time, and the update they see in that moment will either keep them or lose them. If your update is compelling, you’ve got a fighting chance of converting at least a few of those newcomers. If you’re focusing on how many panels you have on the page, you’re going to have one, new reader.