Thinking outside the box versus conventionality

Creating funny ideas often requires that you look outside the box of conventional thinking, which means you have to employ unconventional ways of looking at things where conventional thinking may fail.

Thinking outside the box has its caveats, however:

✓ Unorthodox thinking has recently become so popular that thinking inside the box is starting to become more unconventional. Basically, what was once new is now old and what was old is now new again.

✓ In an effort to come up with something so new and fresh, you risk the possibility of being too abstract. If you're too abstract, you may not connect with readers.

For example, many comics on the Web are geared toward certain niche audiences, such as people into fantasy gaming. These comics have had success on the Web precisely because the Internet is where they can reach their specific audience. But many of these niche comics have failed in print because typical print readers find the topics and story lines too abstract and out of the mainstream.

On the other hand, one thing to remember, particularly about comic strips, is that conventionality typically works better than nonconventionality. The most popular comic strips in the past 30 years have all been conventionally rooted in some way:

✓ Peanuts is based on childhood and the simple, mundane struggles that all kids experience.

✓ Baby Blues is based on the experiences of a young couple starting a family.

✓ Calvin and Hobbes is based on the wonders of childhood imagination, which anyone who has ever been a child (as in, everyone) can relate to.

All these comic strips have universal themes that readers can identify with. They were all consistently well written, laugh-out-loud funny, and occasionally poignant. So in the end, conventionality sells.

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