My process for coming up with new cartoon gags is part brain storm, part intuition, and a large part trust. Oh, and I should also mention the process usually includes a night or two of Zzzzs. My method isn’t exactly science. However, in this post I’ll list my ten steps for how to come up with cartoon gags.

How to Come Up with Cartoon Gags – A Ten Step Process

  1. Decide on your subject. (Note: You’ll have more success cartooning subjects you know fairly well.)
  2. Allow yourself to journal about your subject in sentence form. I prefer to do this long-hand in a notebook. Anything that comes to mind is fair game. (This isn’t the time to edit, so have at it!)
  3. Create lists of words associated with your subject.
  4. Let your mind free associate tangentially connected words triggered by your initial list of words. Write those new words down.
  5. Look for connections between the two sets of words. This post by New Yorker cartoonist Kaamran Hafeez illustrates the free association/connection process brilliantly.
  6. If the above steps haven’t produced a gag, then try this law of attraction technique. (Note: It’s important to keep a journal by your bedside so you can write your gratitude list down right before you go to sleep. It’s also important to trust in the process.)
  7. Get a good night’s sleep.
  8. Congratulate your brain on doing the work for you as you slept.
  9. Edit, edit, edit. Trim down any unnecessary words in your gag/caption and play with the order of words so that your punchline, well, packs a punch!
  10. If necessary, repeat steps 1-7 of this process until you’ve hit on the right gag.

I used the ten step process to create the cartoon you see below:

An example of a cartoon created using my ten step process for how to come up with cartoon gags.  Blind Audition - by Joana Miranda

Not to mention that I’ve used the same technique to create the 98 cartoons I have currently available for license at Cartoonstock.

P.S. Visit this page to see more of my cartoons, or shop the print section in my shop at Etsy.


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