Script Writing For Comics / Graphic Novels

Caveat:“There are nine and ninety ways Of constructing tribal lays And every single one of them is right” -- Rudyard Kipling

There are any number of ways to write a funny book graphic novel, but the three most common are below:

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The Outline Method

Advantages:  Maximum flexibility for the artist, dialog is added after the art is complete allowing for better integration with visual elements of story.

Disadvantages:  If the artist screws up or goes off course, it can be difficult reigning them back in.  If one needs to bring an additional artist onboard to complete unfinished pages, they may have difficulty matching new art up.  If the artist omits a key element, it may require drastic re-writing / editing to cover the absence.

There’s no reason one can’t present an outline to a publisher and / or artist to garner their interest then write a complete script for the final product.

The Name Of The Story

Pages 1 – 3

The American West, 1900.  The Bad Guy and his men attack a small mining camp.  They burn the buildings down, blow up the shafts, shoot anybody who doesn’t flee.  The Bad Guy hints at a Much Larger Plan.

Pages 4 – 7

A small frontier town not far from the mining camp.  The Hero is seen humorously working up his nerve to propose to the Heroine.  To his surprise and ours, while she clearly likes him, she also refuses and won’t elaborate on why.  The Hero is heartbroken.

Pages 8 – 10

The Hero drifts back to town just as the Sheriff is organizing a posse’ to go after the Bad Guy and his men.  The Hero hears this and on the spur of the moment volunteers to go along.

Etc., etc., and of course, etc.

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The Script Method

Advantages:  Everything is careful set out in advance, no surprises.  If the artist runs off track, it’s easier to fix the errant pages.

Disadvantages:  Can be stifling to an artist’s creativity, especially if the writer isn’t imaginative at visualizing a page.  Writers & editors need to listen to the artist’s input re pacing, plotting, story elements, etc.

The Name Of The Story

Page 1

Panel 1: EXT. BUCOLIC 1900 AMERICAN WEST MINING CAMP – DAWN

A GRIZZLED OLD MINER is pushing mining cart full of dirt and rock along the rails to where he can tip it over and dump it.  (NOTE:  Panels 1 and 2 occupy a tier along the top third of the page)

1  MINER                              Gol-danged owners, making us work extree shifts…

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Panel 2:  CLOSER ON THE MINER

He’s looking off panel in surprise as he hears something.

2  MINER                              Huh?  Thunder?  No -- horses -- lotsa horses!

3  SFX                                    Ruuuuumble

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Panel 3:  SEMI-SPLASH PANEL – WIDE ON THE MINING CAMP

DEADWOOD DICK and his OUTLAW BAND are galloping through the camp at full tilt, firing pistols, stampeding mules, knocking over tents, chasing miners.  They’re clearly enjoying themselves.  In the BACKGROUND we see the Grizzled Old Miner reacting in alarm from his vantage point.

4  MINER                              Jumpin’ catfish!  It’s Deadwood Dick!

5  DEADWOOD DICK        Burn this place to the ground!

6  OUTLAW #1                   Yee-haw!

7  OUTLAW #2                   Get ‘em!

8  SFX                                    Bang!  Bang!  Bang!

End Page 1

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“Page 1” refers to the page of final story art, not the script page.

“Panel 1” tells the artist what is happening in this particular panel.

“Bucolic” gives the artist an emotional feel for what is being shown.

“1  MINER                            Gol-danged owners…”  It helps the letterer (but is not absolutely required) to number each line of dialog / caption / title / sound effect (SFX)

“End Page 1” lets the artist know this is all the action that needs to appear on this particular page.

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The Blended Method

Advantages:  Pushes the art in a specific direction w/o hamstringing the artist.

Disadvantages:  I don’t see any.

The Name Of the Story

Page 1

EXT. BUCOLIC 1900 AMERICAN WEST MINING CAMP – DAY

A GRIZZLED OLD MINER is pushing a mining cart out to empty it.  He reacts when he hears horses approaching in the distance.

MINER                                  Gol-danged owners, making us work extree shifts…

MINER                                  Huh?  Thunder?  No -- horses -- lotsa horses!

DEADWOOD DICK and his OUTLAW BAND gallop through the camp, wrecking it and sending the miners fleeing in a panic.  The outlaws are clearly enjoying themselves.

MINER                                  Jumpin’ catfish!  It’s Deadwood Dick!

DEADWOOD DICK            Burn this place to the ground!

OUTLAW #1                        Yee-haw!

OUTLAW #2                        Get ‘em!

End Page 1

A Few Rough Rules Of Thumb For Writing Comics / Graphic Novels

San Diego Comic Con 2011 Photos