Monday, July 28, 2014

Writing Comics - Building the Script

I’ve been very fortunate to retain my anal retentive organization practices as I’ve aged. You’d think that, as one gets older, the ability to balance tasks and duties becomes more or less commonplace. Unfortunately, I’ve begun to realize that we grow lazy as writers, holding less to convention, often to our own peril!

Thankfully, comic booking has retained my zeal for precise articulation intact.

A script can be written in many different ways. Formatting is key if you want to submit to larger companies, or shop around your work to various illustrators and artists. I was lucky enough to learn one of these pat script formatting styles from a chance meeting with another artist at SDCC last year. Below is the basic outline for a panel, as seen in professional scripts:

Panel 3: Steve walking towards the door. He is putting on a jacket, with his arms out, fitting them through the sleeves.


2 STEVE:                I heard you the first time.


4 STEVE:                I... I slept for...

5 MORRIS (OFF):         2 days.

6 STEVE:                Woah... I feel like shit.

7 MORRIS:               So, uh... What's going on?

8 GREG (OFF):           Come on. Let’s go.

A script, most importantly, emphasizes separation of actions. This serves two purposes. First, it aides your artist, being able to identify how many text bubbles are in the panel and also being able to see the description clearly laid out. Second it is a text aid to the letterer and editor, who can digest how the characters are speaking and interacting. Are they shouting, whispering, or speaking at a normal volume? Are there sound effects to be laid out? Where are the characters emphasizing their speech? These are the things to keep in mind when submitting scripts. Clarity helps to keep your story front and center and easy to read for all the parties soon to be involved in your work.

Understanding the proper format of a script, laying out the story comes next. I use a “beats” system to plot the narrative as it develops in my comic. This looks something like a rough outline arranged by conversations and looks something like the following:

Steve wakes up 1 (splash)

Eating Breakfast at a diner and reading the paper (monologue) 2-3

A lecture at UCSB, Steve teaching a lesson and taking questions 4-7

Faculty meeting. Steve confronting his rivals and antagonists. 8-10

The layout follows a beats structure by assigning action to particular events in the comic that are particularly episodic. Imagine a film. Scenes make up a film showing an period of extended action that comprises a conversation or the development of a plot line that progresses the narrative. A comic, much like a film, follows this logical methodology. Continuing this analogy, an Act would comprise an issue, which is a complete narrative unit that is self-contained.

Everything that follows depends now on you, the writer. Use this shell to develop your comic and contact me if you have any questions and concerns. Best of luck!


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