Let’s chat about Scripting. In comic writing, there’s a style known as the Marvel Style where someone like a Stan Lee essentially dictates a general synopsis of the story idea he has to his artists and they go off and create a comic. They bring back 22 pages of illustrations that Stan then plugs in actual dialog. It’s like writing and recording a song, THEN adding in the lyrics. I find that process a bit backwards and have always written in a complete script style. This is where I write scene by scene exactly what’s going to happen. This article will cover scripting for a long format story, not a joke a day format, though you could apply much of what I do here to any format comic.
Now, my first draft is much like the Marvel Style, and it is very natural to write an outline of a story first. But, once I start getting into the nitty-gritty of the comic story, I want to leave nothing to chance and that’s where writing in a full script style comes in handy.
By full script, I am referring to TV/movie scripting (refer to the example image). A scene is called out by either Interior or Exterior and then a simple description. For example: EXT – Parking Lot – Day. That is followed by a description of the action in the scene, then the Character’s dialog. This style has been around for a long time and it works. You don’t need a fancy software package to do this, just type it in a text editor if you want.
I start all my writing with Bullet Points. I brainstorm ideas and write them down, in no particular order. Sometimes you come up with a great ending first. No problem, write it down and sort it later. Let’s get the ideas down first. If you pause to move things around, you’ll break the flow of your ideas and loose momentum. Write, damn you, write!
Okay, from those Bullet Points, I rough out the ideas and start adding in some dialog. My writing style has always been let the characters tell the story, so it is natural for me to just write a character’s name then their line. Then the next character’s response, then rinse and repeat until you have the scene written. Then once the basic dialog is written, I flesh out how the action in the sequence takes place. What local are they in? What are they doing? And remember to make it relevant to what they’re talking about.
Now here’s where I apply a TV/movie writing trick: I storyboard the script. This can be simple Post-It Notes with stick figures drawn on it. This will help you layout the frames of your comic. I use really cheap drawing paper to do quick sketches of the scenes. It helps me flesh out how I want to present the scenes. See the scan of a recent comic page I laid out.
Once I’m done sketching out the storyboards, I then start to draw! My fellow Alliance member Ken Drab adeptly points out that we artists will spend 80% of our time on drawing, and only 20% on writing. But it is the writing that actually pulls most readers in. I can enjoy a simple or poorly drawn comic if the writing is good. “The Farside” is great example of a guy who really couldn’t draw that well when the comic started, but it was funny as hell. We came back for the writing. So, we should spend most of our time on the writing of our comics as that is where the real value is.
If you follow these simple steps, you will begin to see that the effort of taking more time in your writing will be worth it and will make drawing your comic easier as it has been laid out properly.