Mac McCool - Children's Book Illustrations and Graphic Novels

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tuesday Tip: Reverse-Writing a Comics

With authors wanting to write graphic novels, many stumble on which format to follow. Although the industry has "traditions," it has no strict standard rivaling those for screenplays. For example, at Marvel, one such tradition (believed to have started with Stan Lee) consists in handing down to the artist a one-page point-by-point plot, which the artist then converts into the typical 22-page comic book format. At the end, a writer or editor adds dialogues and captions on top of the art. Other graphic novel writers will not only write dialogues, but give detailed panel-by-panel instructions, down to the camera angle and the characters' facial expressions.

One of the best exercises for an aspiring writer is to take their favorite graphic novel and "reverse-write" it (think reverse-engineering). Pick a sample of pages, look at the text in the dialogues and captions, identify the stage direction (action), the sets (description), and create a script that would have generated the page you are looking at. Ask yourself how you would communicate your thoughts with the artist, which thoughts are important to share, etc. With this exercise you will also become familiar with the many devices and concepts unique to graphic novel storytelling.


Blogger Sara said...

Great tip, Mac. Have you nominated anything for the Cybils yet in the graphic novels category? There are several good books already there, but you might have something fresh to add.

10/9/07, 5:06 PM  

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