Today we put aside the audiovisual sector and change media because we will see what a writer does in the comic book world. It’s exciting because even if you’re a writer and a comic book reader, there are a lot of things you don’t think about until they tell you.
The essence of the medium
Like the audiovisual Media, the comic has a sequential narrative. We know the story as the plans advance in one medium and the cartoons in another. But the most significant difference between films or series and comics is that the audiovisual Media develops over time and the comic in space. So we’re not talking about minutes, we’re talking about pages. The screenwriter to tell a story in a comic book must first think about how to distribute it on pages and then view each page and decide how to distribute the content on it. That’s why the comic book writer is a bit of a co-director: he has to sequence and plan the story in a visual way.
- The first thing: the comic book format
Before you start developing your story, you have to decide which format your comic book is going to be edited in. Depending on the composition, the number of pages and their size, you can tell one story or another. It’s like in movies. You have to know if you’re gonna make a short film or a long one before you start writing the script. In addition, in the comic book you have to be much more concise, because if you are going to make a standard publication of 24 pages, you can’t go over or not arrive, it is 24 pages, so you have to structure the story very well so that it doesn’t seem decompensated in the comic book.
Let’s see what kind of formats there are:
- It’s the smallest format of all; you have to include the whole story in a box. It is the most widely used in newspapers, whether printed or digital. It takes a lot of synthesis power to tell a story in just one cartoon.
- Here the story is told in 3 or 4 bullets that form a strip that goes from left to right of the page. In this format, sequentiality is born, and you can develop a history with a beginning, development, and end. It is also published in newspapers and magazines.
- Stories that start and end on a page. There is freedom in the number of vignettes, and it allows the anecdote of history to develop further.
- It is the typical Japanese comic book format in which the page is smaller and has 4 or 5 vignettes inside.
- Comic book. It is the American format of 24 pages per volume and 4 or 5 bullets per page — the classic form in which superhero stories are published.
- Franco-Belgian format. The franco-Belgian form has between 46 and 52 pages per album and approximately 11 cartoons per page, divided into four rows. The classic stories of Tintin or Asterix are published in this format.
- Graphic novel. It can have more than 200 pages with any type of adult content. It does not have a predefined format; it is freer and has more or less six vignettes page.
- How to write a comic script?
As I explained in the podcast about the writer’s work, there is no standard way to write a comic book. It depends above all on the working method agreed between the writer and the cartoonist. There are times when the screenwriter writes the argument, and the cartoonist decides what happens in each cartoon, and others when the screenwriter defines everything that happens in each picture to the last detail. Let’s see the typical steps that the writing of a comic script usually takes, although if you are going to do one, you have to talk to the cartoonist first.
- Synopsis of the whole story.
The writer must write the whole story’s argument detailing what goes from beginning to end. This step is common to all means, so I do not insist anymore.
- Step of history.
The ladder of a comic is not like a movie screenplay or a television screenplay. On the steps of a film or the chapter of a series, what is usually done is to write a list of scenes. But the comic book is a list of pages, telling what happens in each one. The story is divided into pages, and each page may contain several scenes.
- Tell what happens on each page.
Let’s say the” unity of measure ” of the comic is the page, not the scene. The distribution of vignettes per page marks the rhythm of the narrative, and that diagramming has to be decided before it begins. A page may include two or three scenes, as needed, but it is always best to finish one of them in the last bullet. In that previous vignette, you can also place a cliffhanger or auction to the next page. That hook drives the reader to want to keep reading and pass the sheet. The change of page is also often used to make scenario changes and transitions.
You also need to know what happens on the left page and what happens on the right. If, as I said, the page on the right ends with a cliffhanger, as we pass the sheet, we will find the resolution of that hook, and the beginning of the page will show us that surprise. By the way, if there’s anyone here who doesn’t know what a cliffhanger is that doesn’t worry, I’m going to do a monograph shortly to explain what a cliffhanger is and how to use it.
- The scriptwriting from Cartoon to cartoon.
In the last phase describes what is going bullet to bullet. To do this, one has to have notions of the realization and composition of plans because the writer should explain the framing of each cartoon, or what is the same, the point of view in which the action is told.
It is necessary to specify the height of the plane, that is, if it is a counterbalance and the camera is under the characters, or if the height is frontal, or if it is a picado plane and the camera is above the figures. It is also necessary to describe the size of the aircraft, that is, if it is a general plane and we see the character in its context, or an American plane, and we see it by the knees, or a middle plane, in which the role is cut to the waist, or a close-up.
Text. Another element of which the writer is responsible is to write the books that will appear in the comic. To dialogue, one has to be aware that one has to be much more synthetic than in almost any other medium because the discussions are not told, they are drawn, they are a visible part that occupies space.
You also have to think about the order of reading, considering that you read from left to right and from top to bottom. That in the west, of course, the sleeves are written and drawn upside down, right to left and bottom to top. I didn’t even know where to start the first time I saw one. And on that basis, it is necessary to describe where the characters are and the order of the balloons and dialogues.
The comic has its language with codes that readers understand. For example, if you change the shape of the globe, you change the emotion of what the character says. If you put the balloon in The Shape of a splashing drop, it will be a scream, and if you put a balloon in the form of a cloud, it will be a thought. If you want to emphasize a few words, you can put them in bold. To expose an onomatopoeia, the phonetic transcription is put. In addition to balloons, posters are used to introduce a narrator or voice-over, or in situations that need to be given a lot of information.
And once the comic book is finished, it’s up to the sketch artist to do the sketches and then the drawings. It is intertwined, colored, and the last is to label, that is to say, to put the texts.
- And after the script
Today is a summary of how to make a comic book, but if you want to learn the best thing is to get into action today and start looking for ideas. If you don’t want to self-produce your comic book, you’ll have to find an editorial that is interested in your project. And the way to interest them is to show a dossier. But to make that dossier, the first thing you have to do is find a cartoonist who wants to tell your story and do the project together. The record of a typical project has different elements: the title, the concept, a brief synopsis, some marked and colored pages of example, the full plot of the album, Sketches and cover, character development and the bio of the authors. Once the dossier is completed, you have to find editorials that make material like the one you want to offer and contact them.