Comic books are read by people of all ages. Consequently, the comic book industry is a very lucrative venture for many writers. However, writing comic books is not the same as writing in other forms of media. Some people compare it with screenwriting. Though the two share many characteristics, writing a comic book is still unique in its own right.
When writing comic books, you need to realize that you have two audiences - the reader and the artist – and that both have different expectations. A good story is all your reader wants. However, the artist needs instructions which will lead to the story. Therefore, don’t give your artist the job of figuring out hidden meanings and subtext in your stories. You need to see the artist as your ally and make their work as easy as possible. Give clear and direct instructions together with suggestions for visuals.
When writing a comic book, it is important to think visually. These visuals should then be communicated in a way which will inspire the artist to interpret them as you see them. This can be both frustrating and powerful. On one hand, instead of speaking to the reader directly, you have to use an intermediary (the artist) to interpret your story. There is a possibility that something could be lost. However, this could also work in your favor. A great artist will take your idea and make it more accessible and powerful for your readers.
Methods of comic book writing
When learning how to write a comic book, you need to realize that the two main methods of writing that are used by most professional comic book writers are the full script method and the plot-art-dialogue method.
In the full script method, the writer has maximum control over the page and the story, writing a script which determines the number of panels per page, which character is in each panel, what they are saying and what they are doing. Though it is a meticulous and time consuming method, it gives writers a significant level of control.
Here, the artist has more control than the writer. The writer puts down a basic plot synopsis, providing an idea of movement and pacing, usually adding setting and character descriptions as appropriate. Often, the writer adds some dialogue, which causes the story to come alive. The artist then breaks down the plot into pages and panels, making decisions about structure and pacing in the process. The writer then takes the finished art and writes dialogue according to the page flow.
General guidelines for writing comic books
- Decide what you are going to write about. You could cover anything from comedy, drama, martial arts, to romance and action.
- Before you begin writing, you need to figure out the structure of the story. You should have a clear mental picture of the story. Your content needs to be clear and there should be continuity in your sequences. Know how the story will end. This will give clear direction to the artist.
- Keep the story basic and simple. With comic books, less is always more.
- Make sure your storyline is fast-paced. Only use dialogs when necessary.
- Focus on characters, rather than plotting. Your readers will identify more with the characters. Make sure the characters, villains and heroes alike, have something interesting about them.
- Research other comic writers. Read comic books from different publishers and identify the publisher that best fits your script. Get familiar with script guidelines for different publishers.
Writing comic books is just as interesting, rewarding and challenging as writing a poem, a play, a movie or a novel. Therefore, though not easy, learning how to write comic books is well worth your time and effort.