Hi, there! Oneshi Press co-founder and editor in chief Lynsey G here! Look, writing comics is a skill it’s taken me years to develop. And, even after writing a graphic novel (that I continue to edit even as the art is being created), three issues of an ongoing comic series, and several short comics, I’m still learning! Truth is, I’ll probably continue to develop the skill for the rest of my life. I thought that the things I’ve learned as a lifelong writer who just branched into comics about seven years ago, that some insights of mine might be helpful to others.
So, as the co-founder of Oneshi Press, I’m going to use this blog as a place to help anyone who wants to write comics learn the trade! I’ll write a few blog posts in the coming weeks, each of which breaks down parts of the comic-writing experience. I hope they’ll be helpful for you as you explore writing your own comics! This week: an overview of the things you need to know as a comics writer.
Comics Scripts: An Overview
They may not sound intimidating, but comics scripts are their own weird world. Comics are sort of a mixture of many different types of writing; they combine elements of screenwriting and writing for the stage, prose narrative and dialogue, and probably others that I’m not even thinking of at the moment.
When I started writing my graphic novel, I knew nothing about comics. I treated the writing process like I was writing a script for a film, which I had some experience with. And that was a good starting point, because comic scripts are structured similarly to scripts for the screen or the stage. Much like a film script starts with a description of the scene, then moves into the dialogue between characters, in a comics script there are descriptions of each panel followed by the dialogue that fits into that panel. And, much like a film script, there are many ways to go about communicating your ideas—there’s no one correct way to format each element of the page. (Here are a few examples that live online, which can give you ideas, from Dark Horse, Greg Pak, Creator Resource, and Comics Experience.)
The Golden Rules of Writing Comics
Basically, the only singular rule is that, as the writer, you must communicate your vision clearly to the artist(s) and letterer(s) who will be turning your words into art. And you must do so in a way that allows for the artist(s) to get a little creative with the way they draw, ink, and color your comic. It’s a balance that looks different for every artist-and-writer team. Some artists prefer a lot of description, some want more freedom. And some writers like to see what an artists comes up with when given less direction; others want every detail exactly the way they imagine it.
It will be important for you to maintain the style that works best for you as consistently as you can, so that your art-and-lettering team can understand what’s expected of them. And, as you build your creative team, you may find that your own style must be amended somewhat to suit the needs of the others you’re working with. Flexibility isn’t just important for the heroes and villains in your stories—it’s very important for you, too, as the writer.
Comics are (usually) a team effort, so clear communication and a willingness to learn, listen, and compromise are of the utmost importance. I’m telling you this because, as a writer, I know that many of us tend toward working alone, never showing anyone our work until we’re sure it’s perfect. Which can work kind of well for some types of writing (I mean, kind of). But in comics? Nope. You’ll be getting feedback at every step of the journey from writing to art to lettering to publication. That can be tough for a lonely-writer type. But, if you can learn to roll with it, it will improve your writing and your team-player-ness, making you better at your craft and at dealing with other humans. I swear!
But, no matter what kind of dynamic you have with your craft and your team, and no matter what your lonely-writer process looks like, it’s important that you learn some basics to help you get your ideas across to them. I’ll tell you more about those as this blog series continues. I hope you found the overview helpful!
Stay tuned. Next week, we’ll dive into structuring your story, planning your pages, and laying out your panels!
Don’t miss Week 2: Planning Pages & Panels!
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