Comic Book-Best Practices
While there is not simply one best way that fits everyone when it comes to artistic production, a careful examination of accomplished writers and advisers demonstrates that three best practices can be emphasized for writing a comic book: (1) creating the outline and acknowledging that it would be subject to change during editing, (2) deciding on the artistic style (i.e., the combination of text and drawings), and (3) creating the right cornerstones for the characters.
BEST PRACTICE #1: CREATING THE OUTLINE AND EXPECTING CHANGE
- Since there are recommendations that are suitable for both novel writers and comic book writers, such as making writing a daily exercise and practicing without waiting for inspiration, the most important distinction occurs while creating the comic outline.
- A comic book, contrary to other forms of writing, requires different decisions such as panel sizes. Below are some tips for creating an outline for a comic book:
- A very important part for preparing a comic book outline is being accustomed to imagining the story in pictorial form. Some writers hire artists to draw the paintings while they work on the script, but this still requires the writer to be able to think visually. Charles Santino, an adviser for comic book scriptwriters makes his clients think about the panels even if they are only working on the script.
- Successful writers emphasize the importance of the acknowledgment of revisions. While Greg Pak suggests finishing the whole outline and then working the way through it, Zack Quaintance claims that the hardest parts are the starting point, the end, and the point right before the climax; and what he offers is to work the easier parts first and then take into account the page limitations or just focus on the items that precede the difficult scenes. Sometimes, he notes, when you finish the easy parts and start to design the parts in-between, it is only by thinking through these preceding relationships that the work is made easier.
- Chris Oatley, another accomplished writer who has worked for Disney, also emphasizes the importance of finishing the outline before anything else. He says that accepting change is vital among the production, but the outline still provides a solid background for everything else.
- The importance of editing is emphasized almost as often as the importance of the outline. In addition to Oatley's emphasis on embracing change, Stephen King states that writers have to spare some time before editing work in order to distract their minds and be able to have a fresh look.
- A comic book outline should take into account both the script and the drawings. Defining characters and their motivations in this phase would be helpful. If a writer hires an artist for the drawings, modifications should be done as early as possible as they tend to get harder the closer the work is to completion.
BEST PRACTICE #2: DECIDING ON THE COMBINATION OF TEXT AND DRAWING
- There are different artistic styles that a comic book writer can use while writing. Sometimes the drawing takes the center stage of conveying a meaning, sometimes the text does, and there are combinations that fall in between:
- Picture Specific Combinations: This is where the picture is the main medium to convey the text's meaning and the text is simply used to strengthen the atmosphere.
- Text Specific Combinations: This is the exact opposite of the previous example, text conveys the meaning while pictures are only used for the atmosphere.
- Additive Combinations: In additive combinations, both text and drawing are used collectively to carry the content. Individually, they are both strengthening the essence of the comic book, so the result is the strongest when they are combined.
- Interdependent Combinations: Here, picture and text imply two different meanings (a good example would be where a character says something but feels a totally different emotion). In such a condition, a text can be used to transfer the lines where drawing can be a tool to show the emotional situation.
- Another important decision is the panels' sizes when it comes to comic books. After the artistic decision is made, the essence of the scene should also be considered for the panels. "For example, an action happening on top of a tall building must use an eagles' eye approach for readers being able to follow the action."
BEST PRACTICE #3: PLANNING THE CORNERSTONES FOR THE CHARACTERS
- While writers have different styles in comic books with some of them focusing on picture-only scenes to convey stronger emotional messages, some others use more action-based formats. Either way, character building is essential for any of those artistic preferences.
- The first suggestion for a writer, in terms of the character, is to make them relatable. While most comic books rely on both evil and good, the characters' motivations should still be clear for readers to have a bond with the work.
- Oatley, coming from the movie industry, recommends that the emotional score of characters be a part of the outline. The twists and important moments that characters have should be included in the writing in the first phase. To do that, a writer has to create a graph for every character in the comic book and decide on the important emotional moments for them.
- Staying consistent with the aims of the characters that were created in the outline is vital, as well. While sometimes giving them the lead and making them able to make wrong choices or having defeats would make the characters more relatable and human-like, the inconsistency in their main motivation would confuse the readers.
- Deciding on the characters' motivation (i.e., starting with what they want in mind and then specifying the hurdles) would make expanding the outline easier and give the writer a clear vision.
To begin, the research team found websites dedicated to providing comic book writers with tips. Then, these sites were examined according to their reputations and the most reputable ones were chosen as sources for this best practices report. Independent websites were used to make the research applicable to any industry and suggestions from accomplished writers such as Steve Horton, Stephen King and Chris Oatley were considered vital for the research. Three different ways of collaboration for writing a comic book were found to exist: hiring an artist by a writer, hiring a writer by an artist, or a comic book writer undertaking both roles. Therefore, tips about collaborations were added when necessary and the content was created in order to be suitable for any of the methods mentioned.