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Comic Script Writing for Beginners

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

I'm writing comic scripts. I'm a beginner. I'm totally qualified to write this blog. Amirite? We're learning together.

As I'm finishing up coloring the last couple of pages in the prologue of my visual story/web comic, I'm starting to switch gears and think about writing the script for Chapter 1, so I've dug deep into some resources on the interwebs for answers to some of my questions.

Isn't scripting and thumbnailing the same thing?

No. Not quite. If you are both the writer and the artist of your work, these two processes could be combined. However, if you're a writer working with an artist, the two separate processes take on some clearer qualities.

Scripting is the process of organizing your story in a detailed, understandable manner. This "detailed" and "understandable" can vary based on how much you trust your artist or, if you're the artist, how much you need to work from when creating your thumbnails.

Bones McKay breaks down the difference and emphasizes the importance of scripting in one of his latest videos. My biggest take away is this.

"Scripting is the what you want to say. Thumbnailing is the how you choose to say it. "

Okay, well you say I need to write a script, where do I start?

Haha. Good Question! If you feel like this, you might need to take a moment and go back to the drawing board.

Before you start writing your script you need to know several key things.

1. How do you want your story or episode or chapter to end?

This is the primary question you need to ask yourself and then provide an answer to. Once you have a destination in mind for your characters and your plot, then you can start exploring how to get your characters to that end.

2. What is the primary conflict in your story?

Conflicts happen when character wants and needs conflict with their environment, other characters, or a social/political structure of some kind. There can be lots of small conflicts in your story, however, there should be one identifiable large conflict that's resolution ties the end of your story together or ends a cliff hanger and leaves your readers anxious for more of your work.

3. How do you plan on "upping the stakes"?

Upping or raising the stakes refers to how much your character has to lose. It directly affects your readers' motivation to keep flipping those pages. You'll know when you've maxed out your stakes. This is the point in your story where all seems lost and there's no foreseeable way for your character to get out of the mess or situation you've created for them.

Ask yourself, "what is most important to my characters?" Is it family? Is it wealth? Is it fame? Is it love? Once you've identified it, rip it away from them in a painful way and then let the pieces fall where they may.

4. What is your character's point of no return?

The point of no return is when there is no turning back for your character.

In a western, it might be the first job taken.

In an adventure, the first battle.

In a fantasy, that first taste of a new life.

In a romance, the first kiss or look.

Identify your character's point of no return. It's the initial spark that ignites your character's story, pushing them out of their comfort zone and beginning their character and story arc.

Once you're able to answer these questions, you'll be in a good position to start filling in gaps and digging into the details of your story.

Do I need to plan out panels and pages in my script?

The most helpful resource I've found to answer this question is this.

Fwah Storm is an award winning graphic novelist. In this video, he discusses some major pointers for pacing your script. Some writers do this through page and panel planning.

For example, if you want a fast-paced scene, you'll plan for fewer panels per page. On the flip side, if you want to slow your readers down a bit, you'll plan for more. He advises, however, that most professional comic book writers do not plan for more than five to seven panels per page to keep the story clear and concise.

He also advises that writers shouldn't plan for more than three word balloons per panel. His reasoning is that any more than that has high probability of failing due to confusing the reader and cluttering the page too much.

Check out his work, subscribe to his channel. This guy knows what he's talking about.

And this is where I leave you! I'm got a script to write and you do, too.

Good luck, friends. And, as always, I'm available to answer any art-related questions on Instagram @msrmcgaughey.

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