If, as the title suggests, a picture was worth 1000 words then every comic script would be the size of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke script (this is a joke you will understand in part 2). But as the writer, and the creative genesis, you need to write each panel so that every person after you (editor, penciller, colourist and letterer) can get what they need from it. Sounds like an oxymoron, but don’t worry. The first part of this article deals with what you can do to make this process as easy and effective as possible. The second part is where we will examine some comic script samples from some of the greats and dissect them to find out what makes them tick.
Everyone writes comics differently (much to the disdain of editors) but for us writers, the art of the well written comic script is wonderfully diverse. This article is not on the right way to write a script, as there is no such thing, but an effective way.
Let’s break it down to its base form. What does each member of the team need to do their job effectively?
Editor – The editor/writer relationship is often the most heated since they work so closely. The editor (as well as checking your grammar, spelling and general dialogue) needs to know the story. Each panel needs to clearly define its place within the story. This is where your own voice will come through strongest. A strong sense of story can allow the editor to pick up on plot holes, contradictions in dialogue and make recommendations on panel size, angle of shot etc.
Penciller – To accurately bring your vision to life the penciller needs to know setting, choreography and expression. These are the three base directions that they need to know. Of course, there are more nuances to this we will explore but make sure that amongst all the story these 3 things are covered.
Setting – Where are we? Has there been a change of scene?
Choreography – Who or what is in the panel. Where are they situated in relation to everything else in the panel?
Expression – How is the characters expression complimenting the dialogue and/or story?
All three aspects do not need to be in every panel. When in a scene the setting should really be established at the start of the scene and small details leaked into the script as the scene progresses.
Colourist – The Colourist will be able to gain a strong indication of what needs to be done through the groundwork laid out for the penciller. However, additional information regards to lighting and time of day will be a big help. Before getting to this stage, you would have discussed colour schemes of all your major characters.
Letterer – The letterer will be able to see the page, rather than reading the panel descriptions so all the hard work you put in with the artist will pay dividends here. The panel will already be set up to impose dialogue (just be wary of spacial limitations). You can always put specifics in brackets (singing), (whisper), etc just to hammer the point home.
So let’s look at a comic page panel and it’s respective scripting. The following 2 examples are from separate issues of Uptown Chronicles.
We are in Lawman’s office. The lights are on which is illuminating the office but the windows are dark because it is night outside which is making them more like mirrors than windows. Lawman is in front of his desk as he paces back and forth. He has the phone in one hand and a glass of scotch in the other. His mask sits on his desk on top of a stack of papers.
Don’t get all righteous just yet.
There was more to our Deputy Minister of Health than just a con-man with a fancy title.
Thanks for reading so far, this article is part of my eBook “The Art of Conversation; Writing Comics and Surviving Kickstarter.” To read the rest of this article (and many others), you can purchase it here: (Full contents below)
Here is a peek at the contents
1. The Art of Conversation, Depicting dialogue in comics (You can read this for free on my blog)
2. The Art of Conversation Part 2, representing dialogue in comics
3. Black holes disguised as white lines; the power of the comic gutter
4. A Picture is Worth 1000 words – how to write a comic script that your artist can use Part 1
5. A Picture is Worth 1000 words – how to write a comic script that your artist can use Part 2
6. Write to the beat of your own drum – How to pace scenes in a comic
7. Piracy and Indie Comics
8. The Internal and External Drives of a Narrative.
9. The terrifying REAL cost of creating a comic issue
10. Lessons that turned a failed comic Kickstarter into a successful one.
11.No Snakes, Only Ladders: Kickstarter Reward structuring
12.Kickstarter Capitalism: the worth of debut and returning creators
13.Surviving your maiden Kickstarter Part 1 – Failure to prepare is preparing to fail
14.Surviving your maiden Kickstarter Part 2 – The Campaign Trail
15.Surviving your maiden Kickstarter Part 3 – Crossing that finishing line
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