It's been almost a year since I decided to write a Graphic Novel. At first, I wanted to send submissions to publishing houses and have my work published under a big name, like Vertigo.
How I ended up publishing via the internet is a long story, but that's not what this article's about. You see, I'm a writer. I suck at drawing. My hope was that a publishing house would like my script, and assign an artist to draw it. This led me to search for a suitable format to write the script. I had to convey to a stranger (in another country!) exactly what I wanted him/her to depict in every panel.
Describing was never a problem. I'm a writer. My problem was organizing the information in the script. There are many established elements in a comic (text balloons, captions, whispers, captions with dialog, etc.) and many you will make up yourself.
If you want to write a comic, but suck at drawing, how do you tell someone what you want to see drawn in your (yours and the artist's) comic?
Following, I will describe the format I use. After that, I'll give you an example and after that, some additional tips to help you make the process faster.
First of all, as a writer, you have to make things easier for the artist. Not only does she have to draw. She has to try to get into your head and figure out as best as she can just what the heck you want her to depict in every panel. Here's all the information you have to organize in your script:
Quantity of panels in that page
Number of a given panel in that page
Description of the panel
Dialogue, captions, sound effects, etc.
And that's it. It's not a lot, but if you have a lot of information in one page, you'll be amazed at how messy it looks.
At the top of the page, it helps to type, with letters and all caps, the number of the page. Immediately after that, in parentheses, you type the number of panels the page will include.
Then, leaving a line of space between the information at the top and the information below that, you describe the panel. You specify what panel you're describing and then go into details about it.
One very important thing to remember is that if you want something in particular to be drawn, you must describe it. If it's not in your script, how is your artist supposed to know you want it there? Artist's, alas, are not mind readers.
Below the description of X panel, and skipping another line, you organize the text in that panel.
First, you identify the source of that text. Be it a caption, a character, or a sound effect, you have ti identify it using all caps. Here are the most common identifiers I use:
LUCIAN (Character names).
CAP (Those small, generally yellow rectangles that work as narrative text).
SFX (Sound Effects: screams, clicks, sniffs, etc).
Repeat this with every panel. The way I categorize them is with a number, i.e.: Panel 1, Panel 2, Panel 3, etc.
Whenever you're done with the script representing one page in the actual comic, start the next page of your script in a new page. That is, whenever you're done describing every panel, move on to another “sheet” of your document, and start describing the panels of another page. That's it! You might be a little confused, but that's why I'm including the following examples. Don't worry. It will all make sense in a minute.
PAGE TWENTY-FOUR (Seven panels)
Panel 1. Location panel. We are in the streets of Nadinel. We see nothing but the entrance to an alley. Beyond the alley, we can't see anything due to the darkness. A few trash cans lay around, some standing, some pushed over. A voice comes from the darkness in the alley.
All right, all right.
Panel 2. We see two figures. Dane, obscured, is threatening an aged man. He holds him in a wrench, holding the dagger used to kill his wife against the thug's throat.
There's a party tonight. I heard two guys were hired to take care of a certain pair.
Panel 3. While still being held, the thug sniffs at something. The intention is to close up on him while intentionally avoiding showing Dane.
Some old bloke and his daughter.
I uh, wouldn't know names.
Panel 4. We catch the moment Dane releases the thug. We see his arms loosening, and the dagger farther away from the thug's throat. I think this take would be better from their side. Again, we don't show Dane's face on purpose.
Panel 5. We stand in front of Dane. We see now that he has grown a beard, indicating that some time has passed since we last saw him. However, we still can't see his face in good detail. He's walking away, turning his back to the thug. The thug turns to Dane, rubbing his hand on his neck.
There's blood on that knife all right, but I didn't smell any on ya.
Have ya actually killed anyone, son?
Panel 6. We divide one panel in half, placing Dane on the left side, and the thug on the right. We can finally see his face clearly. Dane has turned over his shoulder, looking directly at the thug. The thug has seen the darkness in Dane's eyes, and we show him being scared by it.
Panel 7. As Dane resumes his path, the thug is leaning on a wall, trying to catch his breath.
© Jean Paul Thewissen
PAGE TWENTY-FIVE (Six panels)
Panel 1. Location panel. We see a mansion from above. There is light going through every window we can see, and the mansion is, by all means, magnificent. In contrast with the previous scene, this one is quite cheery and illuminated.
The Haleway Mansion.
Panel 2. Ana and Lucian are just arriving to the event. We see them entering a dance hall busy with many people. Lucian smiles politely while Ana simply looks distracted and uninterested.
Panel 3. Nothing special for this panel. Ana and Lucian are talking casually while walking among the people. Lucian tries to be optimistic, but Ana remains indifferent.
There! Didn't I tell you there would be nice music.
Panel 4. While Ana and Lucian walk on, we focus on two men in the background. They seem to be studying Ana and Lucian. They are the assailants hired to kill them. They're well dressed, according to the occasion.
Is being here really so bad?
It's boring. Utterly boring.
Panel 5. A waiter passes by with a tray filled with wine cups. He stops close to Ana and Lucian, allowing them to take a cup. They both do. Ana has already taken hers. Lucian is just taking his.
If you accepted the proposal of one of this chaps, you might have a good time dancing.
If they kept quiet I might. But they insist on slaughtering my interest listing their properties, possessions, and bank accounts.
Panel 6. Now we close up to the two assailants. They start moving closer to Ana and Lucian
And you've tried to change the subject of conversation?
I dare not. That's when they start recounting the history of their family.
© Jean Paul Thewissen
PAGE TWENTY-SIX (Seven panels)
Panel 1. We stand behind the assailants, who stand side by side. Over their shoulders, we see Lucian and Ana as they walk. We also see that Lucian turns over his shoulder.
Panel 2. Now we stand behind Ana and Lucian. Lucian points to a group of girls chatting and giggling at some distance.
Dear, I believe I see your friend Sarah over there. Would you mind heading on and say hello?
Did someone catch your attention?
Panel 3.As Ana walks away, Lucian answers with a stern expression.
Panel 4. We stand behind the thugs again. Over their shoulders, we see Lucian walking out of the panel to his right.
Panel 5. Now we focus on the two mercenaries. One is whispering to the other.
You get the old man.
Panel 5. The other assailant walks out of the panel. The one that whispered follows him with his eyes, turning his head.
Panel 6. We stand right in front of the assailant that is to take care of Ana. He looks straight at us now, with a duty bound look. In reality, he turns to look at Ana.
All right, then.
Panel 7. Again, from behind the mercenary. Ana is chatting with her group of lady friends.
On to business.
© Jean Paul Thewissen
Beautiful, right? This way, your artist can better understand what you want her to do, and she can work her magic.
As time goes by, you and your artist will get to know each other better. You'll get to know exactly what it is you need to specify, and he will instinctively begin to get a feeling for your style.
It always helps to have a good, close relationship with your artist if possible.
Google provides an excellent source of open source materials. Google Docs has been an exceptionally functional tool for me. It allows you to share documents with other users. This eliminates the uncertainty of whether or not your artist received your e-mail with the script attached to it.
Develop a feedback system with your artist. I'll elaborate on this in another article.
Get used to receiving phone calls from your artist. If that's not an option, get Skype and get used to receiving calls from your artist. (Apparently, this doesn't apply if you submit your script to publishing houses.)
That would be all for now. The important thing about writing a script for an artist is to be clear, to the point, and organized. This will ensure that the message gets through, and that it gets through in the best way possible.
If you're interested, you can click below to read the on-line Drawn Strip I've publishing. Hope you enjoy it!
Name: Jean Paul Thewissen
Writer of: The Light and Darkness of One's Heart