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Sunday, December 2, 2007

How To Write Comics

When you go to a bookstore, you'll find tons of books about writing novels and screenplays, and their approaches vary from the casual to the academic. There are books that focus solely on plot, on character development, even on dialogue. There are even books that claim to help you write a full-length novel in thirty days.

But there are hardly any books out there about writing a comics story.

I think we can all agree that iffy writing and storycrafting cannot save gorgeous art. This is what I felt when I read Avengers Forever and Batman: Hongkong. But then that's just me. On the other hand, I really admire the writing in House of M, as well as in Supreme Power, even in Runaways, if you're curious about what kind of writing I go for.

Conversely, brilliant writing can almost always save crappy art.

If you want to up your arsenal when it comes to writing comics stories, the closest reference you can get is to pick up a writing book, particularly for screenplays. Because compared to fiction novels, movies are closer to comics as they use words and images to tell a story. Movie making requires storyboarding, which is similar to the panel-to-panel storytelling of comics.

Beginning graphic novelists would benefit from knowing the basics of plot, structure, character development, theme, and other storytelling elements, and how they all interconnect to make your story one solid living thing. You may not be writing a screenplay, but you'll discover much that you can translate to a comics story.

On my end, I found myself investing in fiction writing books first, not books on screenplays. The first book I bought about writing was The Novelist's Bootcamp by Todd Stone, which takes you through a bootcamp-like process when conceptualizing in putting together a story. It's not the best book on the subject, but it's a great kick in the pants. One of the better books I got was Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. This book gives the lowdown on developing a plot and the laying out the three-act structure, with lots of writing exercises to experiment with. I'm still waiting on a couple of screenwriting books for delivery.

As they say, sometimes you have to look beyond your field to get better at it.

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