12 Points for Writing Comic Books

By Joshua Dysart

I was asked how to write a comic script by a writer who had never worked in the medium. I came up with 12 points. Thought I’d post them here.

You can find comic scripts online for formatting ideas. Other than that… off the top of my head…

1. One panel is only a single image. Do not ask for multiple actions from a single character in one panel.

2. Visualize the panel. Do not write a panel that you can’t visualize yourself or is too crowded. Think in strong, precise imagery.

3. Visualize the page. How much space are you giving your artist? A tight, busy page has a different impact on the reader than an open page. Tight means more story. Open means larger visual impact.

4. Look at comic pages that others have done and that you think are successful. How are they using form to affect the reader? Why did they choose that form?

5. The page-turn is your most powerful weapon in controlling pacing, exitement, and surprise. Use it for reveals, image bombing, and reader manipulation.

6. What is the “story of the page”? Every page should be a little story – a character beat, an emotional flex, an intriguing idea, or a grand visual. Each page is a building block in the larger narrative. Don’t spin your wheels. Don’t burn pages for no reason.

7. Scene transitioning is the secret to reader flow. Try to make each scene feed the next, you are a DJ, your sequences are songs, seemless transitions keep the reader on rails.

8. Juxtapose text and image whenever possible. This is the key to creating unspoken meaning.

9. Ponder confluence.

10. Write honestly, from life. No matter how fantastic the subject matter. Where are you in your life? Be introspective, be genuine, learn about yourself through the writing process. Don’t be afraid to reveal yourself in the work.

11. Struggle to make your characters people, not just ideas.

12. Read “Understanding Comics“.

Good luck.

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