Tricks and Tips: Scripts
Just as writing a “How-to” book or a letter is different than writing a Novel or a Short Story—comic script writing is an endeavor all its own. While solid writing skill is the most important aspect of producing a good script, there are many specific skills and tricks that are important in writing for sequential art.
In this thread post up to three tricks or tips for writing comic scripts. Be as specific as possible in this advice, trying to avoid general writing advice like ‘do multiple drafts’ or show don’t tell.’
The first two of these tips I have run across in reading, they are far from being my own. I did however find them useful, so I will post them here. The third thought is just something I noticed many people do not do.
1. Twenty-eight words of dialogue. - There's a rule-of-thumb for dialogue writing you might want to try. Stan Lee used it, Alan Moore uses it. An average-sized panel can stand about twenty-eight words of dialogue. Try it for a while, before you go your own way; no more than twenty-eight words in each panel.
2.Character Placement and Word Balloons - Consider always when placing a character on the panel that we read from left to right, top to bottom. In general it is considered a common, but large mistake to place the character who speaks first on the right (in cases it is done). This can interfere with word balloon placement, and often is something an editor spots right away to mark someone as an amateur.
3.Scene Shifts – In film when a scene changes, you are always left with a sense of surprise. In comics this can be lost if you transition from one scene to another (or to a surprise in the story) without changing pages. Eyes naturally take in everything that is in front of them so putting an important new revelation in the middle of a page can spoil the surprise.
I'll try applying those.
Jackass of All Trades
you sure that doesn't apply to a PAGE? 28 words a panel for 5 panels seems a bit wordy to me...
Originally Posted by Agamemnon
and to add to this, a rule of thumb I use is to remember to keep a scene on a page. That means start a 'scene' with the first panel of a page, and end it with the last panel of a page - not necessarily the same page though, so you can extend the scene indefinately without confusing the reader.
Originally Posted by Agamemnon
My three tips:
1) Do a page guide before you start writing a script. Determine how many pages you are writing (in most cases 20-22 per issue) and number accordingly. Write a small paragraph of what you want to accomplish on the page under each page number. Be as detailed or as loose as you want. I find that this helps me edit a script easier than when I edit after it's fully written, not to mention keeps me within my page count. Modifying a script after its written is very difficult, unless its a very minor tweak.
2) Quit trying to be unique. Strive to be interesting. This is a personal tip to myself that I'm fond of. Being unique is great, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you can really tell when a person is trying too hard at it, and the story suffers for it. Unique-ness will only get you so far, interest will drive your book. You'll find that in the pursuit of an interesting story, unique elements can and will develop themselves...
3) Read. Watch TV, or documentaries. Watch Movies. Play Video Games with storylines. Absorbing all this will get your creative juices flowing. If you talk to any author, director, writer, etc...you'll find that some elements of their creations come from a myriad of places. Whedon based Inara, the Companion from Firefly off the Geisha Girls from Japan, for example. This ties into my whole "keep it interesting" spiele.
Bonus tip 4) Be flexible. Sometimes what you write simply won't work aesthetically. It could be a matter of camera angle, detail or even some story elements that just won't work. When the artist comes to you with his concerns for a page, listen to him/her. Keep your mind open. (S)He may have something that works better, or be able to offer something constructive that you didn't think of. So drop the hackles and shackles, and bust out the tea and crumpets...
Last edited by amadarwin; 02-08-2005 at 08:20 AM.
I thank you too,I'm told my story telling is very good,but I like to learn.
Thank you both.
Jackass of All Trades
I couldn't help it, I had to post some more. Shoot me on sight please.
1) Format: Make sure the format of the script is obvious. For the full script types like myself, be sure to separate pages, panels, captions, word balloons, and sound effects in a way that everyone working on the book (artist, letterer, etc..) knows what goes where. This avoids needless confusion and helps streamline the process. You can use colors, italics, bold, underlines...whatever helps you help others understand the script. My format (change as suits you) is colorless and is as follows:
Page number and number of panels: Bold, underlined and centered followed by a double space.
Panel numbers: Bold with a colon. The description and notes follow the colon in normal font followed by a double space.
Word balloons, SFX, and captions: Indented beneath their respective panel description followed by a double space when ready to write the next panel.
Other: Characters are always capitalized whever their name is so that everyone knows who should be in each panel and who is saying what.
2) Spelling and Grammar: these are two common mistakes I see on these boards. It's important for whoever is working on your script to be able to read an understand your script. Poor spelling coupled with poor grammar makes translating your script into a visual story a daunting task. For example (and I mean no slight to you Chad), pretend Chadoutsider is writing a script and your job is to make that script into a comic. The other reason for having proper spelling and grammar is the word balloons and captions. If you want to portray a not so intelligent person complete with obvious spelling or grammatical errors indicating his poor speech, or even an accent, how would the letterer or editor know that if the rest of your script is ripe with errors?
3) Consistency. This ties in with the other two tips I wrote here. Be consistent. Not only does that mean to write the same way all the time, it also means to remember the names you use for items and people. If a character has the nickname of 'Jo-Jo' and his real name is 'Fred' and you've been calling him 'Fred' throughout each panel and word balloon designation, keep calling him 'Fred' even though some other character refered to him as 'Jo-Jo'. This goes for inanimate objects as well. The great thing about the English language is that we have a multitude of words that mean the same thing, so be careful not to interchange them liberally or you can confuse the others working on your book. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but for the most part, it's a good practice to avoid confusion.
NEXT: jello and little people.
I am pretty sure that it applies as a limit for an average sized panel--mind you not a guideline but an approximate maximum. I think that average sized would be about 1/5th of a page. Only twenty-eight words on a page would certainly not be enough to tell much of a story.
Originally Posted by amadarwin
Consider the latest script you posted, which seems to approximately follow this guideline:
Panel 1: JULIE has moved closer to the wall to study the writing in blood. There are splatter stains to the body’s right, denoting the possible direction of the slash when her throat was ripped out. The writing is in the midst of these splatters.
JULIE: This looks like the same writing from last night. Might be the same unsub…except for the fact he ripped her head off this time.
FRANK (off panel): I don’t like where this is head-ed…
There are by my count 32 words of dialog on this panel. Right around the limit suggested in my reading in the past. I count the total for that page at 95. A little less than 20 words per panel.
I looked over your script, it seems that you nare following it already, your 'eyeballing' seems to be really accurate. You obviously naturally have a really good feel for what fits on a panel.