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  • Advice/help for novel adaptation...

    Evening all, just looking for any advice etc. in regards to a prose to comic adaptation.

    Now PUMMEL has finished, I fancy dipping into a decent chunk of sequentials. What has been majorly apparent in my sequential work is my struggles with storytelling, both from panel to panel, and from page to page. I thought adapting a novel may help.

    Has anyone else tried such an undertaking, and would you be so kind as to share your experiences/advice?

    Thanks chaps and chapettes!
    CLEAN SLATE!!!

  • #2
    Without images, there is no reason for this post to be here. This lab is for critiquing actual sequential art.
    Money can't buy you happiness, but it will pay for the search.

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    • #3
      @pop...

      With the greatest of respect, where would you suggest I post this...?
      CLEAN SLATE!!!

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      • #4
        I'm thinking your best bet is Tips and Tech. I would be happy to move it for you.
        Money can't buy you happiness, but it will pay for the search.

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        • #5
          Thank you kindly, much appreciated.
          CLEAN SLATE!!!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by WILLETT View Post
            Evening all, just looking for any advice etc. in regards to a prose to comic adaptation.
            First things first: rewrite!

            Novels can be introspective with the narrator's voice in ways a comic book cannot match and in ways a motion picture (including television) can't hope to approach.
            While comics can incorporate some introspection your big advantage will be in visuals. Think about the starship Enterprise. Assuming no one had ever seen Star Trek a novelist would have a devil of a time trying to describe Enterprise. As a comic book artist you can just draw it. So when you are rewriting, think in terms of the visuals and eliminate any excess introspection that does not move the story forward.

            Hope that helps.
            CyberLord
            Smashing 37 arch-villains into raisins with his bare-hands since 1971!

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            • #7
              @cyberLord;

              Excellent stuff, I made the decision to move the story 20 years forward (the original is set in the mid 70's), and already planned parts where modern technology wasn't originally included. Certain areas are set in existing places, so some of my research is done for me. The difficulty will be trimming the fat as you've described. I may buy a cheap paperback version to anote, cull and scribble on.

              Thanks for your time
              CLEAN SLATE!!!

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              • #8
                Heyhey, this is kinda what I do.

                Which is to say I work on illustrating novels, and creating concept art based on the text of novels, mostly for a single author (Brandon Sanderson), but I've worked around a little and it's something I'd like to do for more authors. Last year I even did a comics adaptation of his novella Minion, based off the adapted script by Rik Hoskin. But I've also spent some time breaking down Sanderson's novel Mistborn for adaptation, and the method I was using seems pretty good.

                I can suggest a couple things:

                First, pick the right author, and the right book. You want someone who uses clear descriptive terms and straightforward storytelling. The more cerebral the book and internal the plot, the harder it is to adapt to sequential art. You ideally want something that describes actions and events from third-person perspective, whether that's third-person limited (only following a single character and knowing what they know) or third-person omniscient (following multiple characters and knowing things the characters do not).

                If you can find a good short story, that's perfect. Don't go for a whole novel, it's too much. A short, or at most a novella, will be something you can work out into a reasonable number of pages without too much abridgement and without setting yourself up for a goal that will take a year or more to actually complete.

                Buy a paperback copy, mark the hell out of it. Take a pencil, start reading. What I do is underline and divide the passages of descriptive text and dialogue (external and internal). You're looking to isolate the parts of the book that you can directly translate into words and pictures.

                Start breaking those passages down into panels. Look at the description of the scene or the action, and think about how best to lay it out. I'll put a little vertical line between sentences where I think there should be a panel break. I'll bracket the passage in the margins for a page. Sometimes you can go paragraphs without isolating panels, sometimes you'll do it every other sentence. Make sure you keep track of the number of pages you're creating.

                While working out the panel divisions, try and keep track of the whole page. Remember the rules about good sequential layout... try to end the page on a question, mix your shots, etc. If there's room, thumbnail the panel layouts you're thinking of in the margins. This is much easier to do with books in the trade paperback format, although those are of course a little larger and more expensive.

                I wish I could find my annotated copy, it's around here somewhere but I'm in the middle of packing. If I can hunt it down, I'll take a picture so you can see what my pages look like.

                It's good fun, and it does help take some of the pressure off if you're just looking to draw and layout, and not also write and create and characterize and plot. In addition, there's a good market out there for creative artists able to adapt novels into graphic novels, because graphic novels are easier to sell as movies. But that's another part of the business, and better left for later. For now, just do up a short story and get some practice in.
                Last edited by Inkthinker; 06-03-2016, 12:11 AM.
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                • #9
                  I adapted a Ray Bradbury short story (Kaleidoscope) years ago for an anthology.

                  I had to be brutal in adapting it. I decided to only use dialogue. I made use of the descriptive text for my story.

                  I don’t not sure if I was given a page limit from the publisher. I don’t think I had a limit, because I don’t remember trying to squeeze it into a certain number of pages.
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                  • #10
                    @inkthinker: Thanks for such an in-depth reply. Against all of your well argued advice, I'm going straight for the novel, haha!!! It's not a War and Peace level epic, more a young adult mild horror story that I've been talking myself out of for years. I hope to learn as I go, and if and when I finish, keep swapping out pages until I die!

                    However, I will be following your advice on annotation and breakdown. Having an insight into how such professionals as yourself attack a project such as this has given me quite the confidence boost. I'd love to see that book if you ever manage to come by it again, and I'll keep my Art Blog up to date as I progress. Thank you once again.

                    @symson: I'm giving myself no restrictions in regards to page numbers... Decades may be a better rule of thumb!
                    CLEAN SLATE!!!

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                    • #11
                      It's just a regular paperback novel with a lot of underlining and bracketing.

                      As you get into breaking down you own choice, you'll get a sense for the scale of what you're proposing (that's one reason I did it, to establish a baseline for discussion of how many pages we would need to faithfully adapt the book, rather than abridging it, which is basically a rewrite). Of course, it depends on your book and how it's paced and written, so your mileage will vary. But doing the breakdown first is wise, if only to establish the parameters of the project.

                      We decided that if we ever do a graphic novel for that IP, it'll be a different story. We'd get more mileage out of that with the fans, avoid complaints regarding the decisions we make in adaptation, and it's easier to control the scale of the book.

                      But I'd still like to do a good book adaptation... so who knows what the future holds.
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                      • #12
                        What an interesting thing to do. -^,..,^- I can think of entire series of books I think would be awesome as comics. The Xanth series as a comic would certainly be interesting. *laughs* A trip for sure!

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                        • #13
                          This sounds like a great undertaking, Willett!! Best of luck!!

                          In case you're still thinking about it... I would suggest considering adapting a screenplay or play. They are more direct in the settings and actions, and they are both intended for visual representation. In high school I adapted part of Othello to sequential pages as a project for English class.

                          Most importantly - have fun!!
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