Writing my Graphic Novel Script

I started writing the script for Solstice and so far it’s about four pages altogether. It’s definitely been a challenge because it’s so different from prose writing and I have to concentrate on how it will work visually.

Part of the challenge was finding a format to write in. On the internet there’s a multitude of different formats, from writing the content of each panel in paragraphs to creating something that resembles a screenplay.

So I had to experiment and try different things. Eventually, I came across a video called “How to write for comics! Comics for Beginners episode 2” by Palle Schmidt. He used a format closer to what I wanted and put some helpful notes. Here’s a shot from the video:

comic script template

Schmidt’s Format

By using this format, I wouldn’t have to think about the panels and page in such detail. So I tried it, and I like how it’s working. Here’s the first page of the first draft:

excerpt solstice format

My Attempt

The dialogue is in the middle of the page, with visual description and random notes to myself between it. The internal monologue I put in italics.

It’s really experimental at the moment, since I’m still trying to figure this whole process out and use it to build a story. It doesn’t feel like I know what I’m doing, but that’s okay. It’s all in good fun.

The deadline I’m setting for myself is a week from now- March 15. Hopefully by then I’ll be ready to start thumbnail sketches. Onwards!

Advertisement

The Plan

So I finally sat down and did some planning to see how I’d actually go about making a graphic novel in two and a half months.The result is this schedule-type thing:

  1. Outlining- 1 week
  2. Writing- 1 week
  3. Sketching- 1 week
  4. Drawing- 4 weeks
  5. Coloring- 2 weeks
  6. Formatting- 1 week

Basically, I’m going to split up my time into these six parts. It looks like a lot of work…and I think it’s going to be. But that won’t stop me!

The good thing is that I’m pretty close to starting the actual writing. And then comes the art side of it, which I’m more unsure about. Well, that’s something I’ll tackle when the time comes. It’s all part of the adventure.

Outlining my Graphic Novel

The first step on my graphic novel journey is outlining. So I’m doing it, albeit reluctantly. It’s my least favorite stage of the writing process, but I know from experience that it works for me.

Last year I finished my first novel. I wish I’d documented it online, but sadly, I didn’t have a blog. Anyway, outlining was my breakthrough. After years of seat-of-the-pants writing and countless abandoned stories, I forced myself to try it, just to see if it worked. (I was doubtful). But in the end it did work. It worked wonders.

My Supplies List:

1. Notebook 2. Another Notebook (you can never have too many)

1. Notebook
2. Another Notebook
(you can never have too many)
3. Complete Idiot’s Guide
(I embrace it)
4. To-Do List
5. Pens/Pencils

*It’s not on the list, but a computer might be helpful. I use one along with writing by hand.

Even though I’m working on a visual story, I find that the three main elements of novel-outlining- character, plot, and setting- are still present. The major difference is the layer that illustration adds to the written story.

The outlining process involves many steps, all of which I’m doing at the same time in a chaotic frenzy.

1. Character

Although I don’t often try to develop characters first, I’m putting it as #1 because I consider it the most important aspect of a story, right next to plot. Creating characters involves making biographies and listing traits and flaws along with more abstract things like goals and values. I like to work on my main characters first, including the antagonist, then the secondary characters.

My protagonist’s character development is the most extensive out of all the characters because it determines what the voice will sound like. I’m going to write in first-person, so he’ll be the character the readers hang out with the most. His voice needs to be strong enough to carry them through the story. Also, I have to make sure he is likeable, relatable (to some extent), and interesting.

So far, I know these little things about my protagonist: His name is Fox. He is a young boy who is curious, introspective, independent, and lonely. He likes to collect strange objects and doesn’t talk much.

2. Plot

I think it’s fun to block out scenes and see how the story twists and turns from a bird’s-eye view. It’s at this stage where I can really imagine the story coming to life.

Plotting can be difficult at times because I have to stop being lazy, actually sit down with a pen and paper, roll up my sleeves, and start the dirty work. Blocking out scenes involves messy handwriting, arrows going everywhere, scene lists getting reorganized and cut and mashed together into a big mess of ideas that resembles a five-year-old’s mud pie. If anybody saw my notes they’d probably think I was going mad.

But there is something magical about this part, however messy it may be, because the story is starting to take shape. I’ve connected things and now it looks like a sculpture of sorts, with pieces and chunks of clay sticking out. It’s not pretty, but now I have something to work with. The general story is shaping up. Later comes the smoothing out.

An exercise I like to challenge myself with is the one sentence plot summary. It helps me streamline my story into its bare parts, letting me know what I’m getting myself into. It catches me before I dive into the details and realize that this is not the story I want to tell. Or it assures me that I’m on the right track.

Here’s mine: A boy named Fox is recruited into a group of children who want to track down the shadow monster that lingers on the edges of their makeshift village and threatens its unstable balance.

It took me several tries and a lot of cutting-out, but I somehow managed to describe the main idea in one sentence. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Going through the beginning of the outlining phase, I didn’t expect so much change to happen to the story. I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you that three weeks ago this book was going to be about a cat who wants to be an astronaut. I’m very indecisive and had a lot of attractive ideas, but I chose to put that story in the vault for another day and continue with this one. Over time I’ll try to embrace change.

3. Setting

I’ve found this aspect differs from novel outlining the most. In a full written novel, descriptions must be written out sentence by sentence. In a visual story, the visual description happens through artwork. There’s no need to describe the emotion on a characters face or how the light hits the trees in the forest because the readers will see it and understand (hopefully).

tree doodle

tree doodle

I’m both excited and nervous for this part of the process, which I haven’t really started yet, because it indicates uncharted waters. This is where the familiarity ends. I have experience in drawing and art, but not in creating characters and worlds. That’s what makes the whole process an exciting adventure, though.

My goal for now is to continue outlining and start getting into the details. I know this is going to be challenging, but I’m so excited!

-Tori

Inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere, if you look for it. Sometimes you just have to look hard.

I used to sit around all day watching TV, surfing the web, thinking that out of nowhere, the greatest idea I’d ever fathomed would spring into my head, fully formed. I’d just have to let my fingers fly and BAM! I’d have a story. I would keep that in my mind as I waited. And waited.

And waited.

Then I’d realize that nothing was happening. Because I was not giving precious brain power to focusing and formulating, I wasn’t getting ideas in return. At the time I didn’t understand that more often than not, ideas need to be created. They are like seeds that need your thoughts, passion, and devoted time in order to grow into beautiful flowers.

Even if you’re just starting out, even if you don’t think you have a single idea, there is the seed of one in your mind, hidden, waiting for the right conditions to grow.

That’s where you come in. Your job as a crafter, writer, project-planner, or creator of any kind is to search out the inspiration to make an original idea. You are the grower. The catalyst. Luckily, there are many ways to find inspiration, and not all of them involve brain-busting, vein-popping concentration. (That’s a good way to burn yourself out). There are ways to exercise the brain without feeling like its even exercise.

My favorite is reading. Reading is fun! It’s relaxing. It’s also a great medium for unlocking your inner genius and getting your subconscious working. Reading graphic novels, illustrated books, and non-graphic novels both in print and online inspired me and gave me a lot of the ideas I plan to implement in my own project.

In my journey for inspiration, I like to recall certain aspects of each story that I love, for example the art style, the theme, or a specific moment where I felt something special. Without stealing the idea, only focusing on a piece of it or a feeling, I start to piece together what I want my own project to look, sound, and feel like. Sometimes I have a breakthrough, and sometimes I don’t. But I certainly come closer to knowing exactly what I envision for my project. This kind of deep and underlying idea development is valuable to me, especially at the early stages of my project.

Being a visual person and working on a visual project, this mental exercise really helps me. That being said, you might find inspiration somewhere else, depending on you and your project. Experiment! Try new things. Soon you’ll figure out the process that works best for you.

One thing I have to remind myself once in a while is to keep ideas fresh and unique. Being inspired by other people is great, but making your own original concepts is even better. Add twists, combine ideas, and remember to keep finding inspiration!

  • Tori

I’d love to hear your thoughts on inspiration! Where do you discover it?

New Beginnings

Hi everyone! My name is Tori and I’m new to the blogging side of the internet. I’m excited because this blog will witness the creation of my newest project, Solstice. It’ll be a graphic novel that I’ll self-publish this spring!

I made this blog to record how I go through the process of creating a graphic novel from start to finish. You’ll get to see my mistakes (we’ll laugh them off) and the nuts and bolts behind making a beautiful book. In the future I’ll share about the other projects I plan to do, like writing a fiction novel, for example.

First off, I want to let you know that I have never made a graphic novel before. The entire process is completely new to me. But that’s where the fun lies- I get to experiment and push my ideas and creativity to their limits, all the while doing the two activities I love most in the world: writing and making art.

As you can probably tell, I’m super excited. A little scared, but mostly excited.

I created this blog with the hopes that you would be inspired to go out and create, or do whatever it is you’re passionate about! I can’t wait to meet all of you on your journeys.

Now let’s have some fun!

– Tori 🙂