How to write a script for comics

By ToddFriday - September 13th, 2013Categories: Articles, News

In my last article: “How to write an outline”, we covered the importance of creating story outlines for your comic and ideas on how to do it. This issue we’ll learn how to write a script for comics. These articles are geared more towards beginners than people who already have experience writing scripts. This is not the only way to do this, however, so please take what works for you and change up the rest.

How to write a script sample

THE BASICS OF HOW TO WRITE A SCRIPT

For each page of your comic, figure out what you want to do and approximate the number of panels you’ll need to pull that idea off. The principle is the same no matter what type of comic you make. For my comic, Frik, I only had to worry about 8-11 panels per one page episode. If you’re working on a 22 page comic, you need to map out the panel to panel flow on each page, as well as flow from one page to the next. This is especially important for the pages that are next to each other as you’re holding the comic.

Once you have all that set, use whatever writing implement of your choice (pen and paper, computer, telepathic goat) and write down the action and the dialogue, including key elements that may need to be in each panel. You do not need to buy fancy script writing software for this! An example script could look like:

PAGE ONE
Panel #1: Wide shot of Hank walking into a long hallway lit only by his flashlight. Hank is framed slightly off center. A storm can be seen outside through the window. The power is out in the house.

Panel #2: Close up shot of a broken dump truck on the floor with Hank’s feet shown in the background walking towards the truck.
                Hank: “Hmmm, what is this?”

Panel #3: Same shot as #2, but Hank’s hand is picking up the broken toy. A rolled up note can be seen jammed into the side of the toy.

Panel #4: Down angle close up shot of Hank opening the note. Note in center of frame.
                Note Says: “Next time will be your car, now bring me dinner! Love, Bobby.”

Panel #5: Lightning strikes outside, causing Hank to jump and scream from fright.

Panel #6: The walls of the hallway begin to melt for no apparent reason other than to end this script….

Notice how the dialogue is on its own line? That will help make things clearer to read, especially if there is more than one character talking. Notice how some panels talk about shot composition. (Close ups, wide shots, down angles, etc) This will help you explain what you’re picturing in your head.

The photo above is from my Frik script notebook (not pictured: legible handwriting.) I use a very stripped down scriptwriting approach since I’m the writer and the artist. I don’t use “Panel #” and such. I actually just bracket off each panel and put the action inside parentheses to separate it from the dialogue. As I said there’s more than one way to do this.

HANDING SCRIPT OFF TO AN ARTIST?

You must give more information than normal. Write down every detail, don’t assume they’ll figure it out. The above script may be fine if you’re also the artist, but if not, you probably need to explain what the hallway looks like, the furnishings, which characters are in each panel, the mood of each character, the lighting, and more detailed shot composition, just to name a few.

Of course there’s a fine line with this because you need your artist to be able to have some creative ownership of their work, since that’s what will make the comic vibrant and alive. Your script should only go so far as to tell the story, not micromanage the look down to the last pen stroke. That’s their job.

Also something else that will help is incorporating other screenplay elements into your script. Use keywords like Exterior or Interior, Day or Night and the scene’s location. The above sample would be: INT. HOUSE HALLWAY – NIGHT. Doing this will help the artist figure out what angles each shot needs to be as well as know where each shot is located in case each panel is going back and forth between multiple locations on the same page.

Check out Rocketbot’s article about “Writing a comic script from plot to outline to final draft” for some more detailed information on the process.

In the next article we will tackle writing dialogue!

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How To Write A Script For Your Comic by Todd Tevlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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