You like stories. You wanna tell them.
But it's more than that, isn't it?
You want to build them.
You want others to experience them.
We tell stories everyday in conversation, but how do we transform those into sequential art?
"Where on Earth Do I Start?"
Words, Words, and More Words!
In many ways, comics, that is, sequential art, resembles the art of film making. Every comic has it's own art design and "directing" style, right down to how the characters think and act. The art of comics has been closely linked to realms such as storyboarding and graphic design. Though the common lingo includes the term "novel" (as in graphic novel), the typical novelistic fashion of writing must be adapted for comics much in the same way it is reshaped for a screenplay. Comics don't only involve the thoughts and feelings of your character(s), but they also include specific actions to showcase these emotions. Even if you are showcasing an introverted character that speaks (and thinks) to himself, you must create a logical flow for such a soliloquy to occur and add meat to the plot.
Comics are akin to novels and books, but they are at the same time not exactly novels and books. They are adapted from this closely related medium. Can you write your comic out in novel form first? Sure can! But you must be armed with the realization that the two mediums can have their drastic differences as well. What may work in a novel may not always be the most prudent way to showcase it in a comic!
Setting aside the aspects of storyboarding and panel flow for now, we'll turn our attention to the entire overwhelming process of creating a comic -- telling a story with words and pictures. Where do we even begin to look for an appropriate story to tell? Do you simply mash up your favorites in a kind of fictional lunchroom gumbo? Throw in a snappy self-insert and hope for the best because, after all, who wouldn't identify with you? Or do you simply rush out and buy every single book on writing you can find?
There are a multitude of ways to go about it, really, and no doubt there are many different layers to writing a story! Go to one bookstore and you'll be faced with walls of books ranging from structure to characterization to dialogue. Maybe you just throw up you hands and mosey over to the cafe to find an interesting magazine. Maybe you down a coffee or two, distraught and irritated with the whole idea. Where do you begin?
The truth is that you can begin anywhere -- even your own backyard! (Buried treasure, maybe? X marks the spot!) It doesn't have to be good when you start, just so long as you start! Some of you may stick to the time-honored saying of, "I write for myself." This is a wonderful saying, and I don't knock it in the slightest. Everyone who has ever finger-painted has experienced the immense fulfillment that comes from the raw process of simply creating. However, whether you're writing for yourself or for an audience, I find that it's still worthwhile to at least consider the issue of writing/storytelling from several perspectives.
So. Let's focus our effort here. What do we want to talk about exactly? Can we distill these many complex issues into a simple layout of principles that we can relate right here, right now to comicking? Let's try. We'll keep it kind of loose and break it into sections. We'll reflect on our own backgrounds and interests. We'll take a gander at genres, demographics, and target audiences. Later, we'll muse about what kinds of brainstorming techniques are out there -- conceptualization and flow charts and outlines -- and we'll see if any of them work for you. Later still, we'll think about characters, the illusion of life, and targeted writing. We'll consider the idea of the comic from not only the perspective of a writer, but also from the viewpoint of a concept designer and a cinematographer.
In short, we're not aiming to rehash an academic in-depth discussion on writing in general (though we may trade book recommendations here and there and quote a few wiser, more experienced writers), but rather...we're going to try to expand on these issues as they relate to comics, so perhaps we can all branch out and apply them in new and exciting ways. Hilaire Belloc said, "Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing." However, let's consider this more of a free talk than a serious attempt at explaining the cosmos. We aim to spit out all the interesting advice we've come across in books and gotten in person from others, especially at those snappy October storytelling festivals (a deep South tradition). By giving structure to these topics, hopefully we can gain a fresh perspective on them and learn more about them together.
Let's get started! (Planned discussion topics below. We will probably discuss them out of order, as inspiration strikes!)
#1: What if...?
#2: Characters, Conflict, and Plot
#3: A Brief Aside on Genre and Target Audience
#4: Translating the Medium: Comics and Conceptualization
#5: Brainstorming and the Importance of Creating a "Working Script"
#6: Putting Together a Design Concept: Memory and Association
#7: More on Writing: Ancient Formulas and Contemporary Theories
Writers: Tay & Erin Holt
Any contributors will be credited in future articles.
As a tiny disclaimer, this is an exploratory series. We're by no means claiming expertise or even much beyond noob status as creators. Don't expect too much from this either, as it is more of a free discussion than aggressive finger-wagging. Any "good stuff" in these articles is a conglomeration of loads of other ideas about reading, writing, and film-making. We hope to to learn as we write as a community. It gives us incentive to read, research, and talk to all of you.
The books used will be cited at the end of every article. If you would like to contribute, by all means do so! You can either arrange to write your own guest article or you can contact me at TaylorHolt@StudioLoom.com. You may simply leave a comment on any subject with regard to comic-making and we'll incorporate it into later articles. Let's try to keep it positive. There is no wrong answer or way of thinking here; just talk about what works for you. All Articles are cross-posted to our blog. I can't offer much, but if you participate in a substantial, positive way, we'll spotlight you on our blog as well. Cheers!