How I write Comics.

I use my Instagram as a process diary, so it’s filled with photos of what I’m reading and photos of my notebooks and boring shit like that. But this weekend, I thought about posting my current process–for personal posterity reasons–for writing a recent Thought Balloons script. The prompt was in celebration of “home” and celebrated the six year anniversary of @ryanklindsay founding the blog.

There are far better resources for this sort of thing than me, take @jimzub for one. And the excellent comic book script archive–this is just how I do it now (May 2016) after years of fiddling with different processes. Who knows whether this is how I’ll write comics come next year or even by the end of this summer.

Initially, I said I would send this script in my newsletter, but since it contains some sensitive material that really isn’t for public consumption, I’ve decided against it. Regardless, here’s my process.

1. my first step when is to lay out the plot points on every page.

2. After going through the plot points, I’ll start doing page breakdowns where I’ll detail panel descriptions with some dialogue. I check it off when I’ve written the page in script format so I know where I left off.

3. Then I’ll break out those page breakdowns into thumbnails to see if what I detailed actually works on a three-tier comics page. I got this idea from Archie Goodwin, who would draw thumbnails, then script, adding those thumbnails to his script.

4. Yeesh, I need to clean my laptop keyboard, and yes, I’ll never spell TOBOGGAN correctly on the first try. That’s the idea behind this picture: this is my first draft of the script. I won’t start writing until I have the page breakdowns done and the first take on the script is just to combine the page breaks and the thumbs, but really it’s to work out the dialogue. Knowing what’s going into the panels prevents me from writing dialogue that is in reaction to what the art is showing. So the first draft of a script is all about voice, and, for me, that’s about rhythm, so I don’t number the panels until I do what is essentially the fifth draft of a script to make sure things work together.

5. Once I’ve written a draft of the script I will go back and number panels and dialogue. As you can see here, on what is the first plot point in this “Home” script is a situation I had in high school with the school counselor. The numbered word balloons with “3B” and “3C” are continuing word balloons. It’s a trick I picked up from Charles Soule.

If I could guess what my current style of scripting stems from is an amalgamation of @warrenellis, Brian K. Vaughan, @mattfractionblog, Soule, and using the template that Fred Van Lente developed that @jimzub pointed me towards, but I changed the fonts and a few other things.  

I usually write letters at the beginning of scripts to the artist clarifying a few things with character notes and opening the script up for feedback. That’s something I took from @kellysue who I think got it from Neil Gaiman.

This is just how I do it at this time, and I would say it’s a far cry from polished, but this post is just meant to show how I developed my current scripting style and calcify it in time for future reference.

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