Not in Script? Not on Page!

Lately, I’ve been editing a graphic novel script for a client. It’s her first try at comic scripting, but she comes from a background in animation scriptwriting. The fact that she’s using an animation format was a little unusual to me, but that’s one of the nice things about comic scripting: the formatting is not as specific as screenwriting.

One of the key things about comic scripting, is that you need to be specific in your panel descriptions. Unlike screenwriting, where you can assume things carry forward during the course of a scene, in comic scripting, you can’t make the same assumptions about the panel descriptions.

Get It In the Panel Description

Tsalosha smiling

The artist gave Tsalosha a pleased smile at this moment.

Panel descriptions are perhaps the hardest thing for a novice comic script writer to grasp. In screenwriting and in prose, the writer can assume that things carry forward. But that’s not the case with comic scripting. You need to be clear about things in the panel.

But it’s not just carrying forward elements of the scene. It’s about making sure that you as the writer let the artist know details like a character’s reaction to events.

I learned this lesson the hard way. In my first story that was drawn by a professional artist (Gordon Purcell), one of the aspects of the story was that the characters were shape-changers. Each character could change into a particular animal. It is strongly implied in the story that they can only change into one such animal.

In the story, my hero, Tsalosha, changes into a stag. However, at the climax of the story comes a special revelation. His rival has provoked a slide of rocks down a mountain-side at Tsalosha, and he falls off a cliff. (This actually happens at the page turn, so it is quite literally a “cliff-hanger”.) On the next page, he turns into an eagle! This is a big surprise to everyone.

When You Forget Something Crucial

The problem is that there was one crucial aspect of this transformation that did not get into the script: that Tsalosha himself did not know he could turn into more than one animal. This transformation was supposed to be as much a surprise to him as it is to everyone.

Tsalosha anxious and surprised.

Tsalosha anxious and surprised.

Above you can see the way Gordon rendered Tsalosha’s face as he falls – there’s a happy smile on his face in the detail. What this does to the storytelling is that it changes what the Reader interprets in the character’s reaction. Even though this smile is a very tiny detail in the whole panel, it is clear in the artist’s work.

That’s because in the script, I didn’t give the artist an indication that the transformation should be a shock to Tsalosha as well. He should be afraid, thinking he is falling to his death. But I forgot to put that crucial bit of information into the script to let my artist know how to draw that detail.

Now, I’ve been preparing a color version of the story to add to my website, so it gave me an opportunity to change this little detail, because it is important to me. The color version with have the expression of the second picture here, one that is a bit more anxious.

The Lesson To Be Learned

Make sure that you are clear about every panel description in your script. Don’t assume that your artist can read your mind about your intentions for the atmosphere of the scene or the emotions of the character.

Excite and inspire your artist, always. But make sure that you also provide him or her with all the information needed to tell the story just the way you want it.

The whole panel with the detail

The whole panel with the detail.

Learn About Sequential Art

Have you ever wondered how to go about getting a story you’ve already created into graphic novel form? Creating Graphic Novels will help you through the steps toward that desired end.

sequential art sequenceAdapting a screenplay to the graphic novel form requires learning the mechanics of the graphic novel / comic book form. Even if you have read comics and graphic novels for years, sitting down to write a script that the artist can work from doesn’t come automatically. A graphic novel script has to do some things that are very different from what a screenplay does.

Learning these details are not hard, once you adjust to the different purposes. But it really is not the same thing as a screenplay.

Creating Graphic Novels is the book I’ve been waiting for! It’s actually written with screenwriters in mind, knowing that eventually we’ll be asked the dreaded question by a producer, ‘Is there a book I can see?’ From terminology and creation, to networking and marketing, this book has it all. I can’t recommend it highly enough for screenwriters looking to turn their story into a graphic novel as an aid to getting a movie made, or as a rewarding, tangible creative endeavor in its own right.”

— Trevor Mayes, writer/director of My Demon Girlfriend

This volume, Creating Graphic Novels, will help you go from graphic novel reader to the creator of one. If you know how to tell a story, you will be able to follow how to fit your story into the graphic novel format. For writers who are not artists, who wonder how they can find an artist to help visualize the story, the book also provides information on where to find the artists and how to create a working team with them.

Finding an Artist for Your Graphic Novel

Artists Alley at a convention

Artists Alley at a convention

When you are a writer setting out to create a graphic novel project and you are not yourself an artist, the biggest question can be “How do I find an artist?” You may have friends who are artists, but who have never done sequential storytelling. Or you may like their style for many things, but know that it doesn’t quite fit your story. When you really want everything about the project to be “just right”, you face some challenging decisions when you look for an artist.

If you don’t know a lot of professional artists (or even semi-professional ones), how do you find an artist? You can check a number of online website, that’s true. A site like Deviant Art will let you browse through the galleries of established and aspiring comic book artists. But you can’t always tell if the artist who has great pin-ups can also handle the sequential storytelling of a graphic novel.

Artist Tone Rodriguez in Artists Alley

Artist Tone Rodriguez in Artists Alley

Another place you can go to find an artist is at conventions. Most all conventions that are geared toward the popular culture of comics and graphic novels will have an Artists Alley, where working artists display their work, create works on commission, or even work on assigned paying jobs while making themselves available to fans. You can talk with them, look at a variety of their works, discuss collaboration possibilities.

This is just the briefest bit of advice on selecting an artist for your project. In Creating Graphic Novels you can find more information on what to look for in an artist, as well as the factors you need to consider in connecting with a creative partner (because that is what your artist in the graphic novel will be). Check out the book for the most accessible introduction to the business of comics and graphic novels.

Where to Begin in Creating a Graphic Novel?

I know a lot of writers who have toyed with the idea of creating a graphic novel version of one of their (usually unpublished) works, whether it’s a screenplay, novel, or short story. But they hold themselves back from it because they aren’t familiar with the business side of graphic novels and comic books. It’s a pity because the process, though a lot of work, is not as difficult as they might imagine.

scribblerworks graphic short story tsaloshaThinking Visually

One of the first things to consider in approaching the possibility of turning your story into a graphic novel is the visual possibilities in your story. Since, assuming you are not an artist yourself, you are going to be hiring an artist to draw the images for your story, you want the tale to give that person some exciting things to do: action encounters, emotional intensity in the characters, interesting locations. And while you may be in love with your prose, a graphic novel is about images. You will be giving up some of your wonderful prose in favor of wonderful artwork.

For the script of a graphic novel, you want to make the artist fall in love with the image potential in the stories. If you bore the artist, you will get boring artwork. So you want to excite your artist. To do that, you have to think visually about the story you are telling.

Learning About Artists

Of course, if you don’t know any artists, you may have no idea of what will excite one. To learn about what any artist likes to draw, what they are good at, what their finished artwork looks like, you need to do some research. You can search online and find many artists and then initiate email conversations with them. Or you can go to comic book conventions and cruise the Artists Alley of the exhibit hall, and see first hand the various styles and abilities of many artists. The artist is usually right there at the table for you to talk to and discuss possibilities.

Information Right at Your Hand

There’s no need for you to feel completely overwhelmed by these steps. I give you the basics for getting started in Creating Graphic Novels. In this book, I walk the graphic novel novice through the whole process. I explain the special jargon of graphic novels and comic books, finding art teams, and the options in  publishing.

This books is a great gift for your aspiring graphic novelist, or for yourself. Check it out! (And by the way, if you purchase from the publisher right now, you can get the book at a 25% discount with free shipping! Don’t wait!)

Writing Matters at the 2015 Portland Comic Con

Even though I was not able to do any panels or presentations myself at the convention (since I missed the deadline for those), I still enjoyed my time at the Wizard World Portland Comic Con. It gave me an opportunity to show the book around to various people as well as do some networking. Every convention has at least a few panels or presentations about writing.

Philip Athans

Philip Athans

The first presentation I attended was given by Philip Athans, about writing fantasy and science fiction. A former senior managing editor for Wizards of the Coast he had good advice to writers who are stepping into these genres. World-building is always a crucial element in convincing your readers to invest in your fictional world.

There’s a lot of cross-over between readers and writers of fantasy and science fiction and the creators of many graphic novels. It’s one reason why a presentation like this does very well at conventions. Athans managed to fill his time slot quite well, in addition to fielding a number of questions from aspiring writers in the audience.

Victor Dandridge

Victor Dandridge

From there I went on to a presentation titled “VIPs of Self-Publishing”, a discussion led by Victor Dandridge. This turned out to be a more casual interaction between Dandridge and those in the audience. He’s an engaging speaker and had plenty to say to the group, drawing from his own experiences in stepping out and publishing his own works, building his audience and getting attention for his titles. His enthusiasm for the activity was inspiring.

Since the time slot for this presentation ended at 7:15 pm, I took the opportunity to chat with Victor as we walked down to the Exhibit Hall. He has committed himself to getting his independent comics out into the marketplace, and I think he certainly has the drive to make an impression in the business.

Walking through Exhibit Hall, I had also taken the time to connect with a couple of friends who had tables in the Artists Alley. One was artist Steve Lieber (he’s a Portland resident, so I was sure I would see him). One of the nicest guys in the business, Steve is always a pleasure to talk to.

Another friend I stopped to chat with was Kurt Busiek. The man is an exceptional writer, whose stories I’ve always enjoyed. He was one of the featured guests of the convention. We chatted a bit about his new title “Tooth and Claw”. The book looks terrific, and should be checked out by readers.

Saturday began for me with the panel “How to Write Comics”.

L to R: Danny Fingeroth, Kurt Busiek, Michael Avon Oeming, Chris Gage, Brandon Seifert

L to R: Danny Fingeroth, Kurt Busiek, Michael Avon Oeming, Chris Gage, Brandon Seifert

Each of the gentlemen discussed various aspects of writing comics, from the variety of ways a comic/graphic novel script can be arranged (highlighted by comments from Fingeroth and Busiek), to the differences between scripting television and comics (Chris Gage speaking from his experiences). The panel also fielded questions from the audience.

Later in the day I attended a panel titled “The Future of Storytelling”, out of curiosity as to what they would have to say.

L to R: Rick Turoczy, Nick Lambert, and Daniel H. Wilson

L to R: Rick Turoczy, Nick Lambert, and Daniel H. Wilson

Their presentation centered around the game they developed for the iPhone, “Mayday! Deep Space”. The innovations of their creation are that the game was given a degree of artificial intelligence, and that commands are delivered by voice (the app features voice recognition for play). The player is not the main character in the “story” of the game, but rather is advising the character in choices – and if you the player send the character down a corridor with a monster at the end of it, he’s going to turn and run away. The panelists discussed how this type of approach can change the way stories are created, due to the interactivity of the characters and the player/audience. Wilson posed the question about whether this would totally change the way stories are told. But most of the audience felt it would not, but rather would become just another way to tell stories, another tool in the arsenal.

In spite of not having a platform to launch myself from, attending the Portland convention was a good way to launch this year. In addition to the networking I did, I encountered a reader of my own book! She was in the audience for Victor Dandridge’s presentation. As it happened, she had just recently purchased the book online. Being at the convention gave me ideas for different presentations I could make at future conventions, covering areas that others do not.

Heading to the Portland Comic Con

This coming weekend is the Wizard World Portland Comic Con, and I’m driving up to attend it. Even though I was not able to get a slot on the program (I made that approach too late in the process), I mean to talk up the book as much as I can.


I hope to connect with a few professional friends at the convention, plus show my book around at least a little bit.

Might Head to Portland Wizard World

I just realized that the Portland Wizard World is January 23-25, 2015 – which will be during the tail end of my stay in Oregon. It may be possible for me to attend, and possibly even do a presentation or panel or two at the con. I’m going to jump on that and see what I can pull together!

If the pieces come together, I’ll be taking the Creating Graphic Novels show on the road!



Friendly New Review!

I just got a link to a new review of the book this morning. Forris Day Jr at Scared Stiff reviews has some nice things to say about the book.

Professor Exposition thanks him for the mention in the review.


I got a lot of satisfaction at the reviewer’s pleasure in what he learned from the book, especially his observations about how it changed his perception of attendees at conventions.

Thanks to him. And if you haven’t checked the book out yet, it’s waiting for you at Michael Wiese Productions!

Writers Store Signing – Aug. 30!

3510 West Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank, CA (just east of Hollywood Way)
AUGUST 30, 2014

CGN-final-cover-netSarah Beach will help launch you into a new dimension of storytelling with her book CREATING GRAPHIC NOVELS. This new release from Michael Wiese Productions will introduce screenwriters to the basics of graphic novels, from the specific nature of a graphic novel script to how to find your art team, and onward into the basic business of getting your work before an audience.

Color headshotIf you’ve ever heard a producer say “I wish there was a graphic novel of this so I could see what the film would look like,” then you need the information in this book.

Sarah will be at the Writers Store on Saturday, August 30th, from 1 to 3, signing copies of the book and answering questions. Come mingle, chat, ask questions! She will give a brief talk about what screenwriters can gain from learning about graphic novels, and then answer as many questions as she is able.

Screenwriters! Broaden your horizons and increase your options by learning about graphic novels.


The Writers Store, Inc.
3510 West Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank CA, 91505 (map it)
Phone: 800-272-8927
or 310-441-5151
Fax: 818-566-8644

Thanks to the Golden Apple staff!

Well, I had my first outing with the new book, at Golden Apple’s After Con Party last night.

I really want to thank Ryan Liebowitz and the rest of the staff at Golden Apple. I was one of a number of creators with special books to show and sell to the folks. The staff did a great job giving us space, and making sure all ran well.


Admittedly, my “how to” book wasn’t as immediately grabbing to most of the customers coming by, but a good number did check it out for future consideration. And we even sold a couple of copies!

Ryan is an enthusiastic supporter, and he believes that in the long run, the book will do well as more people become aware of it. That’s an encouraging thing to hear!

Go to the MICHAEL WIESE PRODUCTIONS page right now! They’re offering a 25% discount when you order the book directly from them! Check it out (and their many other fine titles)!