One Writer’s Journey

September 20, 2018

Graphic Novels: How to Format Your Script

Not long ago, I saw a call for authors to write nonfiction graphic novels.  Sounds great, but I don’t illustrate and I have no clue how to format the manuscript.  I tried looking it up online and . . . nada.

Part of my problem may have been that I was using the wrong lingo.  It is a graphic novel script.  I discovered this reading The Art of Comic Book Writing by Mark Kneece.

Kneece recommends three steps to writing.

The first is know what goes on in each Act.  Act 1 establishes main character and story problem and is no more than 25% of the total page count. Act 2 is 65% of the page count more or less.  Character attempts to understand the problem and make progress. Act 3 is more or less 10% of the total page count.  The main character puts forth huge effort at great risk and, hopefully, succeeds.

Next, the writer figures out what happens on each page.  This is a great place to pinpoint problems in pacing.

Finally, the writer creates a full script.  At this point, the author is figuring out how many panels will go onto each page and how the action will flow.  Once the writer knows what goes on in each panel, it is time to start writing.  The script for a single panel will look something like this:

Panel 1 – Description should be written here.  Some writers create lengthy complex descriptions. Others are much briefer.  It is even okay to include photos for visual reference.

Caption: Narrative goes here.  This is the narrative text often at the top of the panel.  “The chase had begun…”

Jane Doe: Dialogue.  Keep it brief.

John Doe:  Dialogue.  Still keeping it brief.

SFX: Onomatopoeia sound noises here.  Kapow!

Panel 2 – Description, etc as in panel 1.

Unlike book manuscripts, much of this is single spaced.  That surprised me.  So did the proportion of story given over to each act. I’m more accustomed to a 25-50-25 split.

There’s a lot more to this than the little bit I’ve written here.  This book is very thorough and helps walk you through the various steps, warning against common pitfalls.  I’m going to wait to finish reading it until I have a specific idea.  Otherwise I’ll just forget it all by the time I need it.

But now that I have a clue . . . I’m going to start reading more graphic novels.  Waiting for inspiration.




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