Category: Blog

Abandon All Hope

A 4-page comic book script.

Abandon All Hope


No Water For Gloria

No Water For Gloria is a 3-page comic book script I wrote.

No Water For Gloria


Betrayal à deux

Betrayal à deux is a 6-page comic book script I wrote.

Betrayal à deux


The Flea Particle and other stories

Here’s 5 short, sci-fi stories I wrote.

Allergy

Galactic Food Chain

Solitary Sentinel

Sorry, Wrong Lungs

The Flea Particle


Guideline process for writing your comic book script

Originally I wrote this article for the Indie Comics SA website, but unfortunately the site has closed down.

 
This article contains a guideline process that focuses on converting your story into a comic book script. It is aimed at anyone who is interested in writing a comic.
The article does NOT focus on how to write a good story, good story structure nor good characters.

 

Before you begin

Before you begin, you should have most of the following available. At the very least you should have the “story notes” and “story order of events”.

 
Story notes
These can include all the story’s rough notes, ideas and detailed notes. It should include all the notes from the team members, if you are working in a team.

 
Character notes
It is always a good idea to make character notes. Especially for the main characters and ones that have an impact on the story. These help shape the story and help determine how characters will behave. Therefore it is extremely helpful to include each character’s motivations in your notes.

 
Drawings and concept art
If the artist (or you, the writer) has done any drawings or concept art, it is a good idea to keep them on hand when writing. These can include character sketches, vehicles/spaceships, ideas for specific panels, action shots, etc. They may inspire you and help with the overall atmosphere of the story.

 
Dialogue ideas
You can jot down any specific dialogue ideas you have. But when you write the script, try not to force the dialogue into the script. The dialogue should evolve with the script and be relative to what is happening at that point in the story. It is usual for dialogue to change during the script editing process.

 
Story order of events
Basically info about what happens in the beginning, middle and end. Which events must happen before another event? What info must be revealed before an event takes place? The story needs to make sense and the order of events help it make sense.

 
List of important info the reader should know
When you write a script you have the whole story in your head, so it is easy for you to understand what is going on. Unfortunately the reader does not have access to the info in your head. Therefore you have to make sure you include everything the reader needs to know in your script, specifically in the visuals, captions or dialogue.
It is a good idea to make a list of everything you want the reader to know, so you can tick it off when you write the script. Also check the list after the script is done to make sure you did not accidentally remove any from the script during editing. The “list” can also just be text you highlight in your story notes, so it does not have to be a separate list.

Essentially this list is anything you HAVE to remember to include in the script.

For example: Sometimes, something as simple as a character’s name may be forgotten and never mentioned in any of the dialogue. The writer knows the name, but the reader has no clue!

 

Script format

Before we look at the writing process, let us first look at a comic book script format. Make sure you use a standard comic script format as a starting point for writing your script. The formats have been tried and tested over many years, and the artists and letterers will thank you. (And hopefully want to work with you again!) You can develop your own format, one you are comfortable with, but I recommend you do not deviate far from the standard ones.

A very good format guide is the one from Dark Horse comics. It is also the one I use. You can download their format here:
http://images.darkhorse.com/darkhorse08/company/submissions/scriptguide.pdf

Their format guide is simple and contains guidelines on how many panels per page, words per balloon and per panel, how to format dialogue and sound effects, etc.

 

Number of pages

You should have an idea of how many pages your comic is going to be. Ideally you should decide before writing the script, so you have a good idea of how to break up the script into pages.

When writing a story that has multiple chapters or parts, decide on how many pages each will have. This will help you write the script with a cliffhanger, or something interesting, at the end of each chapter.

Tip: If you are writing a long story that does not have chapters or parts, then it helps to first break the story up into manageable segments. Then write a separate script for each segment.

Tip: If you are writing a short story for a publication make sure to check what their page requirements are.

 

Example story

For the rest of the article we will use an example story, Cryoprogeny, to help illustrate each step. The script will be 6 pages long.

Here’s the synopsis of the example story:

 

Step 1: Write your story’s detailed outline

The first step is to write your story’s detailed outline. The outline is a blueprint of everything that should go into the script. The outline can use your “story order of events” as a starting point. Then add in all the relevant details from your story notes, character notes, dialogue notes, etc.

Below is the example story’s detailed outline.
The green highlighted text are important things the reader should know (i.e. things that must be included in the script).

Here is the example story’s detailed outline:

 

Step 2: Break the outline up into pages

Break the story’s detailed outline up into pages as they will appear in the script. The page breakdowns will serve as a guideline when writing the script. You can tweak them while you write the script.

You have to go through the outline and decide what you want to happen on each page. It is a good idea to keep the number of things per page limited. If there is too much then the page will be crowded and difficult to draw, letter and read.

Keep the number of panels per page in mind to get an idea of how much you can cram into each page (e.g. action scenes usually have 3 to 4 panels per page, non-action scenes usually have 5 to 6 panels per page). In rare cases you can have up to 8 panels on a page (if they are small with little to no dialogue), but you should try not to have more than 6 per page.

Tip: If there is a drastic change in view or time then it is usually (not always) a good idea to put a page-break between the two different views or times. (Examples: The view may change from inside to outside, or to a different scene. The time might change from morning to evening.) Although, this also depends on personal taste and style of the comic. It is fine if you want to have scene changes happen in the middle of a page. At least now you are aware of them when you write your script!

Tip: Surprises or reveals work better on even pages, because the reader sees it when they turn the page. (See page 4 of the example script.)

Here is the example story’s outline broken up into pages:

 

Step 3: Break each page up into panels

Break each page up into the estimated number of panels. (They can also be tweaked while you write the script.) During this process you can also add notes for dialogue, captions and sound effects.

Please note: The process can be done directly in the script when you write the first pass of the script. The example below is to illustrate the thought process. For the first few scripts, you may want to do the panel break ups in a separate doc, to get used to the process. Try it out and see which process works best for you: doing the panel break ups directly in the script, or in a separate doc. I do either, depending on the story and time available.

Here is the example story broken up into panels:

 

Step 4: Write the script

Now for the hard work, and the fun part! Write your comic book script. Use the panel breakdowns to write your script. If your panel breakdowns were detailed enough then the first pass of your script should be easier: you basically need to take all that info and put it into a script format.

Remember: Make sure you use a standard script format as a starting point, such as Dark Horse’s one mentioned earlier.

The main reason we did the detailed outline and breakdowns is to make the script easier to write, especially for new writers. Having to write a story out of thin air AND writing it into a comic script format at the same time might feel overwhelming.
Having the earlier steps also help finalise (to a point) your story. If you were to write directly into a script then it will be more troublesome when you make major changes to the story.

Here is the example story’s script:

 

Step 5: Edit the script

The entire process before this was to get the first draft of your script. Now it is time to re-read and edit your script, multiple times. This usually improves the script. Sometimes it improves so much that it may surprise you when you compare it to your first draft.

If you have enough time then it is a good idea to put your script away for at least a day before going back to it for the next round of editing. You may also find that you change things which you thought were set in stone. You may even end up removing or changing entire pages.

When you are happy with the script give a copy to someone else to read through. Especially someone who has no idea what the story is about. If they know the story then they are more likely to miss holes in the script.
This person can be a friend, and it may be helpful if they are also a writer or an editor. Make sure you let them know by when you would like to get feedback, or else they might think there is no deadline.
Think carefully about their feedback. If they ask questions or say something is not clear then check if you missed an explanation or info in the script. They will also point out spelling and grammar problems.

 

Conclusion

To summarize:

  • Gather all your story’s info.
  • Use a standard comic script format.
  • Decide on number of pages.
  • Write detailed outline.
  • Break the outline into pages.
  • Break the pages into panels.
  • Write the script.
  • Edit the script.
  • Hopefully this article, or some of it, will help you on your way to writing comic book scripts. And if you have your own processes worked out, please share and let the rest of us know.

    Keep at it and eventually you will get better at writing. South Africa, and the world, always need more good comic book writers.

    More Random Thoughts

    Here are some more random thoughts. As with my previous post, most of these are dialogue ideas for some form of entertainment (e.g. comics, games, films, short stories, books, etc.).

     
    When you pee into someone’s drinking water, you create the probability that you are going to drink it.

     
    The less you want the more you have, and the more you want the less you have.

     
    Relax, the world hasn’t ended. There are still children eating ice cream and children starving.

     
    There’s nothing wrong with having sexual desires or creating sexy characters. The problem is that too many creators do not keep it separate from their professional work.

     
    The minimum price for freedom is responsibility. Even with creative freedom. You have to create responsibly, and take responsibility for what you create.

     
    A: A good teacher should always be a student. Eager to learn and excited to be proven wrong.
    B: Screw that. I know everything and hate it when people try to prove me wrong.

     
    When you do something good or bad, the pendulum swings away from you. When it returns it will either knock an obstacle out of you path, or knock your head off.

     
    A: What happened to your passion for your art?
    B: It died in the trenches during the never-ending war of paying bills.

     
    I realised most of the things I complained about were direct or indirect results of choices I made. Essentially I was complaining about my choices. So I stopped complaining.
    For example, if I complained about work, I was actually complaining about the consequences of my choice to do the work. So I was really complaining about my choice, not about the work.

     
    There will always be wars as long as people don’t have inner peace.

     
    Your defeat is only as big as your ego.

     
    If stupidity was solid, you’d be bulletproof.
    But it’s not.
    *BLAM! BLAM!*

     
    There’s an infinite number of coincidences. We only notice the ones that have relevance to us.

     
    (A cop tries to save someone who borrowed money from a loan shark.)
    Loan shark: If you save a moth from a spider’s web then the spider will starve.

     
    If this entire planet was made out of shit, you’d be the worst piece of shit.

     
    Every war begins with someone’s greed. Usually a politician’s.

     
    A: I heard a rumour our captain’s looking for a navigator.
    B: Our ship has at least a dozen people who can use the navigation computer. Why does she need a navigator?
    A: Maybe we’re going to an uncharted region of space.

     
    You are a prisoner and your own jailer.

     
    Then it hit me like the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs.

     
    Poverty and extreme wealth can both leave a mark on you.

     
    (Points to chest, then points to rest of the world.)
    When you’ve got what you need in here, then there’s not much you need out there.

     
    You can choose to be a blade of grass that bends with every wind, huddled among all the other grass.
    Or you can choose to be a tall, powerful tree.

     
    My humour is a lonely humour.
    Nobody laughs at my jokes.

     
    A: The most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my life was to accept that the world in my mind is different from the real world.
    A: You mean you had to accept you loco?
    A: Yes. I suppose so. Pass the tea.


    A dream about zombies

    Last night I dreamt I was having an argument with a zombie. She thought it was OK to kill people and turn them into zombies, because they would still be alive, just a different life. I argued it’s not about being alive or undead, it’s about choosing which life you want to live. If you make them undead against their will, then you take away their freedom to choose.

    The dream started with me on a train and then some zombies got on the train. I got off and walked to a human settlement. When I got to the settlement I sat down, took off my shoes, and shook sand out of my shoes and socks. A few zombies came to the settlement looking for me. They wanted me to give them a tour of the settlement. So I took them on a tour.
    I showed them a circus tent that was being dismantled and told them that they missed the circus, but they can catch it some other day. As we continued on the walk, a zombie killed 2 people and I shouted at him to stop killing. He killed them by simply touching their bare skin with his hand. He was very nonchalant about it. That’s when I started having the argument with the other zombie.
    In the end she seemed to agreed with me, but I wasn’t sure.

    The argument in the dream sounded familiar. Maybe I saw a zombie movie which had a similar argument, or a movie about bringing people back from the dead against their will.


    Guideline process for writing your comic book script

    Update: The article has been republished here.

    I wrote an article for Indie Comics SA about the process for writing a comic book script.
    http://www.indiecomics.co.za/blogs/news/98762822-guideline-process-for-writing-your-comic-book-script

    It contains a guideline process that focuses on converting your story into a comic book script. It is aimed at anyone who is interested in writing a comic script.

    Synopsis

    Indie Comics SA

    Indie Comics SA is an online store that specialises in South African comic books and related merchandise.

    http://www.indiecomics.co.za/

    And I am happy to announce that I recently joined the team that runs the website :)

    Our goal is to provide quality South African comic books and related merchandise to local and international comic book readers and retailers through our one-stop online store.

    If you know any SA creators who have a printed comic book or merchandise, please send them our way.

    Indie Comics SA

    Random Thoughts

    Below are some random thoughts.
    Most of these are ideas for dialogue to be used in some form of entertainment.

     
    It’s time to wake the titan.

     
    A: How do you feel?
    B: Like a porous sail tied to a ship.
    A: Say what?
    B: Useless. I feel useless.

     
    If a stranger told you the world’s gonna end in seven days, would you believe him?

     
    When the fairy tale ends, the protagonists are supposed to be suspended in eternal happiness.

     
    A: Do you really think she’s going to kill her own father?
    B: Crazier shit has happened.

     
    Do you think you are the only creatures in this land?

     
    The coin has been flipped and the decision has been made.

     
    I’m slowly learning to cope with incompetent people.
    One of the steps is to remove myself from their radius of influence.

     
    Hope is a disease which infects those who do not want to face reality.

     
    (When asked to intervene between a couple arguing.)
    If you walk across a battlefield you risk getting shot.

     
    She’s further away from you than the stars in the sky.

     
    Point out a mistake with a mistake.

     
    I’m a killer not a fighter.

     
    Why are there so many problems in life?
    Why can’t things just be simple?

     
    And he wonders, “What’s the point of it all?”

     
    There’s no rule in the universe that states you have to love someone that loves you.

     
    No one is 100 percent sane.

     
    Tomorrow is on its way.

     
    Everybody wants to leave their toe prints in the sands of time.

     
    By deciding not to conform, you are conforming to those who do not conform.

     
    (Before taking shooter of alcohol.)
    Here’s to nothing.

     
    My flaws are starting to piss me off.

     
    For those who believe you need money to create, remember, money was also created.

     
    I’m outrunning my fears. If I slow down then they will catch up to me.

     
    When I was born the universe gave me a letter.
    It read:
    “We regret to inform you, but your application for being normal has been declined.
    Enjoy your life.”

     
    Tagline: The cost of absolute freedom is unimaginable.

     
    It’s all part of my ever evolving plan.

     
    Imagine if cinemas had time displacement projectors.
    You can go watch a movie at any time.
    A hundred people may be sitting in the same cinema, each watching the same movie, but at different times in the movie.

     
    Some people believe that if someone does something wrong then you should leave them because karma will get them.
    Well, the thing is, you are part of the universe. Therefore you are part of karma.
    If someone does something wrong, punish them.
    You are the karma that will restore the balance.

     
    Book title: How to kill people

     
    If you treat your girlfriend like a queen then you put yourself in the role of a servant.
    A queen doesn’t want a servant. She wants a king.
    In any relationship, it is usually unhealthy for one person to give the other person everything they want.
    Sometimes you have to say “no”, for both your sakes.

     
    My contact lenses are a mask I wear.

     
    In our society, politicians are the tools of the wealthy.
    In the future when computers are extremely advanced then the wealthy will use computer systems to control a country.
    Therefore politicians will become extinct.

     
    Most accidents happen within 1 KM of an idiot.

     
    The dice is still rolling.

     
    An academic or self-proclaimed philosopher might tell you the meaning of life.
    But it’s so subjective. So personal. That the lowest of low human has already experienced it, without having to consciously define it.

     
    A: Why?
    B: Because there is no reason.

     
    On the other side of the planet a mountain lion slips and breaks its neck.

     
    I hope you’re not allergic to bullets.

     
    My mind is misaligned with reality.
    A rubber band tries to align it.
    Sometimes the band stretches far, and I wonder how long before it breaks.

     
    I realised something today.
    I’m unhappy, not because of the situations I’m in.
    But because I believe I’m not strong enough to deal with them.
    Not strong enough to change them.

     
    Let me tell you a story.
    A woman moved in with her boyfriend.
    After a while the tension of living together got too much, and one morning they had a terrible argument.
    The man stormed off to work.
    The woman was about to leave for work when she realised her boyfriend forgot to feed his dog.
    For a moment she didn’t want to feed the dog, because she was so angry.
    Then she decided to feed the dog, because she didn’t want her anger to cloud her humanity.

     
    A: You’re pretty wise.
    B: Wisdom is overrated. Even a mouse uses wisdom to survive.
    A: I disagree. Wisdom is having worldly knowledge, which a mouse does not have.
    B: A mouse’s world is smaller than ours.

     
    One of the steps towards gender equality is that men will have to do half the cooking and cleaning.

     
    My revenge is patient.
    It is without emotion.
    It is calm.
    And absolute.

     
    Reality is a prison.
    Imagination is a temporary escape.
    That’s why entertainment is such a big industry.

     
    Human nature is like water. Our laws are the bottle in which the water is kept. Bad deeds are gravity.
    Make a hole in the bottle and the water will run out.

     
    I’m just another punk trying to make ends meet.

     
    Every day my dreams tug on my one sleeve while failure wipes its ass on my other sleeve.

     
    Every rule is a thread.
    Put all the rules together and they form a net around you.
    A prison.

     
    A: Are you going to drink tonight?
    B: That’s always a possibility.

     
    A: Where is he?
    B: He’s in la-la land.

     
    A: That’s probably a bad idea.
    B: Relax, the world is full of bad ideas.

     
    I’m guessing there’s going to be some necessary violence?

     
    Social media is a way for some people to say, “Look at me, I exist.”

     
    Character has flashbacks.
    In the flashbacks the other characters’ faces are different than they really are.

     
    Life is the energy that wants to experience the universe.
    It created DNA so that it can have senses.
    In other parts of the universe there may not be the resources to create DNA, so life will take other forms.

     
    A: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
    B: Does it involve your wife and whip cream?
    A: No.
    B: Then we’re not thinking about the same thing.

     
    It’s easy to prove if a cup has water in it, you just look at the cup.
    Trying to prove God exists is like replacing the cup with the entire universe.
    The same goes for trying to prove God does not exist.

     
    I’m fighting a constant war against my ego.
    But it’s so personal, so subjective, I can’t tell if I’m winning or losing.

     
    Judge me on the things I’ve done in the past.
    But be open to the idea that I have and can change.

     
    She’s the kind to jump into the deep end with both feet.

     
    What good is a creator who creates worthless things?

     
    (Alarm clock goes off in the morning.)
    The grey hell beckons.
    Darkness must answer.

     
    A: What’s wrong?
    B: Everything.

     
    The truth is like a brick wall.
    Sooner or later you will run into it.

     
    The mortality clock ticks like a motherfucker.

     
    Every step is less naive than the previous one.

     
    A: How do you feel?
    B: Like a wave breaking on rocks.

     
    Sometimes when someone offers you something it’s so they can feel appreciated.
    You should take it, even if you don’t need it.

     
    The universe likes to punish responsible people who have a lapse in responsibility.

     
    I question whether her ego still falls within the safe parameters of sanity.

     
    There’s enough negativity in this world to drown the Kraken.

     
    Woe betide anyone who fucks with me.

     
    We live in an age where one of the biggest motivators is to pay bills.

     
    Today’s worries are tomorrow’s forgotten memories.

     
    I’ll cut a swath through all obstacles.

     
    Fists speak louder than words.

     
    History is written by the murderers.

     
    Sometimes it seems the universe spends a lot of time planning on how to make you suffer.

     
    When you’re trapped in a pit the last thing you’ll think about are the beautiful carvings on the walls.

     
    Maybe by some miracle pulled from the centre of hell.

     
    It may seem like a complex problem, but it’s actually a simple problem.
    We kill one at a time until they are all dead.

     
    Love is not as sacred as fiction makes it out to be.

     
    The person you truly are is the one you are on the day you die.
    Maybe that’s who you take into the afterlife.
    If you die today, are you happy with who you are?

     
    A: You think you better than us?
    B: No. I’ll tell you the truth. I’m at the bottom, lying on the ground. The heel of my enemy is crushing my throat.

     
    A: Someone once told me, “You can fall in love with the wrong person.”
    B: Love can be a, fickle thing. Unless, unless it’s a mother’s love. A child, well, a child’s part of a mother. Always will be.

     
    I’m not above getting wet in the rain.

     
    I’m horny past the point of no return.

     
    I’m so horny it’s magical.

     
    You fucking onion chopper.

     
    A: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done?
    B: I haven’t done it yet. I’m still preparing myself for it.

     
    The minority pay the majority of taxes.
    The majority selects the “leaders”.
    The “leaders” steal the taxes.

     
    Television is a terrible thing.
    It’s a much-loved tool that controls people.

     
    Prisons are built to hold those who abused their freedom.

     
    (After winning a fight.)
    And that’s how you make tea!

     
    A: There’s too many of them!
    B: It’s ok. I’ve got enough fists to go around.

     
    I’ll dig that grave when I get there.

     
    Old habits are bullet proof.

     
    A: You feeling at home yet?
    B: Like a demon in hell.

     
    You’re like a rotten apple. You’ll infect the others.

     
    A: Why not just get a machine gun and shoot him?
    B: Because then life would be less interesting.

     
    It makes my shit curdle.

     
    A: Why didn’t you tell her the truth about her father?
    B: Children should have good memories about their parents.

     
    I feel like a rat stuck in mud.

     
    Life is a war you can not win.

     
    Sometimes the best thing for a person is not the thing they want.

     
    Self-doubt can be the fire that keeps you warm on dark nights.
    If you don’t doubt once in a while then it means you are complacent.

     
    Every problem is an opportunity to learn how to solve it.

     
    The universe presents us with obstacles to test how determined we are to succeed.

     
    If you and I were married, this would be a divorce.

     
    Right now I feel like I don’t have much control over my life, due to financial constraints.
    Like a twig floating down a river towards the ocean, where a shark is waiting to use me as a toothpick.

     
    I heard about a woman who married twins.

     
    One day I took my ego into the desert and I told it, “If you try to control me I will kick your ass.”
    My ego replied, “Try it.”
    So we fought and it ended in a draw.
    Now we are equal partners.

     
    It’s time to wake the gods.


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