Do you wish to get into the world of comic scripting with confidence?
Whether you’re a writer collaborating with an artist or a solo creator, this guide has you covered. Learn about plot-first scripts, story planning, describing visuals, crafting dialogue, writing action, and creating seamless transitions. Discover how to balance words and images, making your comic a captivating visual journey.
Decide if a plot first comic script is right for you.
Plot-first comic scripts, often called ‘Marvel style’ scripts because that’s how Stan Lee likes to write, leave out many details and give the artist or designer more room to be creative. If you want to learn more about ‘Marvel-style’ scripts, you can explore our article on How to Write a Comic Script in ‘Marvel Style’. There are always exceptions, but a plot-first script is usually chosen when the writer and the artist have worked well together on other projects or when the writer will also draw his pictures, in which case the script is more of a plan for what the writer/illustrator thinks will happen.
Most of the time, a plot-first comic script will have the characters, the story arc, and page directions. Most of the time, the details of this type of script, like the number of panels, their order, and the pace of the action on the page, are up to the artist. Often, the writer adds details to a scene, like speech and captions, after the illustrator has made the art and divided the different scenes into their panels.
A plot-first comic script works best when the writer and artist have worked together before and trust each other’s ideas for the comic.
Create a plan
When you start writing the comic script, you’ll add more to the ideas and give your characters more depth, but it might help to have a plan when you first start. This lets you keep track of your original goals if you forget them as your business grows and changes. It also gives you a basic outline that can help you determine how one issue’s plot and story arc will fit with the rest of your comic.
- Start by writing one sentence for each turn the story takes.
- Add a few short notes about which characters are involved in each major event and their relationships with the other characters.
- If you have plans for future issues of your comic, connect your notes for the current issue to one-sentence story points for the future.
Writing a Full Comic script Comic
Write words that describe. The description lines will tell the artist how to draw the different parts of the picture. This can be hard because you have to give the illustrator both the pictures you have in mind and detailed written directions. In description lines, people often tell the artist how to draw the establishing shots, closeups of figures or images, and background images. Usually, there are two ways to write a description line:
The page description tells the artist what should happen on each comic page regarding the scene, mood, characters, and action. The artist then picks how many panels will go on each page and how best to show each set of instructions in each panel.
The panel description tells the artist exactly how each panel should look and what should happen in each one. Some writers will tell the artist how to frame each “shot” in each panel.
Highlight significant visual elements.
The writer should give specific information about any important visual elements of the plot. This could include important items, characters who will be important later in the story, or even what season or time of day a panel takes place in.
Give the artist any information they will need to draw each scene, such as the time of day, the characters’ facial expressions, and any items or details of the environment that will be important later in the comic.
The actors dialogue with each other and with themselves during the comic. Dialogue boxes are generally shown as round or oval bubbles with a small “tail” coming out of a character’s mouth to show that they are speaking.
- Characters should show up in a panel in the order in which they talk. In other words, the figure on the left should talk first, and her speech bubble should be above others. If two characters are talking back and forth, the character on the left should speak first, and the character on the right should reply with a dialogue bubble below the first speaker’s text.
- One long chat or dialogue bubble between two or more characters should fit into a single, still frame.
- Don’t try to put too much conversation in one area. Instead of filling a panel with so much conversation that it’s hard to see the characters, you might try a back-and-forth conversation where one panel shows a closeup of one speaker (and her dialogue) and the next panel shows a closeup of the other speaker (and his dialogue).
- Once you have written your comic script, read it out loud. Like any written conversation, it might sound different when read aloud, and you might find that some lines are hard to read quickly or don’t make sense with what’s happening in the scene. Always read your speech out loud and ask yourself if it says what it should say in the scene.
- Don’t get stuck on writing in words. The most important thing about a comic is how it looks, so remember the old saying, “Less is more.”
Write the action
This part of the comic script maybe like a movie script because it gives much information about what will happen in a comic. Some successful comic writers say you should write for yourself first and then for the viewers. In other words, don’t let what you think people want or don’t want to change your mind about how your comic should look. Write a comic that you’ll be happy with, and if it’s true and has meaning to you, it will probably have the same effect on your readers.
- Each panel should show more about a character or move the story along. In other words, don’t waste your panels and ensure your story’s action means something. If you’re interested in creating meaningful comic panels, you can find valuable insights in our article on Best Fantasy Writing Prompts of 2023.
- Remember that your comic will be mostly about what you can see. Don’t use too much text while writing the comic script’s moves. Tell the illustrator how the movement should look in as much detail.
Write transitions for your comic
Once you’ve written the action, conversation, and captions, you must write how the artist should move from one panel to the next. This is important because a comic with bad changes can feel choppy, inconsistent, or confusing. It is always advised to contact an American Author House for the finest copy. No matter how fast the comic moves, each panel should fit together easily. Here are some common types of transitions:
Moment-to-moment changes repeatedly show the same person, object, or scene in different (but not too far away) moments. This could be useful for showing how a character’s mood changes as they tell another character something.
Action-to-action transitions show the same person, object, or scene in a series of panels showing different but connected actions. This could be a visual montage to show how much time has passed, like when a figure trains for a fight or goes on a trip.
Subject to subject transitions
Transitions from one subject to another. Each panel shows a different person or thing in an ongoing scene. This helps break up a long talk into smaller dialogue panels.
Scene-to-scene transitions are when the two panels show two completely different scenes. These scenes may occur in different places or times and show different characters or acts.
Aspect-to-aspect transitions: In this type of transition, each panel shows a different part of the same place, people, or action.
Non sequitur transitions
Non sequitur transitions jump from one scene to the next in a way that doesn’t make sense. There doesn’t seem to be any link or continuity from one panel to the next. Because this kind of change can confuse readers, it doesn’t happen often in comics with an ongoing story arc.
When making comics, think about plot-first or full story styles based on teamwork. It’s important to find a good balance between pictures and words. Plot-first scripts work when the writer and artist trust and understand each other. Full-script comics are interesting because they have clear directions, important pictures, and smooth transitions. To gain a deeper understanding of full-script comics and how they contribute to a compelling comic, you can read our article on How to Write a Full Comic Script.