I have begun work on a four issue script for Dr. Faustus’ Gnosis College. It is a bit daunting to work on so I thought I would go over what little I have learned from the process so far.
First of all, the biggest difference from my usual writing to script writing is space. Usually I can write for as long as I want until the story is finished but with a script, every moment is precious. There are twenty-eight pages in a script and the pages themselves are posted one at a time. My story has to fit within those pages and more importantly to me, the individual beats of the story has to be contained in a single page.
I was pretty intimidated by this at first. My sloppy solution that works well for me is to write the last page. I put down where I want the issue to end and then I work backwards. I write my entire outline in this manner. In every case, I found I had too much story for the pages and I started sniping like mad. At the outline stage this isn’t too bad as I am cutting summaries of pages as opposed to entire panel layouts.
In a few cases, once I start writing the actual script, I find myself with extra space. This doesn’t happen often but when it does, it is a glorious moment. It is easier to add content once your outline is written than it is to cut content.
As a visual person, my biggest mistake in script writing is showing every little thing. If I have a character go into a room, my inclination is to write them approaching the room, entering the room and standing in the room. It was a big transition to realize I could just have the character in a walking pose inside a room and it conveys everything that my three panels would have. Plus, it is a lot less boring that a full page of someone walking into a room.
Speaking of writing characters walking, it was a huge change of mindset to understand that my script was essentially a letter to the artist. I couldn’t just say it was a rundown house, I had to be explicit in what I thought a rundown house looked like. Same with the characters, what they wore, their expressions etc. Anything I imply won’t make it to the page. I need to be clear on every little detail that is important to me.
At the same time, if I was an artist, I would go crazy if someone told me every single little thing to draw. That is why I make sure to give the artist room to improvise. If I don’t care too much about what a rundown house specificall looks like, I write something like this: “The house looks deserted and kind of trashy. Less of a haunted house and more like a house where a killer stashes dead bodies.”
I am still learning the process but I will say I enjoy it a lot. I highly recommend that even if you don’t have an artist to draw it for you, go ahead and work on your own scripts. It forces your mind to work differently and to creative types, that is always a plus.