I have spent the last two weeks working on a four issue script for Faustus’ wonderful Gnosis College. Now that I have submitted the script for the second issue, I can spare a moment to talk about things.
When Faustus first approached me to write a four issue arc, I was thrilled and also intimidated. It is a new kind of writing and four issues at twenty-eight pages each for a total of one hundred and twelve pages of panel-by-panel breakdowns seemed a bit overwhelming. That is funny to write after putting out a 10,000 word interactive alien abduction story but hey, new things are inherently more intimidating.
So I did what I always did when I have a big task and I break it down to little tasks. First, I did a very broad outline of what happens in these four issues. Once I knew what each issue would have to cover, I broke it down even further. I sat down and figured out how the first issue would cover the things it needed to cover. Then I broke that down even further, assigning number of pages for each story part. After I had that in mind, I could deal with each page by itself on how it fit into the bigger story.
It still took me awhile to get the first issue together. The really interesting thing about comic script writing where a page gets posted to the public every day is that I want the reader to be able to keep up if they are reading it day-to-day. To do that, I have tiny little arcs that happen on each page. This also creates tiny little cliffhangers for the reader to look forward to the next day. If the reader waits until the whole thing is published and reads it in one sitting, it should have a natural flow of things.
To me the biggest challenge of comic script writing is this constant feeling of compression. With twenty-eight pages, every page and every panel is precious. I find myself writing two pages, looking at them and realizing they can be one page if I cut out stuff that doesn’t add to the story. In the first draft it might feel important to show a character move from point A to point B in four panels but the reader can fill in most of that journey in their head in just two panels or even one. It is something I am still learning and I think I am getting the hang of it.
My advice to anyone doing comic script writing for the first, second or third time is to keep writing. Staring at the blank page isn’t going to help but once you have words on the page, your storyteller instincts will kick in and tell you what needs to be fixed. At least that is how it was for me.