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Nut In The Shell:
Comic Book Writing 101: Scripting
By Keith Giles


When it comes to writing scripts for comics, I've never done it the same way twice.

Not by design, mind you. But, each little project I write has a personality of its own and demands a slightly different angle of attack.

To begin with, I usually sit down with my borrowed Toshiba laptop computer and write for a few hours each night.
I heat up a nice, strong cup of coffee and lay out all the research material, photo references, and any art pages that pertain to the project all over my kitchen table. I’m a visual person and it really helps to have all of my artists sketches, pin-ups, and ideas in front of me to help inspire my writing.

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Sometimes I'll even cue up a CD on the stereo to add to the mood of the piece I'm getting ready to write. Maybe a little Sigur Ros, or Curve, or a moody soundtrack, depending on the atmosphere required.

But, in the process of scripting my various projects for PlasticAnimal.com, each book has undergone a slightly different scripting process before it reached completion.
For DIGERATI, I simply wrote the chapters for the novel-in-progress and sent them to my artist, Andre Syzmanowicz, who's good enough to turn them into comic pages without requiring me to format the story into an actual script.

I love him for that...

For DURANGO SILVER, I sat down and drew out the panel breakdowns on a scrap pad, scribbled in the major scenes and dialog I wanted, and THEN I started to write the script based on the drawings and layouts I'd done.

For HARD VIDEO I first wrote the prose short story and then I sat down to sketch out the page and panel breaks on the scratch pad, based on the events in the story, and THEN I sat down and typed up the scripted version.

For my reality-bending, sci-fi lullaby, UV:TARGET, I actually just started writing the panel descriptions straight onto the page without writing any dialog at all. Then I stopped to sketch out my page and panel layouts to make sure it was going to look the way I wanted it to look. Then I went back to finish the script.

For THE DEVIL'S RIDING HORSE, a short story I did with artist Kristian Donaldson, I just sat down and started typing out the script without looking at any panel or page breaks first. This one began with tons of research on the real-life work of miniature artist, Nicolai Syadristy and morphed into a story that included nano-tech and some actual Russian history thrown into the mix with a little Steranko-spy action thrown in for good measure.

I tell you this because I care.

For those aspiring writers out there, you need to know that it's ok to do it your own way. And you need to know that it really doesn't matter "How" you do it, as long as you actually sit down and "Do it".

Yes, it's a good idea to sketch out your ideas on a pad to get an idea of how your script will work on the page. But, whether you start off that way or not is up to you.
Just make sure you don't write a script with 22 panels of dialog for your poor artist to squeeze together on a single page.

If you actually take time to draw a stick-figure layout of your page before you submit the final version to your artist, you'll save yourself (and your artist) a lot of grief.

You need to remember you're trying to tell a story. Storytelling is the main thing. If your artist doesn't have room to tell the story, then you don't either.

Of course, you also need to be sure you have outlined your entire story before you get started. We'll cover writing an outline in a future column.

Until next time…

Class dismissed.

Keith Giles is one of the world's greatest enigmas. Ruggedly handsome, and yet surprisingly gentle and compassionate with small animals, Keith actually has a very weak grasp of reality and often talks to himself in the bathroom mirror. He's currently writing his own original sci-fi novels and putting together a few comic books of his own in his spare time. Visit him at PlasticAnimal.com.


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