The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil

The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil

Author:Dennis O'Neil [O’Neil, Dennis]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 978-0-7704-3455-7
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Published: 2013-04-03T04:00:00+00:00

That Plastic Man … he sure knows the way to a goddess’ heart. Witty dialogue can both deepen characterization and enliven a JLA scene. Script by Grant Morrison and art by Howard Porter and John Dell.


Here’s what you’ve already done: You’ve sat alone in a room. Or you’ve taken a walk. Or, like writer Devin Grayson, you’ve listened to appropriate music. One way or another, you’ve thought about your story. Maybe you’ve also talked it over with your significant other, a writer friend, an editor, or anyone else who’s willing to listen and offer honest comments. You have a clear idea of who your principal characters are, how they’ll come into conflict with each other, what they want, and you have at least a clue of how your story will end.

Now, you’re ready to begin the physical act of writing.

How? That depends on who you are. Experienced writers can just begin writing, trusting their hard-earned proficiency to provide them with the particulars of their narrative as they go along. Beginners can do that, too, but if they do, they should be ready to do considerable rewriting. It’s likely that some rewriting will be necessary regardless of how you prepare, or how many scripts you’ve done, but a little advance work now can save time and toil later on.

Many of us start with an outline. Try this: Get a sheet of lined paper, the kind you used for penmanship exercises in fourth grade, and scribble on it the main events of your story—what our television brethren call the story’s “beats.” Read it over to see if anything seems to be missing, or if anything doesn’t stick to the story’s spine. Try to estimate how many pages and/or panels each event will need. Add. Subtract. Make notes in the margins. You may discover, when you’re actually doing the script, that you’ve guessed wrong—a bit of action that you thought would occupy a page is accomplished in a panel, and two lines of exposition have somehow become eighteen. That’s all okay. Your outline is no more than a crude road map; its only purpose is to keep you pointed in the right direction.

That’s one way.

Another is to write your beats on 3 by 5-inch cards or Post-its. Spread them out. Move them around. Use them as aids in shaping the plot. Continue to play with them until you think you’ve arranged them to form the best possible story structure.

Technophiles may want to accomplish the same thing with a computer. Every decent word processing program has a cut/copy/paste function that can move your beats from one part of your outline to another. (I know a television writer who uses his outline as the foundation for his finished script; he puts it on his screen and adds dialogue and camera directions. There’s no reason why this wouldn’t work for comic book scripts, provided the writer is friendly with his computer.)

Scott Peterson has a more elaborate procedure that combines elements of everything just mentioned. It seems to me that Scott’s methodology is both thorough and efficient.


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