ANDY FISH is a comic book artist

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

HOW TO Graphic Novel Part II: Plot Vs Script

PLOT (left) FULL SCRIPT (right)- there are advantages to both.
Okay so you've fleshed out your great idea, broken it down into segments and given yourself a scheduled deadline that you can stick to.  Now it's time to produce a PLOT or a SCRIPT to work from.

In the image above I have samples of both my PLOT for DRACULA and my SCRIPT for THE INCREDIBLE HULK.  There are advantages and disadvantages to working in either method.

PLOT METHOD- rumored to have been created by Stan Lee when he was helming Marvel Comics in the early to mid 60s and writing eight books a month.  He would come up with a plot-- usually no more than two or three paragraphs for an entire 22 page book which he would then give to his artist who would be responsible for laying out the plot over the length of the book.  The finished pencilled pages would be returned to Stan who would then write all the dialogue and narration for the story based on what the artist had drawn.  

This method was faster for Stan and allowed a lot of creative freedom for the artists.

In the PLOT example I've shown, you can see that my Dracula PLOT is somewhat more detailed than how Stan would have handled it-- I break down the overall action or story elements for each page.  Sometimes even including a piece of dialogue I want to use.

This method works for me because it enables me to keep a coherent story going but I'm still able to make changes to the story if I need to.  

When working with an artist, you need to be ready to collaborate if you're working PLOT method.  The artist will not end up with the exact story you wanted-- but in many instances it might be better when they bring their own take to your story.

ADVANTAGES TO PLOT: It's faster for the writer.  It allows greater collaboration between a writer and artist or flexibility if you're handling both the story and the art.
DIS-ADVANTAGES TO PLOT: It's loose, so story elements can get lost.  Some writers find it hard to lay in the story details and dialogue after the art is finished.   Requires a great deal of trust between writer and artist.  

SCRIPT METHOD- is just that-- a fully written script which includes page layouts, panel sizes and descriptions of what should be happening inside each panel.  I usually write a FULL SCRIPT only if I'm either working with a new editor who wants to see the story as it progresses or I'm working with an artist who requested a full script-- as is the case with this story being illustrated by JJ Buckmaster.

It takes a bit longer to write a script-- while I can PLOT 72 pages of Dracula in about two hours, it takes me the same amount of time to write an eight page full script for The Hulk.  This method takes pressure off the artist since the writer is suggesting what should be drawn, although a good writer will respect an input the artist offers-- especially if said writer is not an artist himself.

ADVANTAGES TO SCRIPT:  All the hardwork is done.  The writer finishes with the overall project much earlier since everything is already there for your team.  Or if you're doing it yourself you can just plow through it page after page without as much thought.  Good way to ensure that important story elements don't get forgotten.

DIS-ADVANTAGES TO SCRIPT: Hampers artistic freedom and story flexibility.  Takes much longer to write.

My personal choice is to work from a PLOT-- whether I'm the writer or not.  I didn't always feel this way, when I was first starting out I was much more confident if I had everything laid out for me.

TOMORROW: Thumbnails!

Andy Fish is a seven time graphic novelist, a freelance comic book artist who has worked for DC Comics among other publishers and the author of How to Draw Graphic Novel Style for Chartwell Publishing in London.