Alright, I’ve resolved to myself to update this a great deal more often than I have in the past – due to my inspirational sister, Lauren, who is currently applying some cyber jiu-jitsu to her blog in order to post pictures. She’s taken the blog thing and really gone with it; I think the only natural response is good-natured sibling rivalry.
In any case, I know that every comic book writer, editor, artist, et cetera debates the proper format of the script. There are many approaches and variations, but the end result is the same: A nice, straightforward explanation of panel-by-panel action for a twenty-two (or four) page book.
Am I specifically qualified – not having been published yet – to write about this, when there are writers who’ve put out scores of books? Of course not. I’m approaching this in the same way that a student in a Master’s program is entitled to present their research, and have it debated.
First off, right out the gate: Less is more.
Less text, less panels, less dialogue, less actions. I’m fully aware that comics have a reputation for being visually (or textually) dense, but I find that a more minimal approach works the best. The actions should leap off the page without confusing the reader, and the text should compliment – not frustrate – the relationship it has with the image. Finally, I have a personal “Rule of Six“:
Wherever possible, I keep it under six panels. And sometimes, even less.
Visually, this creates a more cohesive presentation. The eye can only keep track of so many elements, otherwise it gets overwhelmed – in a bad way. (You want to draw your readers in, not alienate them; so cut out the twelve-panels-a-page-business!)
Likewise, don’t write action-dense panels without room for them to breathe – and for the penciller to strut their stuff. Have a few simply directed panels, and save the big complicated mess for the single-page or double-page spread.
Think about it. Rarely does a nine or ten-panel page work on a visual level; more often than not, it’s anything under six panels. I also like using the number of panels as a way to subconsciously play with tension; I’ll use an even number panels for something resolved on that page, and an odd number for making things more tense.
(Geez. I should write a post on that.)
See you next week for Part 2.