On script writing for an artist
Two major disclaimers before I get in to this: 1) I am not a script writer (but I live with one) and 2) I am not a professional. My experiences in comic making comes from working off of a script written by my collaborator Neka (http://pigeonsoup.tumblr.com) as well as some time spent hobnobbing with people who actually know what they’re doing. This post is intended not only to display the “proper” way to write a comic script for an artist, but also to show how Neka and I have adapted the professional standard to suit our own style. Your mileage may vary.
OK let’s get started.
I like to use Dark Horse's script guide as a starting point because it demonstrates the industry standard for formatting and as with anything it's always best to learn the rules before you start breaking them. You can download the guide here in either .doc or .pdf format.
(ETA: Original links corrected, sorry about that!)
If your eyes glaze over (shame on you) at least remember this:
There is no set limit for how much or how little information should be included in each panel description; generally a sentence or two is enough. If there are specific character traits, objects, or placement of either that you need, make sure you tell the artist. The most important thing to remember: if it isn’t in the script, don’t expect to see it in the art.
As a writer, you have two jobs really. The first is to tell a story. The second is to tell the artist what to do. Really remember that it’s a symbiotic relationship between the writer and artist. You need to both have a good understanding of the story and what the writer hopes to convey to the audience or you’re going to fall short. If you are the photographer, the artist is your camera. Point it in the wrong direction and you’re not going to get anything good out of it.
An example of a professional writer’s script can be seen here thank you Warren Ellis:
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As an artist, I looooove this. You can read the panel description and just see
what the final product will look like on the page. Also, since I doubt very much that Warren Ellis gets to pick and choose and/or develop very much of a relationship with his artists, he puts in everything he wants to see in that panel in clear, exact detail. This very likely aids proficiency and speed when it comes time for the artist to work.
(Now would be a good time to add too that since most comics are lettered in all uppercase fonts, it’s better to write the dialogue in caps so you’ll know what it looks like in the bubbles.)
Now here’s an example of how Neka formats her scripts, pulled from MangaMagazine
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As you can see, the way she does it is a lot more casual because the relationship she has with her artist (http://kudu.tumblr.com
) allows her to put a lot of trust in her. In the end, the most important thing for your script to have is an easy format that both the writer and the artist can understand jointly. If Neka scripted like this for me I would slap her (a love slap, surely).
Hopefully she won’t kill me for this, but here is a small snippet of an example of what the Gran Grimoire scripts look like when I get them:
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Since at the time this was written, she didn’t have the script experience she has now I told her not to put in panel or page breaks at all. I personally work better when I get to decide what and how much goes in to each panel and where the page ends and a new one begins. All our scripts get printed and I take a red pen to them, highlighting or writing in what the content/focus
of each panel will end up being and drawing in the panel and page breaks myself. I wish I could show you an example of this but I don’t really have any that aren’t horribly spoiler-y.
I recommend trying out a professional format and presenting it to your artist first and then working in to a more casual scripting process from there as you both get more comfortable with the project you’re collaborating on. As with any relationship, the more communication you have amongst yourselves, the smoother everything will go. Ask yourself while you’re scripting “What does my artist and my audience need to know? What don’t they need to know? What do I want to achieve in this chapter/page/panel?”
For someone just getting in to the world of writing comics, there are a lot of resources available simply on the internet. After a quick Google search of “Marvel example scripts” I found dozens of scripts available on forums and the like that can show how the industry standard looks in action. There’s a list of ones of various lengths I really like here: http://www.penciljack.com/forum/showthread.php?59464-Sample-Scripts-for-Artists
Dark Horse also has an example script up that follows their script guidelines available in .pdf format here: http://images.darkhorse.com/darkhorse08/company/submissions/ghost_sample_comic_script.pdf
tl;dr - In the end, the best person to ask about how you should script may just be your artist. Ask them how much direction they want/need and be willing to work together. That’s how I do it and as far as I can tell it’s working.