So I do have a question, and I'm wondering what other people might think. Please feel free to let me know if this is too strange a topic, or if it's out of place!
I have a manuscript that is a bit strange. It was meant to be the overall script for a webcomic, but I wrote it in the format of a prose story. This was for two reasons:
1) The prose story could come as a nice addition to the finished comic. 2) I fear the script format, and my fear destroyed my resolve to write in it.
If I were to request critique on this monstrosity, how should I go about it? Since the story may be released alongside the comic, I do want the writing to be top notch, so the usual format of 13 lines would work. But I also want the overall story to be powerful, and convey well through the graphic format.
I'd be willing to look at least some of it over. I've done a lot of research on comics, both for writing and artistic purposes (I draw and paint from time to time, although that's slowed down now that I'm focusing more on writing). I can't claim to be an expert, but I do think I'd at least be able to help.
Also, there's really no reason to fear script format. It's just a different medium, that's all. A lot of the same techniques are used in both (although there are differences, just like between drawing and painting).
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Sounds like graphic novel, comic-book novel, illustrated story, or any of a number of controversial labels for long-form comic book narratives.
A first principle for self or external editorial critique might start with conventions common to the comic strip format and genre.
Such first principles invariably are somewhat overly broad and as near useless as platitudes. However, they are a foundation upon which to erect a superstructure. Part convention, part self-designed, part innovation, part borrowed from other forms, the graphic novel's bases start at illustrated narrative.
The children's chapbook conventions are similar, though intended to teach children to learn reading and, somewhat later, to read for information learning. Graphic novels' intent is overtly to entertain and perhaps advance a degree readers' reading and comprehension skills. Covertly, as in all things narrative, an intent is to persuade, persuade emotional response among the foremost intents.
Comic strips are brief, concise narratives of a serial nature. Any given comic strip may endure decades of daily or weekly publication. Thought and speech balloons contain what few words comic strips express. The illustrations are likewise simplistic by design and intent. Sunday color funny papers sections are only a degree more elaborate. Because they endure years, maybe, of publication, and each strip installment must be self-contained, not much story movement unfolds except for plot movement. Hence, melodrama's plot emphasis is the mainstay for comic strips.
Likewise comic books' brevity, somewhat longer illustrated narratives, serial publication, and melodrama are those form's mainstays.
Graphic novels, on the other hand, are a longer form; more words per cell, panel, and per page, more illustrations, more pages per narrative. Foremost for consideration is the greater real estate allows for more intense story development and movement and possible transformations not otherwise practical for the shorter forms, and other than plot and external circumstance transformations (a bridge saved from destruction); i.e., character development, movement, and transformation; more event development and movement and transformative influence; more setting development and movement and transformative influence, most of all, emotional development and movement and transformative influence, and story movement overall.
Post whatever opening fragment, paragraph format or script; note on the post that the written-word portion attaches to illustrations not posted, of a graphic novel. And see what works and what doesn't for this Hatrack focus group testing readers.
I could suggest a few packaging formats that resemble graphic novel's thought and speech balloons and narrative paragraph formats for Hatrack's written-word only posts. If there's interest. The Code UBB code could help lots with white space management, for example. Plus the back and upright slashes: ||thought text string balloon|| (maybe italics format too), \\speech text string balloon\\. The forward slash has another use from listserv precedent; that is, the forward slash signals a cited text quote that has been modified by a commenter for demonstration purposes.
Otherwise, conventional online paragraph format for narration panels.
I'd be happy to look at it. I read a lot of webcomics and I've been trying to convince my hand that I want to make one.
If you are going to draw it yourself then your script needs only to be what you need it to be. If you are working with an artist then it needs only to be what works for the two of you. (From what I've heard things go better when the artist and writer specifically talk about what they need from each other.)
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@ Disgruntled Peony - Ah, I'd be honored! Though I'd like to get your story back with critique before I request more from you! And your understanding of art and writing would be super appreciated! As for fearing the script format, I suppose it was more like: I tried to write in it, was crippled by my lack of knowledge and understanding of it, and quickly turned away so I could get the story out, haha. Once I finish the prose story, I might go in and break it apart panel by panel, because that would give me a much more clear line of sight.
@ extrensic - The conversation of graphic and illustrative storytelling is really intriguing to me; my deepest goal is to graphically and visually tell good stories, and I've always wanted to marry my love of prose storytelling into visual narrative. For this particular project, I intend to go for a graphic novel, because the story is more along the lines of a tale made to entertain and reflect on ideas. I also really appreciate your suggestions; I think for this one I'll shift the narrative around a little bit and post it in the conventional paragraph format, and as you suggested, add in notes about my intended use for the story. Really great points, thanks so much for your reply!
@ Pyre Dynasty - Ah, I'd super appreciate a read of it! I'm totally willing to reciprocate if you'd like. I think for now I will shift it around just a bit, then post the first 13 lines. I am doing the artwork myself, it's part practice endeavor and part serious project!
That link was gold; thank you so much for posting it! The way he breaks down the comic is concise, and I think I might adapt that for the story I have, so I can weed out unneeded material. Right now the manuscript is done (this is part 1 of the overall story, part 2 isn't complete yet) with over 300 comic pages. And I really need to cut that down, preferably to 200 pages or less. However, I think writing the prose story, filling it with the needed detail, and then breaking it down into panels later and cutting in that area will be beneficial to me. It will also create two products; a detailed, (hopefully) well-tailored manuscript, and a visually descriptive webcomic. Hopefully readers will find merit in both!
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