by Michael Lorenson
April 25, 2012
I can’t say I have a whole lot of experience with writing graphic novel scripts, since all I’ve got under my belt are two Script Frenzy efforts, but going from zero knowledge to current knowledge there are some things I’ve found extremely useful and I figured I might as well share them.
First is a book by Will Eisner, called Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. For those who haven’t heard of Will Eisner, he’s the artist for whom the comics industry named their annual awards (The Eisner Awards), and he’s probably best known for his work on The Spirit though his credits run much deeper than just that. He later also turned to teaching and lecturing and is extremely respected in the field. Reading this book, it’s easy to see why. In this one he stays away from basic writerly things like what makes a character interesting, or any of the nuts and bolts associated with good story writing, and focuses on what makes for compelling visual narrative. There are many ways in which graphic stories vary from prose, and even from movies, that aren’t obvious. At least, they weren’t obvious to me. There are loads of examples, using Eisner’s own work as reference, showing how things like minute changes in perspective, combining elements into a single panel, even details down to the lettering, can affect the user’s perception of the work, and user perception of the work is really what drives a good graphic story. You need to know the backbone of telling a good story before you can tell a good graphic story, but there’s no guarantee that being good at the first will allow you to be good with the second. So doing regular writing homework first is a must, but I think this book should be considered essential to anyone who wants to know how to take their story and tell it in a way that makes the best use of the square inches available to them on a comics page.