Friday, May 4, 2012

Writing For The Media 1: Graphic Novels

Its not immediately apparent that the same story needs to be written different ways to suit the media.

One of the best investments I ever made was to buy a copy of Straczinsky's Scriptwriting - invaluable advice from someone who has produced works in all the disciplines he writes about: film, TV, stage, radio, animation... For each of them you, the aspiring author, have to follow certain rules to avoid the common pitfalls and make the most of the strength's of each medium.

A comic or graphic novel, for example, has to be written to deliver its story via words and pictures, so the successful comic or graphic novel creator needs to pay equal attention to both. Ever read a comic book adaptation of a film and wondered why it is different in subtle details from the original? Its because things that are impressive on the screen don't always translate well into two dimensional graphics, for example an action sequence, and conversely there are ways that a comic can go beyond a film, for example by verbalising thoughts or emphasising the 'God view'.

By the same token, you need to be an artist as well in that you need to create a story on the page that conveys the plot as effectively as possible, creating images that bring the storyline to life for the reader. To do this you need to design the impact of the page usually, but not always, done with a storyboard, even before you start creating the graphic resources to make up your panels.

By graphic resources I mean the pictures and this used to be the sticking point for amateurs in the past. Dreaming of breaking into comics meant paying your dues at art school, developing skills in sketching, inking, colouring, learning about composition, anatomy and the use of light and colour. If you weren't planning on taking it up professionally, it was too much for an amateur to take on.

As with many skill-sets from the past, technology has come to the rescue of the modern Everyman. Don't get me wrong, there are many amateur artists who have the skill and talent to use pencil, pen and colour to create comics on paper and I am truly in awe of some of the work I see on deviantArt today. For the rest of we mere mortals, there are drawing aids that show that you are using your brain as well as your artistic talent.

I, for example, have used rotoscoping effectively to help me with composition and anatomy but it is by no means the only reason for using a light table. If you go the traditional pencil - paper - pen route, a light table was generally used to turn a rough pencil sketch into 'tight pencils' and later, with a clean sheet of paper, to the final inks as shown by Clay Butler on his tutorial of how he has drawn his comic strip over the years. Paul C. Stauffer III also has a good Youtube video - be sure to check the comments.

Computer graphics software are the new light box! You've got more ways to go than you can shake a stick at!

I'm lucky to be associated with two rather talented graphic novel creators who work in Bryce/Poser/DAZ. It's popular, it can give you a close to photo-realistic finished product, but it is by no means the only way to go. Machinima - using a game engine to capture your graphics - is even easier and fans have used programs ranging from Star Trek: Elite Force to Star Trek: Online - Ray Martin has done some great work on Star Trek: Saladin and his STO comics are under his third era at the bottom of the page. You can read how they do it plus browse another webcomic on the STO forum HERE.

Of course, I wouldn't try to do it yourself. Just as you probably couldn't voice the audiobook version, animate the cartoon, program the video game and write the music for the opera of "Knight's Haven", you'd do best to find the best designer and graphics editor you can.

How would *I* do it? Ah! Now that would be telling!

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