Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Advice To Comic Writers

I got a lovely script tonight. It was lovely for several reasons, but one of them is something that has been floating around the back of my mind, but had never articulated it before.

Most of the pages featured an even number of panels.

Let me explain. I often, so often, get scripts that predominately have five panels to a page. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily. My sense is that writers are striking some compromise between density and decompressed comics. An odd number of panels provides flexibility. It can work very well, but...

An odd number of panels requires the artist to make one(or more) panels larger and therefor more important than the others. And it may be that the one you have to give prominence to may not warrant it.

Whereas, and even number of panels gives you the option to make equal sized panels, or to make one larger as required. In the absence of some compelling reason to use a specific number of panels, an even number actually provides more flexibility.

One of my tricks for visualizing a page is to make a note to myself on the script at the beginning of each page. Many writers will indicate how many panels there are, but I go further and make a note as to how many panels there are in each tier, row, of panels. So: 2-2-2, or 3-2-2, or 1-2-3.

It may be necessary to make a panel larger because of heavy dialogue, more participants, it's an establishing shot, or a place for the key action. Whatever the reason, its good for the writer to be aware of these things, and plan for it. In the absence of this awareness, if a writer wants to leave this to the artist, then its more flexible to go with an even number of panels, rather than odd.

Or so it seems to me.

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