National Graphic Novel Writing Month, Day #7: Premature entry
Day seven, and we’re already seeing script fragments come in. I just read one, and sent back the note: “Decent screenplay, lousy comic.”
Why? Because he took pages to get to the point, a slow tracking shot that revealed very little about the plot, situation, or characters. While that can work on screen, it’s death on a printed page. Get to the point.
Mark Waid has a much better rant on this on this that I do:
At BOOM!, I get a l-o-t of
eight-page scripts that, for no good reason, burn up the entire first
page with a slow zoom into a New York restaurant kitchen. This makes me
homicidal. If your story is about a chef and geography is incidental, just show me the damn kitchen. Tick, tock.
I love RESERVOIR DOGS, but if you handed me a comics script that began
with four pages of gangsters debating the merits of Madonna, I would not
only reject it, I would break your keyboard.
In a 22-page comic,
figuring an average of four to five panels a page and a couple of
full-page shots, a writer has maybe a hundred panels at most to tell a
story, so every panel he wastes conveying (a) something I already know, (b) something that’s a cute gag but does nothing to reveal plot or character, or (c) something I don’t need to know is
a demonstration of lousy craft. Comics are expensive. Don’t make me
resent the money I spend buying yours. Every single moment in your
script must either move the story along or demonstrate something important about the characters—preferably both—and every panel that does neither is a sloppy waste of space.
You do this by entering the story as late as possible, telling enough to get people up to speed on the situation and go.
Want an extreme example of this? Here’s the trailer for this past summer’s Knight and Day:
Fine trailer, but it just wrecked the movie– because Cameron Diaz has just explained to Marc Blucas what happened to her in under two minutes what will now take the first half-hour of the film to show– I have to sit through at least thirty minutes to get to where I get new parts of the story.
Don’t waste your limited number of pages, and don’t waste your reader’s time.
Remember: you can follow all the NaGraNoWriMo posts here!