National Graphic Novel Writing Month Day 19: Pages As Scenes
Consider the simple comic book page.
I know, your first thought is: this isn’t my problem. I’m the writer, not the artist. This is National Graphic Novel Writing Month. National Graphic Novel Drawing Month isn’t for a while yet.
No no no. The page is important as a unit of storytelling, and as a writer for graphic novels, you should be thinking visually to prepare for it.
Think about an hour long episode of television. Many people think of it as the five act structure, with eight or nine minute acts acts being broken up by commercial breaks. (Yes, 44 minutes of television.)
But it’s often more useful to think of it as twenty-two two minute scenes. It breaks the story down into much smaller bits, with each scene delivering some useful piece of information about the story or characters, while allowing for contrasting bits and alternating plotlines.
Think of an episode of House MD, broken up into two minute scenes.
1. Meet the patient, who collapses from something strange.
2. Doctors sit around table, House comes in, establishes problem.
3. Doctors meet with patient, run tests, get background info needed for the patient.
4. House gets involved in wacky scheme to get Wilson and Cuddy to appear in roadshow production of Guys & Dolls to pay for new MRI machine.
5. Doctors apply cure to patient, which fails spectacularly and leads to growth of extra arm.
END FIRST ACT, COMMERCIAL
This structure also works for comics, where you can go page by page and figure out what has to go where.
Page 1: The Green Goblin is testing his equipment, then he meets with the Enforcers to hire them to help him deal with Spider-Man.
Page 2: Goblin cuts a deal with a movie mogul to get Spider-Man to appear in a film.
Page 3: Peter Parker is at school when he hears about Goblin flying over New York; he excuses himself to change.
Page 4: Spidey meets Goblin, Goblin pitches the movie deal.
Page 5: Spidey goes to movie mogul, haggles over the deal, and signs to make sure he has money for Aunt May’s medicine. The Goblin lurks in the background, noting that Spidey is falling into his trap.
Simple sounding? Sure. And yet, that’s pretty much how Amazing Spider-Man #14 introduced the Green Goblin to the world.
In addition, the end of the page is a natural break point in your story, a good place to bring a scene to an end, while your reader is turning the page.
So take a look at how other people use the page in their writing– then try it in your own work.
Remember: you can follow all the NaGraNoWriMo posts here!