Okay, so, I’ve been getting asked a lot, and i mean a LOT, lately about storytelling tips and tricks, and quite frankly, it’s easier for me to show than it is to tell, so i’m offering up the last full issue of Red Thorn that i did, issue 11. Keep in mind that i’m not the world’s best at storytelling, but i’m a shitload better than i was when i first started. I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of storytelling, as i feel that’s something everyone needs to really kind of come into on their own. Each person tells a story differently, and that’s what makes this medium great.
That being said, there are a few general tips and tricks.
Long story short, you need to follow the KISS principles. No, not the band, i mean “Keep it simple, Stupid.” Your pages should be able to be read even in itty bitty form, which means that anything that is superfluous needs to be dropped. Each page needs to have a purpose and a flow, and each panel should be to help get you to that point, even if it’s just to turn the page to ANOTHER point.
Vary your viewpoints. Long shots, tight shots, mid range, heads, use a good mix for all, depending on what the purpose of the page is. So many inexperienced artists rely upon either the tight head shot, or a midrange, because they aren’t comfortable doing anything else. To that I say get comfortable being uncomfortable for a bit, because you’re limiting the potential of your story. Don’t know how to draw a weird perspective? Learn. Seek out scenes that would have greater impact if you’d get out of your comfort zone a bit and just take the time to learn.
Plan for dialogue, and your plan should be complimentary to the page and overall composition. So few people realize or recognize the power that a letterer has in a book: speech balloons and captions are the only consistent things from page to page, so they’re the most identifiable part of a what makes a comic. Use them to your advantage. They draw your eye, and when done properly, can compliment the motion between panels and pages.
Speaking of motion, western comics are read from left to right, top to bottom. Keep that in mind when doing layouts. Don’t have lines of action running off panels without reasons. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and when that happens, use the lettering to your advantage to make sure it’s CLEAR as to which panel comes next.
Give yourself a break every now and then, both in eyes and with your drawing hand. Your brain needs a break from the action and visual overload, and your hand will thank you for using silhouettes when you can.
Don’t be afraid to modify a script when necessary. Writers are writers, but artists are writers too, we just do it visually. Sometimes the script calls for stuff that, on paper, just doesn’t make sense. Change it, but be able to support the reasons behind WHY you did so, otherwise you’re going to piss your writer off.
Embrace Photoshop, especially if you’re still learning. I cannot stress this enough: USE PHOTOSHOP FOR YOUR LAYOUTS. When you get a bit more skilled with storytelling, by all means, do your layouts traditionally, but in the beginning, Photoshop is your friend. Why? Because you can easily modify panels by flipping, resizing, redrawing, etc etc etc WITHOUT redrawing your entire page. This is especially important when you’re working for a company, and you have editors requesting changes. If you don’t know how to use photoshop, learn. Simple as that. If you don’t have access to photoshop, then make friends with a copier/scanner that has resizing capabilities.
And for god’s sake, don’t draw your page without having a damn plan.
I can keep going, but really, this should be a good starter. For more in depth stuff, check out Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work, as well as Scott McCloud’s Making Comics. There are obviously MANY other things to learn from, but those are the two that helped me the most.
Script: Provided for comparisons between written and final — Red Thorn – Issue 11 – Draft 1