Friday, February 26, 2021

5 Things You're Doing Wrong in Your Comic Book or Graphic Novel Script

Writer's Laptop Keyboard

I've been doing some freelance comics script editing because it fits my schedule. The work coming my way varies. Some of it's very professional and complete. Often I get scripts that don't take even the comics world's not-particularly-set-in-stone formatting into account, however.

It seems to be happening organically. I see great storytelling and characterization in a shotgun blast of text. I'm not sure why that's so in a world where Google offers access to thousands of samples and examples including many provided by publishers. Regardless of that, almost every day I get submissions with very little distinction between elements. 

Description co-mingles with dialogue, quotation marks are used where they aren't needed and little regard to basic terminology is shown. Inevitably tacked to one of these polyglot scripts is a note. Do you think this will sell to a publisher? Short answer: "Uh, no." That's a different matter, but still, no. 

A little bit of formatting can offer the scriptwriter a lot more control, and it makes things easier on everyone else. A letterer doesn't have to extricate text from a shotgunned mass. An artist can get a clear vision, and it's easier to edit for errors as well. Tools that can make the two-dimensional world of comics more dynamic can also be deployed.

So what can be done to turn your great storytelling into a functional script? Here are a few thoughts that have come to my mind. Maybe instead of dwelling on what's wrong, we should say these are actually things you can do right.

1). Find some sort of format and use it 

Many are available, and if you do a bit of scanning, you'll find ways to convey your vision easily to an artist while making your work easy on the eye. 

Some easy resources include Dark Horse's sample script and many more on the Comics Script Archive

Check out a number of them, and try not to zero in on the worst, non-standard example you can find as an excuse to do your own thing. 

Here's a guide to basic comicbook terminology as well. 

2.) Be descriptive and keep in mind only one major event can occur in a panel. It's a still frame, a snapshot if you will.

A guy can't rush to the window, tear off his civilian clothes and jump out in one panel. Don't ask an artist to draw that. Artists will often interpret your words and develop a sequence, but you're the writer. Make it clear and precise and make the most of every panel.

3.) Sound effects (SFX) enhance a story. 

A comic's a flat page, but you're seeking to convey action and excitement. One of the tools you have to make the experience dynamic for the reader is sound effect text, and the writer can come up with those words.

Many great and innovative flourishes have developed in recent years, taking the comics world beyond the Pow! and Zaps! parodied in the old Batman series. Scan the comics you have on hand and take note of what's being done. 

Develop a good ear, and harness sites such as Written Sound, the onomatopoeia dictionary

4.) Lettering isn't just about words.

Good letterers can add special emphasis to key words, do interesting things with speech bubbles and add many more flourishes. Take note of that as well as you scan your favorite comics. Add a special note to the letterer if you have a phrase you really want to punch up in some way. Break up a character's long monologue in a couple of speech bubbles if it's a mouthful. 

Dave: Longwinded remark.

Dave: Longwinded remark continued.

Look for natural breaks in the dialogue to suggest a new bubble. 

5.) Use art references.

We all think about things a little differently. When I was in college, I asked an artist to draw a burglar with a mask. To me a domino mask like The Hamburglar wears. She drew a guy with a bag of loot over his shoulder wearing a bandanna tied around his face. To me, that's a train or bank robber's mask. If there's something specific or even something that sets a tone or a mood, find a reference via Google Images and paste a link into the script. 

You might even develop a private Pinterest board with a collection of images as a lookbook like filmmakers use and share that with the artist. That can go a long way toward developing a world that fits what's in your imagination while stimulating an artist's visual creativity. 

Think of these points as shortcuts. If a script's well formatted, an editor is free to focus on storyline, character and world-building details and offer meaningful suggestions that can guide you toward meaningful tweaks and revision that lead toward a satisfying experience for readers. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Fool's Run - The Audiobook Thriller Narrated by Josh Brogadir

Fool's Run by Sidney Williams Audiobook

I realized I hadn't done a post about the audiobook version of my newest novel, the mystery-thriller Fool's Run. It actually rolled out at the same time as ebook and trade paper editions

It's always exciting to have the world that was once just inside your head take new form. Certainly it morphs from imagination to manuscript and then to published work. There's a bit of a feeling that your child has come into the world when a book's released and when you see it in paper form.

SEE ALSO: The Obligatory Holding Up the New Book Photo - Fool's Run

Audiobooks are maybe the purest form of adaptation of the written word beyond that. There's an element of interpretation, a bit of dramatization even with a single narrator, but the words stand. 

It's hard for me to look back on anything I've done. I think it's much like actors who don't like to watch their own TV shows. There's always a word you might have chosen better, a phrase that could have had more of a twist. That's the nature of the game and some writers forgive themselves more than others.

I'm not particularly forgiving of myself, yet it's still fun if paradoxical to have the work out there, and I'm very pleased with the Fool's Run audio and having Josh Brogadir give voice to my noir protagonist/narrator Si Reardon. 

He makes Si come alive in a meaningful way, and lets the other characters speak as well, setting a great tone for the narrative. 

I understand it's not always the case, but Josh and I were in contact during his recording work, and I was able to provide my take on a few Louisiana names, locations and words. 

We also discovered there's one New Orleans location that locals know by different names. It's the kind of little detail you hate to miss. Happily I was able to talk to several New Orleans friends settle on the nickname someone from a particular part of the city might use and change the manuscript since the trigger hadn't been pulled yet on publication to the various platforms.

Fool's Run is the first tale featuring Silas Reardon, an ex-cop fresh out of prison and faced with a brutal series of challenges and hardships that force him to take on a dirty job. That leads to complications and a brutal game with a powerful businessman. 

Take a look and listen to an audio sample here


Monday, February 22, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - What About the Baby? by Clare McNally

A sub-genre of menaced brides, mothers and expectant mothers cropped up in the 1980s, perhaps an offshoot of the fading gothic surge. It seems to anticipate the current crop of domestic thrillers. 

Since Thomas Altman titles which fit in that vein have been mentioned in recent weeks, here's another in a similar style. What About the Baby by Clare McNally is from Bantam, September 1983.

Something About the Baby by Clare McNally

View more of Clare McNally's titles here

what about the baby back cover


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The White Koi - A Poem Memoir in Free Verse


The White Koi 2007 

One of the koi 
Has all-white scales.
“He’s an albino,” an old woman says. 
She sits in a wheelchair 
Having found her way to the pond
On her own. 

“I think it’s just a white variety,” I say.
“The eyes are not pink.” 
Why does it matter? 
Why do I need to correct this 
Old woman I don’t know? 

She’s here just like I am 
Escaping the nursing home’s confines 
Where antiseptic smells
Fail to mask underlying odors. 
Defecation and death. 

Escaping the boredom 
And the waiting 
For one or the other
To catch up. 

I’ve brought my mother 
Pushed her wheelchair. 
Alone, she would not find the will or the way. 
She is indifferent to the 
Fresh air, sunlight, the koi pond. 

We might as well be in the place’s 
Unused Library, the shelves 
Lined with Reader’s Digest Condensed Books
Donated and warehoused because 
They don’t have further value. 

My mother’s decline was signaled by
Repeated questions 
And lost emotions. 
She showed no reaction 
At the news my father would die. 

Showed no interest In being by his side, 
Her husband of 49 years.
As he slipped away. 

Her memory has been edited. 

I have no patience
With falsity. 
Not a good trait 
For this current role. 

Still, I correct genetic misinformation 
About the white koi. 
It’s not deficiency
But editing, called breeding. 

And tell my mother 
Her mother is not forgotten
Waiting in a hot car. 
She’s gone.
We remain. 

And I correct, though I can’t put back. 
I strive to make here 
More than a warehouse
At least.

For a person. 
If not for abandoned books. 
And a koi that the service 
Couldn’t place in ponds
Of more vocal customers 
In search of vibrant joy.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Kiss Daddy Goodbye by Thomas Altman aka Campbell Black aka Campbell Armstrong

Kiss Daddy Goodbye by Thomas Altman aka Campbell BlackKiss Daddy Goodbye (1980) is another from  Thomas Altman aka Campbell Black and Campbell Armstrong, following up on last week's post. If you think about it, the Altman novels kind of anticipate the  current domestic thriller era.

This is actually a hardcover book club edition I bought from a remainder house, Publisher's Central Bureau. The True Bride actually followed this one followed by Black Christmas, not a movie tie-in, though the author did write a tie-in to Dressed to Kill as Campbell Black. 

Dark Places followed this one and The Intruder rounded out the Altman novels. 

Monday, February 08, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Mr. Apology by Campbell Black

As I've discussed here from time to time, I worked at a newspaper for many years. After a while in general news, I moved into the features department. They asked for me after my first novel came out because it seemed to indicate I could write descriptive prose. I was more interested in writing about arts and letters and entertainment anyway, but it never proved to be a good fit.

Surprisingly the editors were not particularly interested in arts and letters, movies, music, books or many of the things that usually go into, you know, the arts and entertainment section of a newspaper features section. 

Despite that attitude, I always tried to bolster book and author coverage when I could, since I was working in that vineyard and knew what that meant to writers as well as readers.

Often, in spite of that, I was peripheral to decisions. 


An author from, I believe, New Orleans came by one day with the cover art from his upcoming techno-thriller style book. He'd just received it from the publisher.

His selling point was a shadow of a helicopter, almost an Easter egg the artist happened to drop into the mix. It was maybe a stretch to get editors interested. Didn't work even though he was a Louisiana writer and had something new from a New York house in a popular genre.

Somewhere in the process they introduced him to me, though I wasn't getting assigned to review his book. I think they had me busy on something exciting like "People Who Own Dogs in Cenla." 

In the course of conversation, he mentioned a friend, Campbell Armstrong whose real name was Campbell Black. "He sometimes writes as Thomas Altman."

I'd read Black Christmas and The True Bride. I said, "Yeah, I've read him. He puts out some things as Campbell Black."

"NO, HE WRITES AS CAMPBELL ARMSTRONG," the guy said emphatically. Wouldn't hear of different.

I let it drop, but I knew my own book holdings, and I had the one pictured at my house though this is not my copy which is in storage at the moment. 

The editor never took an interest in the guy's cover nor his technothriller. 

He sent postcards a few times after as reminder, escalating his tough sell, but there were stories about refrigerator magnet collectors to be assigned. So it goes. Today we have this thing called the internet that at least settles disputes. 

All of that came back to me for some reason. Conflict sticks with you, I guess. 



Got my copy from storage, so here's the back cover.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels

I got this one from my older cousin. It was in a stash with some issues of Galaxy and a book assessing the James Bond book series, things from his youth. I think he was out of college by then, and I was still a kid. 

It was tucked away in a corner of an abandoned house on his parents' property that was now being used for storage. 

The Asimov entry introduced me to the three laws of robotics. Well, actually my cousin had told me about that. I learned that's where he'd discovered them. 

Six Great Science Fiction Novels Front Cover

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