Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Smell a Plot

After getting five pages into my script, I realized that I couldn't just improv my way through. My story was too complicated and too winding. No this wasn't remotely Bendis's Daredevil, but I still needed some serious structure before I could continue.

So for the last couple nights I've been plotting. In my Influence-notebook—I'm going to various coffeeshops, pubs, parks, fountains, etc. and hand-writing the whole thing before moving on to digital; it's just easier to scribble notes and ideas down and sketch out layout ideas on paper than in Textpad). Anyway, in my Influence-notebook, I've layed out three columns: Page, Time, and Location.

These let me easily delineate story-pacing (both general flow and placement of anticipation/reveals). I can say something like:

14-15 1970;
Junior High
Pemberly; The sitting room to caverenous walk-in closet; A rousing game of spin the bottle—Darcy has just spun Miss Elizabeth Bennett; her distaste is facially evident. But peer pressure being what it is... Etc.
16 1991 Pemberly; The same closet; on the floor—Darcy chides Elizabeth for her childish prejudices; and Elizabeth laughs at Darcy's long-past discomfiture at her visible rejection of him. Things get steamy. Naturally.

I wasn't sure how well this would work and it's been tough essentially pre-writing every page before I get to write it for reals, but in the end, it should make my scripting task much easier.

Annnnnd, it's revealed the areas I'll need to research before I can even hope to write a certain segment realistically. I had gotten fifty pages of good plotting accomplished in this manner when I came to a section that I absolutely needed to research before I could touch it. And since I can't know how many pages to devote to this section, it's rather hard to proceed. In order to continue plotting to some degree, I've temporarily abandoned my more rigourous plotting for a more general order of events. And since my research begins tonight, I hope to be able to accurately plot those pages by week's end. I hope!

[[ Update: I have no idea why the table is so poorly rendered (esp. in IE). I've tried numerous fixes. One worked but destroyed the post in IE for baffling reasons. So, I've left it and hope the reader will be understanding. ]]


Jason said...


Just discovered this blog. If anyone I was editing told me they planned to write a graphic novel in a month I'd likely kick them in the face until they changed their mind. Not saying it SHOULDN'T be done, just that it's quite the endeavor, mainly because it's alot harder to plug your brain into a computer and stream a comic script with all the formatting.

My advice, although I'm sure you're all well underway, Marvel Style. Page description and some dialog. You start going "Page One Panel One" and the work's going to suffer.


But you do it Marvel Style in a month, tighten it afterwards however you want.

Well, good luck...

The Dane said...

Hey Jason, thanks for the wisdom. Actually, I don't plan on finishing my script in a month (though anything's possible), as I would have to be writing about fifteen pages a night in order to get there.

I'm not really sure what the different established methods of production are (you mention Marvel-style), but I have found a methodology that's working pretty well for me. It's not ambiguous and it's helping me retain a proper perspective on my story's "flow." And at the same time, I've found that it's offering me the right degree of freedom for modification - both for tightening and padding.

I'm sure that by month's end I'll have refined the process further and I think that's part of what the NaGraNoWriMo crucible is all about.

Dave Carter said...

Hi Jason. Yeah, you're probably right. I'm finding it slow-going so far. thinking in panel-to-panel format. WHat I've done for at least a couple of pages is to write out the dialogue first, then go back later and figure out how the panels break down.

But as with regular NaNoWriMo, our goal here isn't necessarily to write a *good* GN in 30 days, just to write *a* GN in 30 days. IF it turns out that my GN doesn't completely suck, maybe then I'll go back and clean it up.

Besides, I now have a new-found appreciation for what comics writers do!

Jason said...

Dave -

If I may offer some more advice, in the future, never lay out your dialog first. Comics aren't like movies and tv shows where the script is mainly dialog and the director decides how to put it to screen. With comics, the writer functions as part of the director team - you're responsible to visuals - and when you lay out dialog first, I find you tend to set up your visuals in the dialog and that's clumsy and unnecessary. That why you see a lot of self-published comics with a writer/artist team that read like shit. You’re reading all of this heavy dialog that may or may not be tied to the visuals and it’s just painful. Show the story first, than put dialog in where it’s needed. Always remember, a good comic can be “read” without the dialog.

Hope you all are doing well.