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Comics is such a visual medium, sometimes it's easy to forget that there is a lot of writing involved in comics too! The writing in comics is not just the words you see in the speech balloons, thought bubbles and captions, but also the plot of the story and the mannerisms and actions of the characters. The best comics weave together the writing and the pictures in a way that makes the story come to life.
After I've read a bunch of great books, an idea will start to form for a new story. I usually let it tumble around in my head for a while - sometimes for a few days or weeks, or, as is the case with Isle of Elsi, for a few years! Once I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the story, I make a big outline. This is usually on one sheet of paper and it only has "broad strokes" on it, like the beginning, middle and end of the story, and any major plot developments.
Each one of these "big strokes" then gets turned into a smaller outline, which also usually only fills one page. This takes a scene and breaks it down into its parts: which characters are in it, snippets of dialogue, anything important that I need to think about for that specific scene or larger story arcs. Once I have one or two of these smaller outlines, it's time to start drawing!
I "script" every page of Isle of Elsi on a piece of 8.5" x 11" scrap paper, with a #2 pencil. On a scripted page I roughly draw everything you see in the final comics page: panel structure, characters, speech balloons, backgrounds, etc. As I script pages from the plot points on the smaller outline, I check them off, until I have made it through a scene. Then I go back and create the next smaller outline (based on the next point from the big outline) and then script out those pages. That way I can adjust while I go and let new discoveries keep the project fun. I do this process over and over again until the book is scripted!
The picture above is me at my kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York on March 28th, 2008 scripting the last page of my book Basewood. I can usually script about one page a day, and it's usually the first thing I do in the morning, while my creative mind is still fresh.
Now, I can't post my outlines for Isle of Elsi, because that would ruin the story for all of you! Also, this first Isle of Elsi story had a somewhat more bumpy road into existence than the streamlined process I have laid out above... (I'll talk about that more once this first story is over). For now, I have decided that I am going to show you one page of my script: Page 29, which was drawn on December 1st, 2009 in White River Junction, Vermont. Over the last week I have been filming myself working on this very page (panel layout, lettering, penciling, inking, coloring) so this script will show you the beginning of that page, and you will get to follow it all the way through its completion.
I'm going to attach the script page to this post, instead of embedding it, so that those of you who would like to avoid spoilers can do so!