From Novel to Script: A Rewritten Tale of Conversion
- Apr 18, 2012 6:50 AM
"You want to turn our story into a comic...?"
Once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden---er... artist. Yeah, that's about right. I'm sure damsel in distress and "artist" coincide with one another perfectly as it is. Ahem, as I was saying--Once upon a time, there was a beautiful and distinguished artist that befriended a lowly and degenerate writer prone to cynicism and indifference. They began to conjure ideas and with those ideas came stories written together. One such story would eventually become our post-apocalyptic adventure We Will Draw Near.
I often looked at collaborative projects with disdain. After all, how could two minds on entirely different continents with opposite time zones be able to accomplish anything? Well... I don't mean to surprise you or strike fear into your heart but there happens to be this modern innovation known as The Internet. You found yourself here, so I assume you aren't completely naive to the strange beast of modern ingenuity. Were it not for this platform to exchange daily entries to our budding story, it simply would not be. I would not have the pleasure of knowing Vervain and I like to think I could be a more accomplished and productive writer if I didn't feel the need to play "rage" and "troll" in the fantasy lands known as chat rooms and subject-based forums.
So with our platform set, we began to exchange passages of this story and develop, design, and finalize characters and various subplots. This would go on for about a year until a fully-fledged story was developed with a defined beginning, middle, and end. I fell in love with the conflict and the social stigmas that were present in a truly divided cast system presented in our little story. I enjoyed subtly painting modern atrocities in how we humans treat one another and flowering it up with light humor. And somehow despite the countless differences between Vervain and I, I began to get the creeping suspicion that this work was something to be proud of. If only for the simple fact that writing WWDN made me happier than I ever felt with any project. It was a story that I felt needed to be told but could never have come to fruition without the horrors of "collaboration".
Now that you have some perspective on where all of this came from, allow me to get to the meat and potatoes of this initial posting. We began to convert the story into a comic. I'm going to remain with the assumption that it was Vervain who conjured the idea simply to avoid being blamed for the psychosis that comes of how damn hard that damsel in distress works his artistic magic. And this lends to the process of conversion a little unfair to the artist and arouses several questions:
"But Eve, the story is already written. What do you do as the author now?"
I cannot stress the importance of Direction when it comes to the conversion process. I have the rare fortune of trusting Vervain, the artist, unconditionally when it comes to page layout, design, and structure. For this, I recommend advance scripting of any given work prior to actually drawing out scenes. Most of my work and time is spent converting dialogue and scenes from the heavy details and paragraphs of fluff into something simple, concise, and direct for the readers to soak up and still give the same impression. But now as a comic, we have the aid of visual representation instead of countless details that bog down a story.
"What if I have written the story myself but now want an artist to help me turn it into a comic?"
I had the pleasure of being asked this particular question while at an anime convention working a panel on webcomics. I am haunted by this question because there is no kind or gentle way of saying the answer. You will have a difficult time finding a collaborating artist that understands or knows the story as much as you want them to. However, this is a positive diversion. In fact, I encourage any writer to accept with wide-open arms the prospect of allowing another creative mind in your inner workings. But here is the mystical quality of conversion from novel to comic that can break your ego as a writer: Development. A story that flows well on page may need to be twisted and ripped apart in order to work with panels or visual representation. Allowing for that visual rendition of your story means making sacrifices that requires diligent compromise. If you are fortunate enough to find an artist who is willing to sit down, read your story in its entirety, suggest changes to allow for visual development, consider yourself set. Maintain that in order for any collaborative project to work that compromise and sacrifice needs to be made for the sake of maintaining your story's integrity and so it can be received by a wider audience.
"What is the most important thing to know about turning my story into a comic?"
Having discussed the need for compromise in a collaborative work, there are also those few talented monsters who are both fully capable of writing their stories and then drawing their panels and arranging their page-layouts as the role of "artist" as well. But regardless of whether or not your project is going to be tackled by yourself or as a collaboration between an artist and a writer or a group of writers and artists, there remains one particular fundamental necessity. I feel the most important thing to know about converting a story into a comic is Preservation. I fully anticipate that others may disagree with me but my bias is for the story that is being told. Preserving the guts of the story is the most important filter for maintaining how your comic is to be directed and developed for readers. Introducing the visual aid of the comic format to your story is an incredible way to broaden your audience and to tell your story. But by maintaining the story, you are able also maintain the direction of your comic and the visual developments that yield a successful project. Details can be sacrificed but one should never forsake the impact of conflicts and themes that keep your readers engaged and begging for more.
These are the questions I've been asked throughout my very nubile experience with converting our story into a comic. I truly believe that were it not for the fact that Vervain and I are likened minds that the endeavor would still be smoking from the conflagration of failure. However, if the experience has taught me anything it would be that patience is essential and learning to open your mind to the creativity of others is rewarding more than it is frustrating. Without doing so, your mad thoughts may very well be only your own. Share some of your insane ingenuity with the world and you never know where it may take you.
Until next time,