Sunday, May 15, 2011

Some Graphic Novel Creation Tips

These five tips are more reminders to myself than anything else.

A) Punch your reader with a strategically-placed potentially iconic moment, that is, 1) a critical part of your story that's 2) not only visually arresting, but also 3) triggers a strong emotional response in your reader that 4) lingers long after your book is put down. It becomes iconic when the reader 5) associates that moment with a real-life event.

B) Make advantages disadvantages, and vice-versa. Add depth to your characters by exploring situations where a character's strength is actually a weakness (because perfection is boring), and where a weakness is actually a strength (because we root for underdogs). And make these developments matter in the course of your story. Strengths and weaknesses can be, but are not limited to, abilities, a personality trait, a status in society, or even a relationship.

C) Apart from dramatic roles, assign thematic roles to characters. Once you've decided on the theme of your story, assign characters who will portray various facets of this theme, with the objective of either supporting the theme, questioning it, opposing it, or offering a new viewpoint. Simply put, a dramatic role is what a character is meant to do in your story. A thematic role is what a character is meant to represent in terms of theme. Not only will thematic roles make your exploration of theme more complete, they will also make your story more well-rounded and thought out.

D) When drawing, make each panel matter. Film directors make each shot matter. Music composers make each note matter. No part of their work is executed "just to get it done and over with." Or, even if they felt that, we ordinary folk hardly noticed. So even if you have to do shortcuts in your art to speed things up, don't make it look like a shortcut. Make it look like part of the grand plan.

E) Draw what you know. If you're not sure how to draw that complex double-vanishing point superhero battle spread, don't even try. Perfect it before printing it. If you want your work to look professional, no matter what your style is, highlight your strengths and hide your weaknesses on the finished page.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for great tips! I have a suggestion, though. Can you please put examples found in the stuff you or other creators have published so points can be more clearly illustrated?

Carver said...

Hello Anonymous... Thanks!
I must make a disclaimer, though, that these are the rules I've set up for myself. But anyone can use one or more of the points if it suits them. :-D

Item #1 is really a rule I've made for myself. But some of the visually iconic moments I know--off the top of my head--are:

1] The first appearance of Phoenix;
2] Batman's back being broken by Bane. [or b.b.b.b.b.b.];
3] Superman and Wonder Woman kissing in mid-air
4] In the first Zaturnnah book, the first time Ada swallows the stone

Item #2 and #3 is something I learned out of all those writing references I've invested in. Since those references are more for film and playwriting, I haven't gone so far as to actively look for many examples in comics. But here's one that comes to mind that shows how a "weakness" was used as a strength:

* In X-Men #214, Storm battles Malice, a spirit-entity who possesses sentient beings and brings out their dark side. Storm was able to defeat Malice by saying something like, "you cannot take advantage of something I had long ago embraced." [Storm's darker side came out during the time a war in Asgard screwed up the weather patterns on Earth. She "transformed" from nature-loving goddess to kick-ass punk chick, something that a number of her teammates disliked.]

Item #4 and #5 is really about making each page look as polished as possible given one's limits. Or, in basketball, practice making a lot of three-pointers first before trying out a crucial three-pointer in an actual game. While it is understandable that not every panel can be perfect, but each ought to be within a certain range of polish. If not "great," then at least between "good" to "very good." Makes things consistent and comfortable for the reader. :-D


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