How To Make Comics: A Summary of Steps for Comics Story Development

Below are the steps that summarize story development for graphic novels and comics limited series. It collapses everything that we've talked about in this series of blog posts that began with How To Create a Graphic Novel Story From Scratch Part One. If you haven't read the series of blog posts, it's advisable that you do so.

STEP 1: If you're starting from scratch: Take a character, any character you've created, and follow him through his ordinary life by listing a series of Story Events.

STEP 2: As you list Story Events, identify a Disturbance that will rock your character's ordinary life and make him decide to fix it. (List the Disturbance as another Story Event.)

STEP 3: Continue to list Story Events after the Disturbance until...

STEP 4: can jump all the way forward and deduce a Possible Ending to the story. If you can't find an Ending yet, continue adding Story Events to what you have so far until something inspires you.

STEP 5: Based on what you've done so far, and how much time and money you have, determine how many issues you would need to complete the story. (In the example below, we have six, but you can have more or less.) As much as possible, the Disturbance should take place in the first chapter or issue (or at most the beginning of the second), so that the reader will immediately know what the story will be about.

STEP 6: Fill up the chapters or issues with Reveals that your character needs to learn or discover, plus the Challenges he will have to overcome. Adjust your Ending as much as you want to make sure it cleanly connects with your story's beginning. You can even go as far as adjusting the beginning of your story if you find your ending too cool to change.

STEP 7: Now that you've decided on an Ending, take note how each issue or chapter will end in a cliffhanger. Cliffhangers are usually an intriguing Reveal, the beginning of a seemingly difficult Challenge, or critical point in the Challenge itself.

STEP 8: Let's zoom in on a chapter/issue. Since you know the Challenges and Reveals that will be presented, list down a series of Story Events for this chapter/issue. Don't worry yet about page count or pacing. What's important right now is that you get the Story Events down pat. You can even think about the dialogue that will accompany the Story Events.

STEP 9: When you're done listing the Story Events, its time to think about compression and decompression. If you're working with 20 pages per chapter/issue, with one Story Event equaling one comic book panel, which Story Events do you think you can delete, combine, or expand? Which Story Events would benefit from fast pacing, or slow pacing?  It's always best to start by cleaning up the first chapter/issue, deleting/combining/expanding those Story Events as necessary.

STEP 10: Write the basic script.

And there you have it. Building a graphic novel story from scratch. Is this all you need to know? No, there's a whole lot more! But you can already start fiddling with ideas using the above steps.

NEXT: One of the first concerns that come up when it comes to building a comics story from scratch is, "I can't think of a Disturbance! What will my story be about?!" This concern can be addressed by Backstory, which is everything that happened before your story even started. By knowing the background of your character and your world, you'll have the necessary ammo to help you make your story more interesting. But there's also one more important benefit of Backstory. That comes in the next part.


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