Friday 16 November 2018

Writing Graphic Novels



All about the books

A graphic novel is “a story told in words and pictures ordered sequentially, in book form” Will Eisner is reputed to have coined the phrase in late 1970s, though this is disputed.
 Even as early as the 1940s there were some comic books in libraries.
1968 Bill Katz recommended adding comics to libraries (‘Magazine’ column in Library Journal)  
1980s – more libraries and educators began to use comic books in education
1983 Cartoons and Comics in the Classroom : A Reference Guide for Teachers and Librarians by James L. Thomas
1990s more articles appearing in Booklist, Library Journal and School Library Journal
1994 VOYA offered regular coverage of graphic novels
Review column named “Graphically Speaking” in 1994
1992 Pullitzer prize awarded to Maus, Volume II by Art Spiegelman.
The graphic novel started appearing in American libraries 2002
2003 Booklist started publishing a ‘Graphic Novels Spotlight’
Note, the graphic novel is a format rather than a genre.  
Some classic examples:
Marjane Satrapis: Persepolis
Brian Talbot The Tale of One Bad Rat
Judd Winick’s  Pedro and Me
Note the great tradition of French graphics - not just for struggling readers, e.g. Tin Tin, Asterix. Picture books for adults are also popular in French-speaking countries.   


Manga literally means “humorous pictures”
It covers all genres except superheroes
It contains casual nudity and toilet humour – even in books for children.
It comes from Japan – hence you tend to read the books backwards.  
In Japan, it is read by most people but in the Western world it is more popular amongst teens.
Anime is the film version. In the west, manga is based on anime, in Japan anime is based on manga.

Some characteristics of graphic novels and manga  

There is an etiquette and a grammar that comes from the comic tradition.
The pictures may help less fluent reader absorb text but only if they understand the conventions of the comic book. However, manga is read by both fluent and reluctant readers.
It uses a special typography.  
There is a balance in the combination of pictures.
There are some “silent” pictures – how does this compare with film?


There are icons. Certain pictures always mean certain things.
They offer a simplified reality.  
The “mask” refers to facial expressions. Again, this is a language we learn.  
The reader becomes the cartoon character.
Often, the characters are two-dimensional cartoon but the backgrounds are three dimensional and realistic.

Moving from cell to cell  

From panel to panel we get:  
  1. moment to moment
  2. action to action  65%  
  3. subject to subject  20%
  4. scene to scene  15%
  5. aspect to aspect
  6. non sequitur
Those produced in English are all pretty similar. Japanese ones are quite different with much of 5. Maybe this is because of the length? It is interesting to study how the passing of time is shown.  

Six steps to creating the graphic novel

  1. First you think of your idea.
  2. Then you decide on the form.
  3. How are you going to include idiom? How will you make the abstract concrete?  
  4. Your graphic novel needs just as much structure as your prose novel.
  5. You apply your craft (writing and drawing).
  6. You work being aware of the graphic surface.   
Is this valid for all creative acts? For comics, graphic novels and manga there is a movement between the mind- hand- paper– eyes –mind.

Deconstructing a graphic novel

Using the text in front of you, look for the following:
  1. Is all script UPPER CASE BOLD FOR EMPHASIS (but actually not always)?
  2. Is the art sequential? 
  3. Is it sequential visual art?
  4. How does pace do here for comics what time does for film?
  5. How is time shown generally?
  6.  How are icons used?
  7. How is reality simplified? 
  8. Can you identify examples of the mask?
  9. Whose point of view is this story?
  10. Which role does the reader have?
  11. How do the characters contrast with the background?
  12. Does every picture read towards the bottom of the cell?
  13. Look at how the story moves from panel to panel. Can you identify:
    1. moment to moment
    2. action to action 
    3. subject to subject 
    4. scene to scene  
    5. aspect to aspect
    6. non sequitur
  14. What about the effect of:
    1. Angry reds
    2. Placid blues
    3. Anxious textures
    4. Liquid shapes
    5. Quiet lines
    6. Cold greens
    7. Shapes of speech bubbles

 Creating the Graphic Novel

Move through these stages:
  1. idea
  2. form
  3. idiom
  4. structure
  5. craft
  6. surface

BUT – also remember the other aspects of story structure, showing telling, dialogue, pace etc.

Submitting a graphic novel

Normally you only send a synopsis and a few pages of text.  You don’t normally complete the text until you have a contract.    

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