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Thread: Q: How do you approach panel writing?

  1. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    How much do you need an artist to get on your page, versus how much do you need to create the page together?

    I think if you have the answer to THAT question, you'll have a much better idea of what's necessary in the script, not just what might be written filler.
    That reminds me of something I've been thinking about a bit, for world-building purposes.

    I figure I could pull a fair amount of detail out of the script, if I put together a "setting bible" of sorts, that could pin down all the little nuances of the world separately from the things happening in the script - then the artist and I could hash all that out and make sure we're both in the same "sandbox" before even getting into the script itself.



  2. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by CalvinCamp View Post
    That reminds me of something I've been thinking about a bit, for world-building purposes.

    I figure I could pull a fair amount of detail out of the script, if I put together a "setting bible" of sorts, that could pin down all the little nuances of the world separately from the things happening in the script - then the artist and I could hash all that out and make sure we're both in the same "sandbox" before even getting into the script itself.
    Pull out...or re-conceive?

    I understand the former is easier, but here's the broader question (that does not necessarily have an implicit answer): Is shorter panel-writing just sparser than longer panel-writing, with less stuff mentioned, or does it involve an ENTIRELY different approach so that a different desired effect can be achieved?

    For ME, I approach the two from a completely different creative space. If I were to write a long version, then simply cut out stuff, or condense it, I'd end up with a very choppy script...that probably wouldn't read so well.

    For ME, having a script read well, be compelling an entertaining on its own merits is important...because I want the artist and editor to be entertained, instead of struggling to visualize what I'm hoping to achieve.

    But that's just me.

    What about you folks?

    --Lee



  3. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Pull out...or re-conceive?
    Well, a little of both, I expect. It would be pulled out of the script. And I'm sure the presentation would be different outside the script, because it would need to be much more of a general guide than the more "this object here, which looks like this" presentation it would be in the script.

    I understand the former is easier, but here's the broader question (that does not necessarily have an implicit answer): Is shorter panel-writing just sparser than longer panel-writing, with less stuff mentioned, or does it involve an ENTIRELY different approach so that a different desired effect can be achieved?
    I... don't really know how to answer that.

    I guess it would depend on where you started - shorter than what, y'know? Sparser how? I think I'd need an example of each method (or at least some sort of description), so I knew what you meant by the "entirely different approach." Otherwise I'm just guessing.

    The trouble I've had, personally, is being told that I'm calling out too many unimportant elements in the description, things that won't even appear in the panel when it's drawn. Yet those elements need to be there when it's drawn (perhaps not necessarily in any one given panel, but within the scene or comic, as the case may be), which is why I included them in the descriptions. If those specific elements need to be included, it seems like the method used to make sure those elements are included is kind of beside the point - the information could be in a setting bible, in descriptive paragraphs in the script, or in bullet-lists, but it still needs to get the same information onto the page; anything else seems like a question of style, not of substance.

    For ME, I approach the two from a completely different creative space. If I were to write a long version, then simply cut out stuff, or condense it, I'd end up with a very choppy script...that probably wouldn't read so well.
    "Cut out stuff" is the kind of shortening that I don't really believe in. It seems to me, if you had a reason that you felt the information needed to be there in the first place, then you probably can't just cut it and still have things make sense. Even if someone changed their mind and decided an element isn't important after all, they'll probably still need to rewrite, not just chop. Of course this assumes the long description was intentional.

    The only reason I can see for accidentally writing a long description (and if it wasn't accidental it doesn't need shortening, IMO) is inexperience. And if someone is just writing long, rambling descriptions of stuff that doesn't need to be there because they're inexperienced and thought they needed to describe the spider on the cobweb in the corner of the creepy old haunted house (even when they didn't actually care about the spider, or the cobweb) then what they really need to do is figure out how to writer shorter to begin with, not how to write long and cut it down.

    Condensing I can see a little more. I have a tendency to ramble (which I'm sure no one has noticed ), so my early panel descriptions were definitely able to be condensed without needing to remove any actual information. But, even then, it was a matter of rewriting with a more concise approach rather than just trying to pull extra words out - condensing the presentation, not the information. But I think it's still something to learn how to avoid, rather than just keep on rambling away and going back to condense it every time.

    For ME, having a script read well, be compelling an entertaining on its own merits is important...because I want the artist and editor to be entertained, instead of struggling to visualize what I'm hoping to achieve.

    But that's just me.

    What about you folks?
    That sounds like an ideal approach. I don't think there's any reason a script should need to be a dry, boring slog.

    But I'm not sure how that relates to description length. Do you just mean that going back to change the length would mess up the way the script reads?
    Last edited by CalvinCamp; Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 02:17 AM.



  4. StevenForbes Guest

    Yep. I'm here. A little late, but here.

    Let's go!

    To start off, I'm a writer. (We'll stop it there.) That's the perspective I'll be answering these questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Question 1: How much information do you feel is necessary for including in panel description?
    My own process for writing is pretty loose. I try to give the artist as much room as possible to flex their muscles.

    For my establishing shot, I try to give the essentials: who, what, where, and when. If it's important, I put it in the script. If I thought of something cool in page three, panel six that should have been on page one, panel two, then I go back to add it. I try to give the least amount of information possible, unless it is important to the story, or unless I have a specific vision in my head. Then I can get a little long-winded. However, I'm no Anne Rice. I try not to drone on and be boring.

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Sub-question: Does knowing the artist affect that decision, and if so, how?
    Yes, it does. It has to. As a writer, when working with an artist I know, I try to write to their strengths, their requests. Some like a tighter script, with more description. Some don't like drawing cars. I think it important to keep my artist happy. The happier they are, the better the art turns out.

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Question 2: How do you feel panel-writing should be approached, stylistically, for yourself as a writer or artist, and why does that work for you (if not necessarily for others)?
    I try to approach panel-writing logically. While a nice turn of phrase can help to tell the story, help draw the reader of the script into the world I'm weaving better, I think it also tends to distract from the story being told. Instead of telling the artist what the panel is supposed to be about, it instead describes things that normally cannot be drawn. There is a reason that prose gets adapted into a comic script format, yes?

    I try not to b dry, but I want the essence of what I write drawn on the page. For me, the only way to get there is to give the facts, something of what they're feeling if it's germane to the story/panel, and to leave the the blush of prose out of it as much as possible. However, I always tell the artist that, except for certain instances, the script is merely a guide. If they have a better way to visualize what I put down, then to go for it.

    When I wrote Bullet Time, I didn't have an artist in mind. When the late, great Dave Simons was brought to my attention as being able to do it, I let him know that the script was a guide. He followed the script decently, either adding or removing panels to help with the pacing. It was the first time a pro had ever worked on something of mine, and I've been spoiled ever since.

    If I know the artist, know their sensibilities, know that they're going to do justice to the script, then I'm extremely flexible. I trust them enough to get the story across. If I don't know the artist, if I don't know how they work, then it's a learning process. I think my scripts are loose enough to give the artist leeway and flex their own creative muscles, so I don't think that I ever need to cut description from my scripts. The flip side, of course, is if the artist asks for more direction. Then I need to add to the script. It's a little more work, but at least I've already got the bones and circulatory system in place. They're just asking for some meat. I can provide that.

    Did I miss anything?



  5. harryd Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    WHY would you go overboard in your descriptions, and does that, as I suspect, over-describing either the elements in the panel or the layout?

    I suspect this is because you wish for your script to describe your intent as clearly as possible. Is this so?

    Where do you see an artist's interpretation of your work as crossing the line?

    We discussed earlier what one artist did to Gaiman's story; that was from somebody who thought it was okay for an artist to deviate from the script.

    Is this your fear, losing your story?

    Is an artist your partner or your subservient?

    Sometimes one, sometimes the other?
    Well, a lot of this has been covered by Calvin and Drgerb, but I'll give my take on it as well. I think some of it comes from how I see the story in my head. I generally see them as little movies, and not as static images on a page. So, I'm trying to take a still frame from a scene and describe how to draw it as a single image.

    As I mentioned, a lot of my descriptions tend to be details on setting. I think I do this to try keep a grasp on where everything is, and after laying it out I can give abbreviated directions later on. I also want to make sure I don't forget mentioning something that's important later on. Sure, the window by the bed or the location of the bathroom aren't important right now, but 10 pages in when someone crashes through the window or there's a conversation through the bathroom door they will be.

    To the second part of the question, I think it depends on if it is a collaboration or work for hire. The couple of times I've tried to find a collaborator as a writer, I didn't really get any interest from artists. But, if someone was working with me pro-bono (or for a back end percentage) then I certainly hope they would want to have some input into the story. If I'm hiring an artist to do a script, then he's working for me.

    Now, I'd like to think I'm fairly easy going when it comes to working on a project. I welcome feedback, and ideas for improving the comic, but I would say a hired artist, colorist, or letterer would be out of line altering the story on their own without consulting whoever has hired them. As Calvin said, if I'm commissioning work, then I should have the final say on it.

    One final thought on more descriptive panels is that comics is very much a global business. Both of the artists I've worked with so far, did not live in the United States, and tons of applications came in from all over the world. If a story is supposed to be based in a real location, or a fictional location supposedly in the real world, you can't expect that they'll necessarily have the same sense of aesthetics you had in mind writing it. Clothing, a small town, road signs, all kinds of things may not come out as you expect them.

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    I know you are not alone in (perhaps) over-writing as a form of self-protection, so I'll ask one last question: how many of you believe this is the best way to write a comics panel, page, or script?
    So, yes, in some respects it's trying to protect the integrity of the story and the vision I had in mind when writing it. (Heh, I do have a mental image of stamping ones feet like a two year old shouting It's mine! It's mine!) I'll also take the side that it's be better to be more descriptive with your panels if you are writing sans artist. If you have an artist that you are familiar with, then it's fine to write in a style that works well for them. If you give a poor description and the art doesn't turn out like you hoped, you can't really blame the artist. (Well, you can, but you'd be wrong.)

    - Harry Durnan



  6. drgerb Guest

    Blah! I don't like the words 'hire' and 'paid.' Once money enters the conversation, all real meaning can be lost. An artist doesn't work FOR you. He works with you to make the best comic book possible. Even if you pay him. In my opinion.

    You don't go up to some girl on the street, say, 'Hey, if I pay you to have sex with me, can I keep the baby?' This comic book is your baby. You and the artist are going into it with an agreement of trying to make the best possible comic ever. But paying the artist and asking him ONLY to draw what you told him to draw, that's more like paying a hooker, then yelling at her when she does it wrong.

    The comic should always come first in my opinion. I dunno. I'm sounding like some pissed off biological mother here or something..

    I dunno. I just feel like writers should go more into a project with this partnership in mind. It's not a 'I wrote this, now you draw that and draw it exactly as I envision it!' It's more of a compromise, compromise, talk about it, compromise, group hug!, argue, and make up sex. Then in the end you may have an ugly smelly baby to brag about! Wahoo! I dunno. I don't like the idea of artists being whores. And yeah, I understand the artist usually may have more of a spotlight than the writer (unless you're Alan Moore or somebody), so you writers have to chase the spotlight every chance you get... But really, I just hate the idea of some guy sitting down, writing up a script, then tossing it to the artist and yelling when the artist tries something on his own. You have the gift of being able to sit down on your own and write up something without anyone hounding you. Why can't you do that for the artist too? I dunno.



  7. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by drgerb View Post
    Blah! I don't like the words 'hire' and 'paid.' Once money enters the conversation, all real meaning can be lost. An artist doesn't work FOR you. He works with you to make the best comic book possible. Even if you pay him. In my opinion.

    You don't go up to some girl on the street, say, 'Hey, if I pay you to have sex with me, can I keep the baby?' This comic book is your baby. You and the artist are going into it with an agreement of trying to make the best possible comic ever. But paying the artist and asking him ONLY to draw what you told him to draw, that's more like paying a hooker, then yelling at her when she does it wrong.

    The comic should always come first in my opinion. I dunno. I'm sounding like some pissed off biological mother here or something..

    I dunno. I just feel like writers should go more into a project with this partnership in mind. It's not a 'I wrote this, now you draw that and draw it exactly as I envision it!' It's more of a compromise, compromise, talk about it, compromise, group hug!, argue, and make up sex. Then in the end you may have an ugly smelly baby to brag about! Wahoo! I dunno. I don't like the idea of artists being whores. And yeah, I understand the artist usually may have more of a spotlight than the writer (unless you're Alan Moore or somebody), so you writers have to chase the spotlight every chance you get... But really, I just hate the idea of some guy sitting down, writing up a script, then tossing it to the artist and yelling when the artist tries something on his own. You have the gift of being able to sit down on your own and write up something without anyone hounding you. Why can't you do that for the artist too? I dunno.
    GONG GONG GONG!

    RESET BUTTON IN OPERATION RIGHT NOW.

    Roberts, it's fair to say how you feel about these, but I've set up this particular sandbox for discussion, asking, probing, not challenging.

    Officially, you're out of order here, and I'm asking you to take a step back.

    I don't have any issues with a writer saying "money" or "paid," and nothing's lost at all. It may be changed or qualified, but not lost.

    And, if an artist is paid to perform a job, and if that's the relationship that's established, he/she IS working for the person who paid her.

    I'd like to ask others to please ignore all these comments.

    Roberts, if you'd care to try again and discuss your perspective on the why you don't believe artists who are performing work for pay don't work for the person who pays them, I'd be interested in reading that...even though we are moving off topic.

    I think it's perfectly legitimate for somebody to say they alter the way they write, depending on the nature of the deal.

    And that doesn't mean I agree with it, but that doesn't make me or you "right."

    Stan Lee believes that characters are created when he writes them, not when the artist finds a visual interpretation. In HIS mind, he's the creator.

    I don't agree with that perspective, and I'd be curious to know whether Harry thinks that, too.

    But THIS is how we're going to discuss things here.

    We're going to work to find out what people believe, and why.

    And the more we understand, the more we'll know how to work with (or choose NOT to work with) people we don't necessarily agree with.

    I've seen a lot of threads on other forums explode; this isn't going to be one of them.

    Thanks.

    Now, let's get back to the discussion.

    Steve, welcome to the party. I'll review what you wrote more closely tomorrow.

    'night, all.

    --Lee



  8. CalvinCamp Guest

    Stan Lee believes that characters are created when he writes them, not when the artist finds a visual interpretation. In HIS mind, he's the creator.

    I don't agree with that perspective, and I'd be curious to know whether Harry thinks that, too.
    I'm not Harry, but I'd like to tackle that one.

    I think Stan Lee may have a point, but I also think he may be taking it a little far. If he's creating everything but the visual, then I'd say he's probably creating at least as large a percentage of the character as the artist (maybe even, arguably, a larger percentage). But if he's not also creating the visual interpretation, then he's not creating the entire character.

    But, to spin off that a little, I do think it's possible for a writer to create a character in its entirety, including the visual interpretation, by also creating/describing the visual aspects of the character in specific detail (though I have no idea if Stan Lee has ever done that).



  9. drgerb Guest

    All right. Yeah, I tend go get a bit "headstrong" at times when feelings are involved. I guess I just don't like acting like it's all about the money. It is a business afterall, I just like to think artists have other reasons for doing what it is they are doing. Anyway...

    And luckily I'm an aspiring writer / artist. Being an artist, getting paid, and not fully in love with the characters or story, I feel like I'd constantly be half assing stuff, assuming it'd be good enough for the writer, not really perfecting it as good as I could, knowing I'm not totally into it. I'm just doing it to get paid so getting it done faster makes more sense than putting forth the effort. And looking at something as a business and as money with little numbers on them seems to kinda lose focus and blur everything a bit. I like to think I'm doing the things I do for the passion, for the desire. Not for the pay check. That's why I work my day job. To pay the bills. I'm doing this for the love. And the idea of being an artist just throwing a pencil to paper not for the MEANING, but for the MONEY... Seems kind of like a cop out.

    Which is why I feel like I'd either NEED to have a major say in both writing and drawing a particular project, or I'd need to fully trust the other creator (whichever) involved with me. If I can totally understand where you're coming from as a writer and how everything makes sense, I'd be more game for jumping in as an artist. But if I don't totally know you or don't agree with what you're saying, I think I'd pass up a potential paying job to keep doing my own stuff because I AM confident in my own stories. Maybe that's just me... But if an artist would jump in just cause the money's nice... Bleh. I mean art is a passion. It's challenging norms, it's breaking rules. It shouldn't be about the money. And when it is, I think things get compromised. Granted, some of the best artists half assing stuff cause they're getting paid to do it, some of their crappy drawings will still be better than 99% of the population... I mean a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci is still by the greatest artist to have ever lived. It could theoretically look better if he put ink to it and put some more time into it. But that's WHY he's famous. Cause he did it for the passion, not for the pay checks.

    And I guess that may almost tie into my previous few posts. You write to tell your own stories. If you get successful and get paid for it, that's a bonus. Art is so much more about the money in this business it seems, to me, to almost lose it's meaning. When money's involved meaning can easily go out the window.

    I still don't fully understand the business I am aspiring to become part of... But maybe being writer / artist will let me succeed a bit more than getting pissed off at my writer who's telling me how to draw, or pissed off at the artist who didn't perfect MY characters. Blah. Hah. Oh well. Again, sorry for that last bit. For the record, I think I had some alcohol in my belly then. Gah. Alcohol. Curse you. You throw the train off it's tracks, you systematically mess up the system and you make me look like a damned fool... But you are so tasty.



  10. LeeNordling Guest

    I have a perspective that dovetails into both of Roberts's and Calvin's thoughts, and may helps separate the issues for further discussion...though I would like to bring this discussion back home to the topic at hand.

    But the perceived role of the artist with the writer and the script may be too important a building block to ignore in the discussion, as it relates to preparing work FOR them.

    This is simply how I look at this stuff, but I think it's important to know your own mind, at least so you can set down the ground rules of a relationship.

    It would be terrible for an artist not to know a writer thinks he's merely somebody to visually interpret the writer's story and the writer's characters, right? That's where misunderstandings come from.

    It would be equally terrible for an artist not to know he/she is valued as a full partner, with equal voice about the visual interpretation of characters and a script.

    Let's first deal, at least from my perspective, how money informs the work.

    If I'm being paid an advance to write a story that belongs to me, then I have the opportunity to write it.

    If writing something that belongs (or will belong) to somebody else, presumably for some form of compensation that I find acceptable, then I do two things: work to discover the parameters to the job, then do my best possible work to achieve the story goals within those parameters. Period. And, while I'm writing, the story is MINE MINE MINE. But, as soon as I hand it off to whomever owns or controls it, it's THEIRS THEIRS THEIRS.

    When I write a story that needs to be drawn by somebody else, the story is MINE MINE MINE. But, as soon as I hand it off to my new partner, the work is OURS OURS OURS.

    I've done a lot of work for myself, and a lot more work that's owned by others. This way of thinking helps me avoid mental breakdowns about what somebody is doing to work I created.

    MINE is MINE, OURS is OURS, THEIRS is THEIRS.

    It's okay not to want to work on stuff owned by somebody else; a LOT of people are incapable of doing it well. Conversely, just because you might not be able to do it, whomever "you" are, that doesn't mean others can't or shouldn't, regardless of compensation.

    Bringing the conversation back home, again, understanding that we're different, and having that be okay, as long as we understand how and why we're different, gives us all a better opportunity to work together.

    (All this on my first half-cup of coffee; I'm taking another sip now.)

    --Lee



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