This site was updated
When I attend conventions or appear as a guest speaker in schools, one
of the questions I'm inevitably asked is, "How can I become a comic
book writer?" The first thing I say is, "Learn how to tell a
good story. Learn to write." If you can't write an entertaining story,
then you won't be able to write entertaining comic book stories. Comic
books are a medium with rules and expectations unique unto themselves,
but at the heart of every good comic is a good story.
The goal of this site is to lead you, the aspiring comic book writer,
through the entire creative process of writing for comics. This means
I will be starting at the very beginning with a discussion of what makes
a good story. Without those basics, then you will never write a good comic
book story. From there, I will go into the nuts and bolts of crafting
a comic book script, as well as advice on writing query letters, springboards,
Let me say a few things up front:
- As with any art form, there is no ultimate right or wrong way to approach
the creation of art. The methods I discuss in the course of this site
work for me. I use them every day in my career as a storyteller. This
does not mean every other writer works the way I do or shares my philosophy,
nor do you have to. You have to find your own style, voice, and path.
What I am providing here are guideposts--things
that may help you find your way. Take what you can use from this book
and discard that which doesn't help you.
- Do not learn to write comic books from reading comic books only. (Nor
should you learn to draw comics from comics.) Reading good comics will
help you learn elements of form and style, but it is also inherently
limiting. You get into the law of diminishing returns, for if you don't
have any reference points beyond comics, everything you write will be
derivative. Read novels. Read newspapers. Read non-fiction. Watch foreign
films. Go to the theater. Expose yourself to more than what you find
on comic book shelves. The more you know about the world around you,
the more material you will have with which to build stories. The more
storytelling styles you have encountered, the larger your own bag of
tricks will be.
- Learn to write, and in this case, I'm not just talking about writing
stories. I'm talking about basic grammar. Learn how to use language.
Learn how to spell and punctuate. Learn how to form a sentence. Learn
about literary devices like parallel structure, metaphor, personification,
etc. You may have the best, most exciting, unique stories in
the world to tell, but if you can't put them down on paper in a way
that looks professional and can be read, you drastically reduce the
chances that an editor will read or buy your work.
- There is more to the comic book medium than superheroes, and each
genre has its own rules and rhythms. You will find that I often use
superhero language in discussing basic concepts, but I do this because
it is an easy shortcut as the majority of people reading this material
has been exposed to the superhero culture through comics, movies, or
television. However, even if you don't care for superheroes, the theories
and concepts I am illustrating work beyond that particular genre. If
I spend a few sentences writing about what motivates Hero Woman or Super
Guy and you aren't interested in superheroes, try to get past the veneer
to what is actually being said about character motivation. It applies
whether your character wants to save the world or to buy a can of soda.
- Breaking into the comic book industry is hard work, especially for
writers. Let's face it: comics are a visual medium. An editor can glance
through an artist's portfolio and be able to tell quickly whether the
artist understands anatomy, perspective, layout, composition, and storytelling.
The same can not be said of a script. It takes time and concentration
to be able to determine if a writer understands plot, structure, pacing,
character development, dialog, and all the other pieces that form a
coherent and interesting story. An editor has to take time to read a
sample writing submission, and most editors are already too busy trying
to meet their publication deadlines for the projects they're already
editing. They don't have a lot of extra time to read blind submissions.
For this reason, it's a lot harder for writers to break into the business
than it is for artists.
Having said that, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make your dream
come true. If you want to write comics, then go for it. There are a number
of paths, but be realistic. It is extremely rare when someone with no
professional credits will land a prime gig at Marvel or DC or Dark Horse
or Image. You are going to have to learn your craft. You are going to
have to earn your chops. You are going to have to practice. It is said
that an artist has to get through 10,000 bad drawings before they get
to the good stuff. Writers have to write a lot of bad material before
they get to the good stuff too. The key is to keep writing and keep learning.
You will never know it all, and a creator who stops learning limits him
or herself and stagnates.
One more word of caution: there is no secret, no magic bullet. This website
will hopefully provide you with advice about storytelling and the craft
of writing comic book scripts, but there are no guarantees. Not only does
it take talent and skill, but there is a lot of luck involved as well.
However, with time, perseverance, and good work, you may get your chance.
And when you do, don't screw it up! While there may be no magic bullets
in terms of landing assignments, you can certainly shoot down a burgeoning
career very easily by missing deadlines or turning in work that is sub-par.
In the long run, you have to love what you're doing because it's not
gonna be easy. Whatever you do, have other occupational skills you can
fall back on. Keep your day job!
Joe Edkin, Summer 2005