Writing Blood & Valour: The Legends of the Knight Sir Bevis
Drafting the Comic Book Scripts – by Matt Beames
Welcome to the second part of my blog about writing Blood & Valour. (Read the first part here) This part will give an insight into my process for writing a script for an issue, ready to be passed to Marcus and Guy to create the artwork.
So, having already created a story arc for volume #1 of Blood & Valour, and separated that arc into four issues, I sat down to write. The development of the script happened in a number of stages, and looking back on it, I think my writing process was heavily informed by my work writing for the theatre.
Action & Dialogue
For the first stage of writing, I decided my best approach would be to disregard (for the moment) the fact that I was writing specifically for a comic, and focus on just telling the story of each issue; what the characters do and what they say. Decisions about pages and panels could come later, first comes the story.
I wrote the first draft of each issue by hand on ruled notepaper. I would write the action elements of the story in short paragraphs, halfway between prose and stage directions. Then when a character spoke, their dialogue would be laid out like a theatre script.
Pages & Panels
Once this rough first draft was complete, I would type it up. This would also become my first editing point, as often in copying something out I find it easier to spot errors or clunky wording, or sometimes an alternative, better solution comes to mind.
This digital draft follows the same layout of the handwritten draft, but has the advantage of being infinitely more legible. Once complete, I used a printed copy of this version to work out page breaks. It is at this point that I began to think about how the comic should look on the page. Each ‘issue’ of Blood & Valour has 32 pages including the cover image, and so my script had to fit onto 31 pages of sequential artwork.
I read through the script, trying to visualise how it might look, and wherever I felt we had come to a page break, I drew a pencil line across the script. I did this for the whole issue, and then counted how many pages I had identified. If there were more than 31, I would go back through and rethink. The starting number varied with each issue I wrote, but by issue #4 I was naturally identifying 31 pages.
The next task was to propose a layout of panels for each page. I went through the script again, and this time I made a rough sketch of each page, setting out the arrangement of panels and a suggestion of the artwork in each. Looking at the story in this more visual manner sometimes led to further edits to the script, when dialogue was moved or cut, or my idea for the image changed drastically.
Finally I had split my original script into 31 pages, and had a very rough sketch of the layout of each page. Once more I typed up this new draft, creating the final first draft of each script.
Scripts & Sketches
The last step in the process was largely one of formatting; I wanted to communicate my ideas as clearly as possible to Marcus and give him a document that would be easy to work with and from. I broke the script down panel by panel, detailing page number and panel number, a description of the panel content, with as much detail as possible, and finally any dialogue or SFX that featured in that panel.
In addition to the text version of the script, I included panel layout sketches for every page, to show Marcus what I was envisioning for each one. These were smaller and (generally) better versions of my rough sketches, and they sit as an annex to the final script document.
Once the script and panel sketches were complete, I had one more read through to see if there were any last changes. This being done, the first draft of the issue was complete, and all that remained was to send it through to Marcus, ready for him to start drawing…
Come back next week to read Part #3: From Script to Finished Page, in which we see Marcus’ process of turning a script into a completed comic. See you next time!