Saturday, April 13, 2013

Writing for Graphic Novels: Creating Episodes


My previous post on writing for graphic novels was about how to make a simple plot outline. Now I’m going to show you how to start turning that simple outline into graphic novel material. 





Some writers plan out every aspect of their story and stick to it from beginning to end. Others like to be spontaneous and plan as they go. This plotting method combines the best of both worlds. So we're going take the simple plot outline and split it up into sections that I like to call "episodes." I call them episodes because when I group my events I think to myself, "If this story was a TV or movie series, what would be in a single episode?"  Here's a working example. Below is a sample of the basic plotline I wrote for Mascara:

Wedding job
Addison reveals that her parents just lost their jobs
Ian finds job for her at the mall
Addison starts working at mall in organic store
Ian makes over his  sister
Cultural Festival

This is the outline organized into episodes:

Wedding job

Addison reveals that her parents just lost their jobs
Ian finds job for her at the mall

Addison starts working at mall in organic store
Ian makes over his  sister
Cultural Festival


 An episode is typically a collection of events organized in chronological order that are closely related to each other. If a single event is very involved, it can also be made into its own episode.

Each group of highlighted events is an episode. Here I have four. So if Mascara was a TV show, one of the first episodes would be about Ian doing makeup at a wedding. Just so happens Addison is at the wedding too, and by the end of the episode, Addison will reveal to him that both of her parents have lost their jobs--or at least show by her actions that she's distressed about something--finishing the episode with a cliffhanger.

It is a little strange. The events are organized chronologically, but once episodes are created, the order of things doesn't matter as much.

For example, the list could've been like this instead:


Wedding job
Addison reveals that her parents just lost their jobs
Cultural Festival
Ian finds job for her at the mall
Addison starts working at mall in organic store
Ian makes over his sister



Then at the cultural festival, Ian could have been working hard to cheer Addison up, since they suppose to be having fun, and then after that he could consider finding a job for her at the mall where he works.

Or it could be that by the time I finish drawing the wedding episode, I don't feel like the cultural festival fits the story very well, so I could just leave it out--being that I didn't mention it in a previous episode. If I did mention the cultural festival earlier, I could cause something bad to happen so that it would have to be canceled, and then I could move on to what's next.

Basically, plotting this way is very flexible. It's easy to add, remove, and swap things around. While working on my graphic novel I was constantly changing things. So having my plot organized this way made it possible for me to have direction while maintaining the ability to change things spontaneously. 

And if you don't want to move anything around at all, that's fine too.

Important Note:
An episode is not the same as a chapter. An episode can be composed of many chapters or just one.


This method of organization also makes script writing very easy. I'll be writing a post about script writing very soon. So if you've found this information helpful, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss it!