Every now and then when we’re surfing around reading everything comic related we can find we stumble across an article that we think maybe helpful/interesting to those of you out there who not only read comics but also create them. It’s in this spirit that we reached out to Heather Antos, freelance comic editor, who had recently posted a series of articles about editors, what they do, and ways to work with them. She graciously agreed to give us an excerpt to share with you! Read all about it, then click over to HYPERBOLLICALLY HEATHER and read the entire series.
Everything You Need To Know About Editors
by Heather Antos
When it comes to comics, there are a ton of misconceptions out there about what freelance editors do, and there really aren’t many resources to help you figure out what to look for in an editor or even what a good editor does. My blog, HYPERBOLLICALLY HEATHER, discusses not only what it is good comic editors do, but also tips & tricks that I have learned throughout my experience as a comic editor regarding making comics in general. Below is an excerpt from my series “Everything You Need to Know About Editors,” which gives a brief overview of what an editor looks out for regarding the visual aspect and art of comic scripts.
What do you mean I have to keep in mind the art and the artist when writing?
Well, I suppose technically you don’t have to. But a good writer does – and your artist and editor will thank you for it. One of the most important things editors have to keep in mind when reading a comic script – and writers need to keep in mind when writing them – is that, first and foremost, comics are a visual medium. Below, we’ll discuss a few key things to keep in mind when writing a script that’s to be drawn.
KNOW YOUR ARTIST
Comic creation is a hugely collaborative process and it’s important to know what each creator’s strengths and weaknesses are. Bottom line, an artist’s job is to deliver on the scripts handed to him. For writers, it’s typically easier to make anything work. But I’m a big believer that it’s better to give the artist something he can knock out of the park than something we can get him to make work. Give them things that they will be able to make great!
LIMIT YOUR CHARACTERS
It’s extremely important to be aware of how many panels you’re writing with multiple characters. So often books go from a solo comic to a big fat team comic. Here’s the simple way of looking at it: If you have a group or team of more than three people, make sure to show all of them once per page, if possible all together in a single shot, but beyond that, err on the side of singles and doubles—i.e., make sure a few panels per page are just a single character or two characters in a panel, just the people you need to have speaking or doing specific actions (including reactions). Every time you write a panel description like, “They walk down the street,” you’ve just used very few words to tell your artist to draw five or six people. You write they, your artist needs to go count who all’s there, and give them something to do. Try to avoid they. Try to call out everyone in the panel in every panel description, as a reminder of just what you’re making them draw. Be clear. Seeing who all is in the panel, you and your editor can then work on trimming. If we have two lines to be said in this panel, can both come from the same person to make it a single? If we need Joey to pick up a rock this panel, can we also give him the one line we need here? These are dumb examples, but they’re ways of thinking about how to reduce the number of people in one panel, to make less work for the artist, and to give more breathing room to the page. It also allows you to get more real close-ups, get some bigger faces on the page, so we can read expressions better, connect with characters better. Every five-person panel needs to be a fairly big panel. If you have five of those on a page, everything is crammed. And if three of those people have medium-sized balloons, ten or fifteen words, then the page is choking …
WRITE FOR THE PAGE TURN
With any form writing, the author’s goal should be to write what the folks used to call ‘a real page turner!’ This means that the final outcome was so good that the readers couldn’t put the book down until they reached the back cover. This can be done by doing a number of things, a strong one being writing action into the page turn. Page turns always fall on odd numbered pages (1, 3, 5, etc…) so as a writer, if you were to script an action beginning on your last panel on page 1, that draws the reader in and leads them to follow the action onto page 2. It makes them turn the page to see what happens next. Think of every page turn as a mini cliff hanger for the reader. Make the turn exciting for them! Which leads into my next guideline…
USE SPLASHES & SPREADS WISELY
Splash pages and double page spreads are fun, they’re exciting, but often times they are used incorrectly and far too frequently. If you’re going to write a page (or two) that the artist is going to spend that much time perfecting, and use a whole page (or two) of your allotted pages, make it count. Make it mean something. Splashes and spreads are big spaces so they should be used to show big moments, not just a ‘wouldn’t if be cool if?’ or ‘wouldn’t it look cool if?’ moment. They can also be brilliant page turning devices (as discussed above). Want your splash page to have a big impact? Have your reader turn into a splash page for the surprise value of not seeing it coming. They should also be used sparingly. Not every moment is big enough to justify using a whole page (or two) – a half splash can be just as effective if it’s just being used for visual effect, and still leaves you half a page to continue your story. Save full pages for your most pivotal events to make the biggest impact on your audience.
Please note, these should all be seen as guidelines rather than rules. Each artist and each writer excels at different things, so of course there will always be exceptions. But when in doubt, I find these guidelines are a good place to start when scripting for an artist.
If you’re looking for an editor, check out the services Heather offers at her site, she handles all sorts of editing and has experience ranging from web-series, to comics, to kickstarter campaigns!
And why not follow Heather on the social media circuit,
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