Crafting a story – Visualizing the script

In the last few months, I`ve been finalizing the script of Reminiscence. I`ve written paragraphs of what happens and the general gist of how the characters feel and what they say to each other, but I haven`t written what they`re doing, what their expressions are and I have no actual dialogue yet.

That is what I`ll be focusing on as of now. I`ll be drawing my way through the story to search for ways how I can tell the story that I have in text, in a visual way. But don`t let the word “visual” fool you. I`m only focusing on very specific things and leaving other things that make a great comic completely out. My thumbnails look like this for now:visual_script_met venture

Right, kind of boring isn`t it? It`s a lot of talking heads, text, ideas and settings that are hard to make out. But this is far from how my actual thumbnails will look later on when I will start making the actual pages.
What I`m focusing on, is this:

Story beats

This term may vary depending on the medium your talking about, but what I`m looking at here is the broader picture of how the story progresses. I draw out how the key events of the story play out and how long the time is between these events. I`m also finding interesting ways to progress from one beat to another. I have done a lot of this work in text already, but a few sentences in my script may end up being a bunch of pages in the comic itself. By sketching out what happens exactly, I can track if the story is losing momentum or when things are getting boring. A good word of advice is: less is more. I`m already cutting away the fluff that only makes the story drag.

Flow and pacing

This is about how characters react to events or other characters and how quick the action is in a scene. In exposition scenes the pacing is usually slow and much more time is taking to show a characters` reaction to things, or building up tension. Generally speaking, when the exciting things happen, the story will cut from action to action much quicker.

Dialogue

I start thinking about when I need dialogue and how much information the reader needs at a certain point. Too much dialogue in a comic will make it look like it`s only word balloons and can even be off putting, so you have to attentive where and how to use it. Though some comics have more dialogue than others, “show, don`t tell” is the general advice here.
Dialogue may be up for change until the actual page is done.

The main elements of the scene

In a lot of instances, I don`t even bother drawing the background if it`s not important to the scene. I know in my head where the characters are and visualizing the world is something for a later phase. I`m thinking about the story`s progression, the information the reader needs in a certain scene, the characters` interaction, emotions, what they`re doing and what they`re saying.
When I need to establish a scene or an environment I`ll make a quick thumbnail of the basics of what it looks like but those are pretty much unreadable to anyone but me.

As you can see, I leave a lot of information out of these thumbnails. For example, what I`m not focusing on are comic format, page layout and composition. Though these elements are very important to the storytelling, it`s only after I`ve discovered what the different actions and feelings of the characters in a scene truly are about and how I want the readers to feel when they`re reading the story, that I can make well informed decisions about those. That`s when I start to think in actual pages and panels as well. This is just getting the story out in a sequential manner. The characters` actions and what happens exactly may change during this whole phase, so no need to worry about that yet.

I`m also not thinking about the actual drawings. Things like anatomy, environments (except when it`s important) and clothing or character design. It doesn`t really matter how you draw these, it can be stick figures for all it`s worth. But just get the story on paper visually. I just like to draw a little more than that, but this doesn`t take much extra time for me.

As a last note, I`m doing these out of order. I`m working on a few scenes at the same time now and might jump from one spot in the story to another. The different events will all influence each other, so I go back and forth between scenes. I can do tons of these little drawings in a short amount of time, so if I need to change anything, it doesn`t take a lot of work.
I expect, when I have worked my way through the story like this, I can easily divide the story into scenes and pages and then I`ll start thinking about everything I left out in this phase.

It`s really great to do these again. In relation to previous weeks` blogpost I decided that this will be my priority for Reminiscence for the coming time. I will try to do these every day and make it a habit. So I hope to show you a lot more of these thumbnails in the next weeks. (hopefully without too many spoilers!) This means the blogposts may feature little text and more scribbling. Stay tuned!

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