•  
Home    Archive

News: Our Community Comic "Gunbaby" is and always will be open for submissions. Any submissions received will run on the site front page on Sundays.

00:00:30UncleRobotI know CPR...
18:39:34Chadm1nSpammers must die. Now.
16:56:16Chadm1nAs promised a few weeks ago, Webcomics Community has been upgraded!

Author Topic: Comics Script Format Part-2  (Read 6996 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Rob

  • Resident Dick!
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1324
  • Easily Confused, Feeble Minded Founder
    • Remedial Comics
Comics Script Format Part-2
« on: September 26, 2010, 10:05:30 PM »
A writer's tutorial on presentation

Part 2

By Kurt Hathaway of


to see part one, click here.....

Last week this series on script formatting was explained to be for those who want to write pro-level scripts and seek work via the submissions and pitch process with pro-level publishers.  Pro-level formatting is at least equally important as a compelling story.  A badly told compelling story won't read like a compelling story unless it's presented well to whom you send your work. It must be clear and present information in an orderly way.

As explained in part 1, the 3 main elements of every script panel are:

1.   Camera / Location    [What does the reader see? Where are the characters?]
2.   Panel description            [What are the characters doing? What is the setting?]
3.   Lettering Elements    [What are the characters saying/thinking?  Captions, etc.]

This information is expressed as 3 separate elements in the script, related but distinct parts of the script panel.

I went over the first two in some detail in part 1, but I barely scratched the surface of the 3rd element -- Lettering Elements.

In order to properly format your lettering elements, a run-down of various lettering elements must be learned.  It's not enough to read a comic book -- a writer must understand the various types of lettering elements that are in his or her scripting toolbox.  These are some very effective tools with which to tell the story, and understanding them is imperative to writing the script.  Examples of each are provided to guide your understanding of how the formatting would appear in the final script.

Let's start with the lettering element so common that almost everyone reading this already knows it -- the word balloon [they are balloons -- NOT bubbles].

COMMON BALLOON DIALOGUE:
The text/copy inside those floating balloons around the characters as they speak... usually with a pointer that tells the reader who is speaking.

Dialogue is always preceded by the character's name.

  • DEXTER:
    WHY DO YOU INSIST ON INVADING MY LABORATORY?!

Character dialogue should NOT include quotation marks -- the balloon & balloon's pointer stands in for the quotations, so including quotation marks inside a balloon is redundant. After all, the pointer tells us that someone is speaking.

The exception, of course, is when a character is quoting another character or a famous person:

  • STONEWALL:
    MY MOTHER USED TO TELL ME, "NEVER GO OUT WITH DIRTY UNDERWEAR."

    SIMON:
    "GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH." SOMEHOW THOSE WORDS OF JOHN PAUL JONES COME TO MIND, MY FRIENDS.

BREAKING UP BALLOON SPEECHES:
Sometimes only one balloon for one character isn't the best solution. An obvious one is one character speaking to character Y, then to Character Z. For this, you'll need 2 balloons, connected, pointing to a single character. They'll also be numbered.

  • STONEWALL 1:
    WILL, GRAB THE TORCHES!

    STONEWALL 2 (CONNECTED):
    GREG, GET THE PITCHFORKS!

Other times, pacing may be a prevailing factor:
   
  • STONEWALL 1:
    VALERIE, I --

    STONEWALL 2 (NOT CONNECTED):
    I JUST DON'T THINK WE SHOULD SEE EACH OTHER ANY MORE.

This technique suggests a pause in the speech... and by making the reader move his eyes to another balloon -- you supply that pause.

And large blocks of rambling dialogue should be broken up into 2 or more balloons to ease the reader's eyes.

A casual glance at the comics in your home show many multi-balloon situations for the same character. This isn't by accident -- it's all spelled out in the original script.

BURST BALLOONS:
Those spiky balloons that look like they're bursting -- often with a yell of alarm, or command.

  • SPIDER-GUY (BURST):
    NO! NOT THEM!

THOUGHT BALLOONS:
Thought balloons are a viable storytelling tool in the comics format. In the script they're presented very much like dialogue with an added direction for the script-reader.

  • STONEWALL (THOUGHT):
    IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?
-or-
  • STONEWALL (TH):
    IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?

SINGING BALLOONS:
Usually a wavy balloon that includes song lyrics and musical notes. A simple note should tell the letterer what to do.

  • SUE (SINGING):
    AMERICA, THE BEAUTIFUL...

TELEPATHIC BALLOONS:
For characters using telepathy.

  • TELE-PATH GUY (TELEPATHY BALLOON):
    DO NOT GO IN THAT ROOM, LITTLE ONE. NOTHING BUT DANGER AWAITS YOU THERE.

WHISPER BALLOONS:
For characters whispering to one another -- or even under their breath to themselves.

  • CONNOR (WHISPERS):
    HEY, DUDE, CHECK OUT THE HOTTIE IN THE YELLOW TOP.

RADIO OR ELECTRONIC BALLOONS:
Usually a spiky or semi-spiky balloon that indicates the dialogue is coming over a radio, web-cam, speaker, spaceship communicator or some other electronic source. If your scene, series, or issue has several types -- radio and spaceship communicator -- you'll want to distinguish them so the letterer can make separate visual styles for each.

  •    DJ (CAR RADIO)
       ANOTHER HIT COMIN' YOUR WAY, MUSIC LOVERS!

       CAPT. CORK (FROM SHIP'S COMMUNICATION-DOCK)
       ENSIGN, SEND A CREW DOWN WITH A GEIGER COUNTER.

       WENDY (FROM WEB-CAM)
       CHECK OUT THIS WEBSITE, GIRL!

OFF-SCREEN OR OFF-PANEL BALLOON DIALOGUE:
Often, one character speaks from off panel while another on-panel character listens... This is off-screen (OS) or off-panel (OP) dialogue. A simple added instruction tells the editor and letterer of your intent.

  • BRAD (OS):
    ANGELA, WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE THEY COME BACK!
-or-
  • BRAD (OP):
    ANGELA, WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE THEY COME BACK!

The letterer would then point the balloon's pointer off to the panel's side to make this clear to the reader.

BACKGROUND SIGNS:
If the art must have a sign that says "Gotham City Warehouse Company" then you'll want to include that information in the panel description for the artist so he can draw the sign -- or at least the outside edges of it -- and be sure to repeat that information in the lettering elements so the letterer can do his job on the sign. It's unlikely the letterer will read the art description and will not know that there is a sign that needs his design attention.

  • SIGN ON WAREHOUSE:
    GOTHAM CITY WAREHOUSE COMPANY


THE 4 DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAPTIONS:

1   THE BASIC NARRATIVE CAPTION:
A caption from the storyteller -- the author -- an omniscient teller of the story with no involvement in the actual events of that story. Most novels are written this way, and comics writers borrow the form and drama. Always without quotes.

  • CAPTION:
    THE STORM RAGED OUTSIDE, WHILE BATMAN STRUGGLED WITH HIS BONDS.

    CAPTION:
    WITH THE STEALTH OF A JAGUAR, THE INTRUDER INCHED FORWARD.

    CAPTION:
    THE GUN APPEARED IN HIS HAND AS IF IT WERE A LIVING THING.

    CAPTION:
    JANE KNEW BETTER, BUT SHE ENTERED THE DARK ROOM ANYWAY.

2   THE FIRST-PERSON CAPTION:
One storytelling technique is telling the story from the point of view (POV) of one of the characters in the story through a series of captions. The character tells the story in present tense as they're experiencing it. Think of those captions as a thought balloon -- but in caption form. It's a technique that's become more widespread over the past 15 years or so. Often used in Batman stories -- and a million others that feature the single hero concept. Written without quotes and with a character label to identify the caption type for the letterer.

Because the caption content isn't being spoken out loud -- but is rather interior character thoughts, there are no quotes.

  • BATMAN CAPTION:
    THE STORM IS RAGING OUTSIDE, AND I'LL BE TOO LATE TO SAVE THE DIAMOND SHIPMENT IF I CAN'T GET OUT OF THESE BONDS.

Often the actual visual caption styles are designed by the letterer in previous issues, so for the sake of continuity, the same caption style is used throughout a series. A Batman caption would look different than a Robin caption for the sake of storytelling clarity. Calling it simply a caption doesn't tell the letterer what style to use, so be clear which character it belongs to so they can tell the story you want to tell.


3   THE CHARACTER NARRATIVE CAPTION:
Often a character from the story retelling past events to another character. Told in past tense with quotes and designated a narration caption with the character's name. The captions are in past tense, and we usually see flashback panel art that shows the past action taking place.

  • BATMAN NARRATION CAPTION:
    "THE RIVER WAS SWOLLEN AND IT TOOK ME LONGER THAN I'D HOPED TO REACH MY DESTINATION."

This may also be called a voice-over caption.

  • BATMAN VO CAPTION:
    "THE RIVER WAS SWOLLEN AND IT TOOK ME LONGER THAN I'D HOPED TO REACH MY DESTINATION."

The general rule for captions is that anything spoken aloud is with quotes. Not so for character interior thoughts.


4   THE CHARACTER CONTINUATION CAPTION:
Sometime you'll see in a comic book a scene that overlaps the incoming scene with a narrative caption.

The caption is a continuation of the previous scene.  One of the characters from the previous scene has one more thing to say -- usually something dramatic or humorous -- something that connects the previous scene to the new one.  In a movie this might be a continuing voice-over, but in comics it's a caption with quotes.

In the last panel of of the outgoing scene, the characters are visible and the dialogue is in balloons:

  • GARETT:
    SO LET'S GET READY, TEAM... IT'S GONNA BE A LONG NIGHT...

Then you "CUT" to the next scene in the next panel--usually the characters from the previous scene are not present -- but if they are, it's in long shot usually -- and it's a time change... later in the story.

  • GARETT CAPTION:
    "... WE MAKE OUR MOVE AT DAYBREAK."

NO COPY:

"Copy" in the publishing world is text.  Manuscript text for books, script text in scripts, etc.  Sometimes in comics scripts there is no desire on the writer's part to include any balloons, captions, or sound effects for a particular panel or a series of panels.  It's a writing choice and is usually made for some dramatic purpose like a sneak thief making their way into a high-security business tower where silence is the rule.

For those panels, a common practice is to include NO COPY under the panel description.  At the very least it tells the reader that this is a "silent" panel -- on purpose -- it's not a mistake -- there's no missing text, so, artists & letterers, don't bother the editor with a phone call.


8.5   CLOSE ON THIEF / STREET
He's at street level, looking up at the glass & steel tower, and has his black hood poised to pull it over his eyes before he enters.

  • NO COPY

THE EDITORIAL CAPTION:
Sometimes in a printed comic book, you'll see an asterisk in a block of dialogue.

  • FIRE-GUY:
    REMEMBER THAT FIGHT WITH THAT VILLAIN LAST ISSUE?*

This usually leads your eye to the panel bottom where you'll see something like this:

  • *OUR HERO FOUGHT VILLAIN-X TO A STANDSTILL LAST ISSUE. -EDITOR.

This is handled at the script stage -- simply add the asterisk in the dialogue, and add an Editorial Caption to the lettering elements.

  • EDITORIAL CAPTION:
    *OUR HERO FOUGHT VILLAIN-X TO A STANDSTILL LAST ISSUE. -EDITOR.


COMICS-SPECIFIC PUNCTUATION:
Over the years, a set of punctuation has come into use that is fairly specific to comics usage.

DOUBLE-DASH: two dashes in a row generally indicate speech that has been cut off, incomplete.

  • LEON:
    DON'T TAKE HER! SHE WON'T LAST LONG, IF YOU DO. SHE WON'T--

ELLIPSES: those 3 dots in a row that indicate a continuation of dialogue from one balloon to another. Also used to create a pause mid-speech.

  • RALPH:
    I THOUGHT WE HAD SOMETHING...

    RALPH 2:
    ... YOU KNOW... SPECIAL... BUT I NOW SEE I WAS WRONG.

FOREIGN BRACKETS: those arrow-brackets that indicate a foreign language being spoken -- but presented in English for the readers' benefit. Usually accompanied by an asterisk and an editorial caption when it's first used in an issue.

  • ANTONIO:
    <DELIVER THE MONEY BY MIDNIGHT.>*

    EDITORIAL CAPTION:
    *TRANSLATED FROM ITALIAN.

QUESTION MARK/EXCLAMATION POINT COMBINATION: used when the dialogue is foremost a question -- but with emphasis. The question mark always comes first.

  • BEVERLY:
    WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?!


BOLDED WORDS:
Bolding words in the dialogue and captions is the writer's job. Though most modern comics since the 1960's have featured bolded words in the dialogue balloons, many new writers don't seem to notice them in their own comics collection or don't understand it's their responsibility to include them in their script -- I'm not sure which, but I do know as a letterer of over 20 years, it's not my job to add them unless they're indicated in the script.

Bolding one word and not another can affect the tone or meaning of the line, so this is strictly the writer's territory to control. Many letterers -- including me -- will add them on request if you trust us more than yourself (though unlike me, most letterers aren't also writers), but if you mean to be a professional writer, wrap your head around the use of bolds. Look at a stack of comic books to get a feel for how they work.

There's definitely an art to it, and there are no hard & fast rules, so it's pretty much open, though my general rule is to bold words that have special emphasis when read out loud -- like real spoken dialogue when you hear it. Reading the lines out loud may help you decide what to bold.

  • MARY:
    DUKE, I SAW YOU LOOKING AT THAT NEW GIRL. YOU... THINK SHE'S PRETTY?

    DUKE:
    WHO--SHEILA? SHE'S OKAY, I GUESS. JUST THAT SHE REMINDS ME OF SOMEONE I HAVEN'T SEEN IN A WHILE.

    BATMAN CAPTION:
    THE STORM IS RAGING OUTSIDE, AND I'LL BE TOO LATE TO SAVE THE DIAMOND SHIPMENT IF I CAN'T GET OUT OF THESE BONDS.

Simply underlining the words to be bolded are in danger of getting overlooked in the lettering stage -- so be sure to use the bold function or keystroke in your word-processing program for better visibility in the script.

However, the adding of bolds is a style choice. A couple per page or 3-4 per balloon -- or even none, if you're going for an understated story tone. It's the writer's choice, but don't ignore them outright unless it's your intended style choice.  


SOUND EFFECTS:
All sound effects (SFX) are designated by the writer. Don't simply suggest the kind of sound (explosion sound) to the letterer -- spell it out! I know of a hundred different ways to spell out an explosion sound effect, but 99 of them may be wrong for your page. An exploding car gas tank "sounds" different than an exploding volcano crater. If you're not confident about your spelling of sound effects, look at a bunch of comics for inspiration & education. Nothing teaches like looking at what came before.

If the letterer is any good, he'll design the effect and drop it on the page in an eye-pleasing arrangement. Don't use too many letters or the letterer will be forced to cut it down to fit the panel, so be reasonable and don't waste your own time typing letters that can't appear on the page.

  • SFX:
    WHAAAAAAAAA-RRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!    - WRONG

    SFX:  
    (AN EXPLOSION SOUND)                     -WAAAY WRONG!

    SFX:
    WHA-RROOOMM!                        - BETTER

As with most things artistic, less is more with sound effects. Use your best judgement.


TITLES AND CREDITS:
The story title is also a lettering element and would be inserted after the panel description among any other lettering elements.

  • STORY TITLE:
    A WALK AMONG THE DEAD!

    CREDITS:
    WRITER         OWEN WRITERMANN
    PENCILLER      TBD
    INKER            TBD
    LETTERER      TBD
    COLORIST      TBD
    EDITOR          TBD

Often at the time of writing, the credits list is incomplete due to the nature of the project.  Just insert TBD [to be determined] and later on, the list of names can be inserted.  Midway through a story arc, however, the creative team may already be in place for several issues, so if the names are known to the writer, add them.

SPECIAL LETTERING:
Over the past decade or so, the presence of special lettering has come to the forefront. This may include special character fonts for dialogue, a special character balloon -- or sometimes the use of both.

It's up to the writer to designate which is to be different than traditional lettering. If you have an alien character, you may want to consider a special font, a special balloon -- or both - or maybe neither. But be specific which is the style you're after. Regular dialogue balloon, Alien font with traditional balloon -- alien font with alien balloon -- traditional font with alien balloon?

  • ALIEN (ALIEN FONT - NORMAL BALLOON):
    WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOUR FOLLY FOR CENTURIES.

    ALIEN (NORMAL FONT - ALIEN BALLOON):
    WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOUR FOLLY FOR CENTURIES.

    ALIEN (ALIEN FONT & BALLOON):
    WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING YOUR FOLLY FOR CENTURIES.
And do this every time that alien speaks in your story or series or you may be horrified by the finished book when the letterer switches to traditional styles because the direction was missing from pages 16 to 22 of the script.

There's no need to actually indicate what font to use (unless you have one in mind). The letterer should be well armed with a variety of fonts from which to choose or to tweak (I have over 12,000). Always hire a lettering pro with a track record of at least a dozen years. Not only are they well equipped for the job, but the many and exacting technical requirements of lettering are misunderstood by many newcomers who jump in thinking that lettering is easy. A simple formatting error will cost you at the printer. I've heard the horror stories... they aren't pretty. And they're expensive lessons.

BUT -- if you have a Star Wars-like universe with all manner of alien types trodding through your panels, you won't want to have special fonts and balloons for each alien type. It would just give your reader a headache and he won't come back for the next issue. Specialty fonts and balloons are best used sparingly.

To wrap up, here's an example of how those various elements might look in the final script:



PAGE THREE       

3.1   WIDE ON STREET / NEW YORK CITY / HEADQUARTERS BACK DOOR
Shotgun is hammering at the metal door with a sledgehammer. Cops of all kinds stand back watching. Shotgun has his jacket off revealing the shoulder rig for his sawn-off double barrel.

  • HERO-GUY CAPTION:
    HE'S GOING CRAZY DOWN THERE.

    COP 1:
    'NOTHER WHACK, SHOTGUN.

    COP 2:
    I THINK YOU BUDGED IT THAT TIME.

    SHOTGUN:
    ERGH!

    SHOTGUN (TH):
    GOTTA GET THROUGH THIS DOOR--OR ALL IS LOST!

    SFX [SLEDGEHAMMER]:
    THWAKK!


There you have it!  A pretty good overview of the various types of lettering elements the writer would use in putting together a script for submission.  There are probably more -- but are probably variations of the above.  

In part 3 next week, we'll talk about putting all 3 panel elements together to see how they play nice on the script page.  Til then, keep the keyboard tapping!


As always, I take comments, crits, and bags of money at:khathaway1@socal.rr.com

About the author:
Kurt Hathaway has been a comics freelancer for 25 years. His client list reads like a who's who of publishers: DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Eclipse, Malibu, and tons of others. He has thousands of lettering credits including two for Newsweek and Esquire magazines. A DC editor nicknamed him "The Comics Commando" for his timely delivery of deadline work.

He letters the webcomics "Master Jesus" and "Chicago 1968" both written by Len Kody.

In addition to lettering and logos, Kurt Hathaway's Cartoon Balloons Studio does custom font design, page/book/magazine design, pre-press (setting up press files for the printer), and animated motion graphics for video projects.

He's written material for Image Comics, DC Comics, Antarctic Press, Electronic Arts Playstation Division, and ABC/Disney Television. He's currently writing the comic series "Dawn of the Dread Force" for Jaran Studios. Dreadforce.com

(Editor's note: Whenever indentation was required as part of the formatting provided by the author I am forced to use a "list" tag from the forums. The list tag creates the indentation I require to properly represent the authors' intentions, however it is not designed for the purpose and leaves a small black dot at the first entry of every indented group. Please ignore this black dot. It is not part of the article as intended.)
« Last Edit: September 26, 2010, 10:08:40 PM by Rob »

matonana

  • Guest
Re: Comics Script Format Part-2
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2014, 03:56:16 AM »
Get more of the same really. We did do a good following here.

gogodorr2007

  • Guest
Re: Comics Script Format Part-2
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2014, 08:26:16 AM »
The site contains useful material The most common ones