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Extra pages

Please sir, can I have more?The page count of a comic book is pivotal, and it’s important when writing to hit the target number.

When Róisín Dubh was first envisioned last year it was originally slated for a 3 x 20 page min-series that would be collected into a graphic novel later.

As the project took form Rob re-considered the idea in light of the time and cost involved, and the simple dynamics of the comic book industry. It was decided that we should skip the three one-off comics and go straight to producing a graphic novel. Since the story was already split into three it made sense to present them as three chapters within the graphic novel.

When I was writing the three scripts I had considerable difficulty squeezing all the story elements into twenty pages. When I was into my second drafts of the script this became more difficult, especially when I started to see the initial excellent artwork from Stephen in late December. I didn’t want to have too many pages with 7-9 panels on them, because once you add in the ballons it doesn’t leave a lot of space for the art. After all, this is a visual medium. I could have just about managed with the original page count, but I felt it would be a disservice to the story and the artwork.

Since we were already planning for a graphic novel I pitched the idea to Rob and Stephen that we go for 3 x 22 page chapters. Six extra pages does have a cost and time factor, so I was aware that it might not happen.

Thankfully, I got the green-light from Rob and Stephen. This necessitated me doing a very fast re-write of the first chapter as Stephen was already working on it. Luckily, the changes I made didn’t kick in until after the point where he was drawing.

We’re all a lot happier with the extra space for the characters to realise their adventures.

Script writing

CeltxPeople are often interested in the practical information about putting a comic together, so I’m going to mention today the software I use.

All the Róisín Dubh scripts have been written using the free, open source software known as Celtx. Writing a comic book requires a lot of formatting, but unlike writing for film there is no standardised system.

I was familiar with the format for screenplays before I tackled RD, and for them I used the Final Draft program. Initially, I found the change in formatting for comic books strange and difficult. Some people might write the script as a story first, and then add the formatting to avoid the hassle. I like to build the layout of the pages as I write, and for me that means establishing a strong sense of the page, panel, balloon and character cues from the beginning.

Celtx might not suit everyone because its format is heavily influenced by the system used in film scripts. This works well for me because I’m used to that set-up, but equally I think it’s a clear way to indicate the layout of the comic book to the artist.

Most importantly, if I change around the pages and panels they are renumbered and reordered automatically, and that function alone makes Celtx indispensable to me.

In general, this means the formatting doesn’t get in the way when I’m writing, and allows me to concentrate on the storytelling. I have some minor gripes with the program, but I’ve figured out ways around them.

You can also use the software to write for a range of other media such as film, plays, radio plays, and even to storyboard. Plus, it’s free and updated regularly.

It’s a very useful tool.