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Anybody Can Write a Graphic Novel – NOT

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Lynd Ward Mary Shelley Frankenstein Cover

Lynd Ward Mary Shelley Frankenstein Cover

“The limitations of the genre make it one of the most difficult to master.”

Even if you are just writing the story part, writing a graphic novel is not as easy as it looks. The graphic novel is almost an elaborate storyboard for either a movie or a play. It also requires a synergy between the artist and the author.

It is true that many graphic novels are created by one person doing both the artwork and the writing, and if you can do this that is the preferred method.

The artwork in graphic novels is very special, often making use of primary colors and depicting a great deal of action. Others might use melancholic grey line drawings and enigmatic text. There is a huge range, and the form has become popular with artists and illustrators for more experimental works.

The accompanying text must be as simple as a haiku and as powerful as the opening lines of a good play. This requires a great deal of skill with dialogue and action verbs and a very in depth knowledge of your target audience.

The graphic novelist makes one picture and a line of dialogue do the work of a whole scene in a movie or a play.

Basically, each word of text must do the work of ten. An intimate knowledge of the target audience allows the author to use words that carry a great deal of cultural information and connotation.
The pictures must also match, including current popular style and fashion. It’s best if the author is a part of the culture in which he or she is aiming.

One example that I heard myself recently was two girls discussing something as they crossed the street: they called each other dude, it is probable that this is quite common. Someone who didn’t know might have them calling each other dudette. The word has become uni-sexual in common street use.

Many graphic novels use slightly titillating illustrations, and this is generally okay, but they should be inexactly explicit. Nudity with purpose is acceptable, while gratuitous nudity is not.
The same thing goes for violence.

Frankly, artists and authors who cannot write a graphic novel that is very interesting without using nudity or violence are not very good writers. It is the equivalent of a screenplay writer covering up his or her shortcomings with lots of CGI and special effects.
The most difficult part of writing a graphic novel is to avoid writing the same novel over and over again. The limitations of the genre make it one of the most difficult to master. More is not better and less must be stronger.

Think about it as it parallels other genres.

In short stories the most difficult one is flash fiction, the shortest form, generally one page or less.

Haiku poetry is one of the most difficult forms of poetry, because one must have a complete thought, including some special nuance or point, within the space of 17 syllables plus the title.
A one-act play is the most difficult and dramatic writing, because it requires condensing the character development and plot from three acts to one.

All of these short forms are much more difficult than their longer forms, because the work must fulfill nearly the same requirements in fewer words, fewer scenes and fewer illustrations.
If you still think you want to write graphic novels, either form a partnership with an artist or writer or learn to do them both yourself.

Then read graphic novels, as many as you can get your hands on. Look at the sales statistics of the different authors and artists, and identify what makes that difference. Then find ways to add the skills required.

Then find a beta audience and write for them.

Karena A Dec 2012

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