Brigitta Blair is an author/illustrator, and Camilla Zhang is a comics editor. Together they have created the Standard Comic Strip Template for Scrivener.
Write Now with Scrivener, Episode no. 20: Brigitta Blair and Camilla Zhang on Writing Comics with Scrivener
We discussed comics, how they are made, and how the Scrivener template helps comic authors.
- Brigitta Blair
- Camilla Zhang
- Standard Comic Script Template
- Comics Code Authority
- Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
- Jen Wang, The Prince and the Dressmaker
Brigitta Blair is an author/illustrator, and Camilla Zhang is a comics editor. Together they have created the Standard Comic Strip Template for Scrivener. We discussed comics, how they are made, and how the Scrivener template helps comic authors.
I was surprised that there was no existing standard for writing comic scripts, as there is for screenwriting. Camilla said, "I think comics have been treated like the redheaded stepchild of a lot of different communities, including the writing community and the art community. I think that's one of the reasons why there's never been established rules."
Brigitta is an author/illustrator, but her day job is working for a video game company. "I'm a Technical Artist, which essentially is a kind of a hybrid of code and design. So instead of just illustrating things, I code them in order to make them appear." When she heard about the Standard Comic Script, she wanted to adapt it to Scrivener. "I always try to take what I learn in my technology job and apply it to publishing. I find there's a lot of practices, especially in things like video games, or websites, that you can apply to the book space as well."
There's a terminology issue around comics that can be hard for newcomers to understand. I asked what the difference was between a comic and a graphic novel. Camilla said that, "The main difference is that comics are periodicals. When you go to the comic shop, you have a monthly issue that's published by DC or Marvel, or by independent publishers. Those come out on a monthly basis, whereas graphic novels just come out as is, 100 to 120 pages. Eventually, a lot of these periodicals are put into what they call collected editions, which a lot of people call graphic novels, but they're really just collected editions of the monthlies."
Brigitta pointed out that, "The other thing to consider is where they are in the bookstore. I've noticed that they typically separate comics from graphic novels. Comics have a variety of genres, such as mystery, adventure, and romance, and, as Camilla said, bookstores don't really know what to do with that, they don't see comics as just a medium, or a format. They see comics as a genre unto themselves. And that's just not how it should be. If I want a romance comic, I should go to the romance section, and browse by title or author. Unfortunately, it's not like that."
Camilla said, "The main issue that the comics industry has is how it butts up against traditional publishing. I think that traditional publishing doesn't categorize comics."
But there are also manga, Japanese comics, which are treated differently. Brigitta said, "They put all the manga together, you can search for anything, and it's all different age groups. But then you look at comics and graphic novels, they divide them based on ages. It's kind of curious to see how we've adapted manga as a medium versus what we're still doing in the Western markets."
The Scrivener template for the Standard Comic Script is a tool to simplify writing comics. Brigitta said, "When you go into the Scrivener template, we have a couple of things that are already set up for you to make life a lot easier. We've already included a couple of the pages. If you click on the first page, you'll see that the first page is always on the right side. And you'll notice that it'll switch from right page to left page." This allows authors and illustrators to know which page they're on as they progress. "We also have a sample of the script, which Camilla and Steenz put together when they were working on other templates. It’s really helpful to know what is it going to look like once you export it. We automated a lot of the formatting so you don't have to manually do that. For an example, when it comes to comic scripts, you want to know, on the title of each page, what page are you on. You also want to know if it's on the right or the left side. In addition to that, you want to know things like how many panels you have on a page. If you're using something like Microsoft Word, it's very challenging to automate a lot of that. With Scrivener, because we've inputted a lot of the placeholders, it'll automate a lot of those things for you so you don't have to manually update them."
You can download the Standard Comic Script Template and start working on your next comic in Scrivener to take advantage of these features.